Discover 5 Critical Steps You Take Before Lighting Your Fireplace This Season
The temperatures are starting to drop, the days are becoming shorter, and the night air is crisp and cool. It’s almost that time of the year: fireplace season. If you’re fortunate enough to have a fireplace in your home, you know that there’s nothing quite as cozy as the ambiance of a crackling fire in your home’s hearth. However, it’s important to know the five critical steps to do before lighting your fireplace at the start of the colder seasons.
Whether you have a traditional wood-burning fireplace or something more modern like a gas or electric model, there are precautions you should take before lighting your fireplace for the season. These precautions will ensure safety, efficiency, and enjoyment. Discover the 5 critical steps you need to take before lighting your fireplace this season.
1. Schedule a Professional Inspection
Before you do anything else with your fireplace, the very first step you should take is to schedule a professional inspection. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) insists that all wood-burning chimneys for fireplaces and stoves should be inspected and cleaned annually. Hiring a certified professional to inspect your fireplace is key to ensuring that you and your home are protected.
Annual inspections are crucial to identifying any potential safety hazards, such as buildup or structural issues. For gas or electric fireplaces, an inspection can determine if there is any type of malfunctioning component. A professional inspection rules out any issues and can detect problems early. To be specific, this is a crucial step to ensuring your fireplace is in good working condition. An inspection will ensure the chimney is solid, the flue lining is free of cracks, and there are no potential moisture issues. Lastly, by having a professional inspection, you can also check for any concerns that could lead to potential carbon monoxide threats.
How to Find a Professional Chimney Inspector
If you have never worked with an inspector before, there are some things to establish first. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), there are a few things you should take into consideration as you begin to look for a professional inspector.
- How long has the professional been in business?
- Do they have good reviews or recommendations?
- Have you discovered any unresolved complaints?
- Do they or the company they work for have business liability insurance?
Following these steps will also be helpful when scheduling a professional inspection for your fireplace. You can also use these questions to guide your interactions with chimney inspectors as you decide on who is best for you.
2. Clean Your Chimney Before Lighting Your Fireplace
If you own a wood-burning fireplace, cleaning your chimney is essential. Over time and with use, creosote can accumulate in your chimney. Creosote is what remains after burning. It is a mix of tar and soot, and it is highly flammable. A professional chimney inspector can more than likely sweep your chimney. Regular cleaning is recommended as it enhances safety and improves the efficiency of your fireplace. In turn, this will promote better airflow and heat production.
3. Inspect the Hearth and its Surroundings
In addition to cleaning your chimney, you’ll also want to clean around the fireplace area. Fireplace safety extends beyond the fireplace itself. Remove any and all flammable materials, such as drapes, magazines, books, or clothing, just to name a few. If you have a mantel, check and remove anything that is hanging off. Secondly, be sure the room where your fireplace is located has been well-ventilated and is free of any flammable gasses. By cleaning your chimney and around the fireplace area before you light a fire, you’re doing your part to ensure there are no unexpected accidents.
4. Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Before you light a fire, test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and confirm they are functioning correctly.
5. Gather Quality Firewood
Make sure the wood you burn is dry. Keep in mind that wet or green wood produces more creosote while generating less heat. When firewood is first cut, it has a lot of moisture. It can take 3-12 months (sometimes even longer) to season firewood. On average, it usually takes around 6 months to dry out.
Where Should You Store Firewood?
Firewood should be stored outside. Your woodpile should be away from structures, specifically your house or garage. Firewood should be, at minimum, five feet from your home. Doing this ensures that termites, or any other type of pest, won’t move from the wood into your home.
In addition to keeping the wood distanced from your home, the best place to keep your woodpile is anywhere that receives adequate sun and wind exposure.
How to Light a Fire
First, you’ll need to gather materials. You’ll need:
- Firewood: Use seasoned (dry) firewood. Avoid green or wet wood, as this produces less smoke and causes creosote.
- Fire Starter: These can be newspapers, fire starter sticks, or firelighters. Do not use gasoline or other flammable liquids inside your home.
- Kindling: Small pieces of dry wood or twigs that can be used to help ignite the larger pieces of firewood.
- Fireplace Tools: Grab a poker, tongs, and a fire screen. These tools can be useful for maintaining and controlling the fire.
According to the National Chimney Sweep Guild, there are important steps to take when lighting a fire:
- Step 1: Place two medium-sized logs on the metal grate. These logs should be a few inches apart.
- Step 2: Crumble sheets of newspaper between the logs and cover with kindling.
- Step 3: Add one or two more pieces of firewood. Make sure there’s room for ventilation.
- Step 4: Check that the fireplace damper (vent) is open.
- Step 5: Slowly begin lighting the kindling with the burning paper.
- Step 6: Once the fire is established, add firewood as needed. Be sure that the flames stay below the fireplace opening.
Other Fireplace Safety Tips
- Check your damper. Make sure it can open and close smoothly. When starting a fire, it will be partially open. When you have a full fire, the damper will be open, and when there’s no fire, the damper is closed.
- Keep an operational fire extinguisher nearby.
- Use a fireplace screen to protect your home from embers or anything that could get into the fire.
- Don’t add too much firewood.
- Have a three-foot barrier between children and the fire.
- Put out the fire before going to sleep or leaving your home.
- Make sure your chimney has a cap during the off-seasons.
Before Lighting Your Fireplace
Fireplaces add warmth and charm to your home during the colder months, but precautions should be taken to fully enjoy a fireplace safely and responsibly. It’s also important to read through the other fireplace safety tips and brush up on anything that you might have forgotten since the last fireplace season.
Be sure to schedule a professional inspection, clean your chimney, inspect your surroundings, test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and gather quality firewood. Taking these five critical steps before lighting your fireplace this season will ensure that your experience is cozy and risk-free.
Summary of the 5 Critical Steps To Take Before Lighting Your Fireplace
|1||Schedule a professional inspection|
|2||Clean your chimney|
|3||Inspect the hearth and its surroundings|
|4||Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detector|
|5||Gather quality firewood|