Whether you just like the glow of a warm fire or you depend on your fire place to provide some of your home's heat, ensuring that it is safe to use should be at the top of your list of priorities. The following are a few dangerous mistakes to avoid when using your fireplace so that you can ensure your family is safe.
#1: Burning the wrong wood
What you burn and how you burn it are equally important. Wood that has been cured, or dried, for at least six months to a year is best. It's also a good idea to burn solid woods with less sap. This is because dry, non-sappy hardwoods burn both slower and hotter. This results in less greasy soot, which is called creosote. Creosote can coat the inside of a chimney and make it more prone to a chimney fire. You want to use enough wood to have nice, hot flames that burn off creosote, but not so large of a fire that the flames shoot up the chimney, as this can also pose a hazard.
#2: Skipping damage inspections
Damage happens, either from normal aging combined with wear and tear, or as a result of weather events. The most important damages to watch for are cracks in the chimney liner. A cracked liner means that there is no longer an impervious wall to hot embers and fire between your chimney and home. Damage in the firebox must also be repaired for the same reason. An inspection should also include the chimney cap. It should be screened to keep hot embers from landing on your roof, since this is a major fire hazard. An annual inspection is typically recommended.
#3: Using only cleaner logs
There are fireplace logs marketed as "cleaner" logs because they help break down the creosote on your chimney walls. Although these are minimally effective, they are best reserved for maintenance use throughout the burning season as opposed to the main cleaning event of the year. This is because these logs cannot remove all the creosote from inside a chimney, and they do nothing to help if other debris – such as bird nests – are blocking the chimney. The better choice is to combine a thorough chimney cleaning service with your annual inspection, then only use the cleaner logs monthly to help cut down on creosote buildup until your next scheduled cleaning.
For more help, contact a chimney service in your area, such as Excel Chimney & Fireplace Service.