Summer has ended, and as the chilly winter months approach we find ourselves grabbing at blankets, turning up the thermostat, or, if we’re lucky, lighting the fireplace in our home. However, without the proper precautions to make sure your fireplace and chimney are in tip-top condition, your fireside fantasies could be more dangerous than cozy. According to a 2016 National Fire Protection Association report, failure to regularly clean chimneys was a leading factor contributing to home heating fires.

Clear Debris and Obstruction

Have your chimney professionally swept at least once a year to prevent fire hazards due to soot, leaves, animal debris, and other build-up, even if you only use your fireplace minimally. Check to make sure there are no obstructions above or near the chimney opening, such as plants or tree limbs. Ask a licensed chimney sweep to install a wire mesh cap to keep debris or small animals from entering through the top of the chimney.

Clean the gunk out from around your chimney damper, which is the mechanism that open and closes controlling air flow to your chimney flue. If your damper is jammed, difficult to move, or appears broken, it’s important to take the steps to replace the lever.

Confirm there are no cracks or deterioration in your chimney flue. Inspect your actual firebox and then open your damper completely and use a high-powered flashlight to look up your chimney flue and inspect for damage. Make sure bricks are not crumbling or missing. If anything seems to be amiss, call a licensed professional to inspect it or replace it.

Light the Fireplace Safely

When you are ready to light a fire in your fireplace, clean out the old ashes from your firebox by sweeping or vacuuming them up and disposing of them outside. Avoid lighting your fireplace with petrol, paraffin, or trash, as these may leave dangerous tar deposits that can potentially cause a fire. If you own an open fireplace, be sure and have a fireplace guard ready to keep hot embers inside and avoid the risk of a floating ember catching something in your house on fire.

Prepare Safety Tools

Remember to always have a working carbon monoxide detector. A build up of soot and smoke in your chimney can cause a buildup of deadly carbon monoxide. To help avoid this, make sure all vents and airways are kept clear. Have several working smoke detectors (NFPA recommends one in each bedroom and on each floor of the house) and always know where your fire extinguisher is, and that it’s ready for use in case of emergency.

The National Fire Protection Association does recommend an annual inspection of your chimney by a qualified chimney sweep, so even if you do go through all of these precautions, it never hurts to contact a professional for peace of mind and to make sure your fall and winter are safe, warm, and cozy for you and your family. Chimcare can assist in making sure all of your fireplace and chimney questions are answered, and that everything is safe and up to standard.