Safe fireplace tips you should know

July 27, 2015

A fireplaces can be a wonderful addition to your home, but maintaining it can be difficult. Here are some tips that should help make the job a little easier and some safe fireplace practices you need to know.

Safe fireplace tips you should know

Some quick tips

  • If you haven't used your fireplace for more than a year, or if you don't know the condition of a fireplace in a newly purchased home, hire a chimney professional (some still call themselves chimney sweeps) to make a thorough inspection before you test the fireplace yourself.
  • Some fireplaces are simply decorative. If a fireplace flue has been sealed, you'll want to know if it can be opened and how much that would cost.
  • Have the chimney inspected and the flue cleaned at least once a year.
  • If you use the fireplace every day in winter, it will need more frequent attention. If an inspection reveals problems in the flue lining or the chimney masonry, have these repairs attended to before you use the fireplace again.

Cleaning glass doors

The glass doors on a fireplace can be more difficult to clean than other glass.

  • You can buy a product especially made for this tough job at a hardware store or fireplace dealer.
  • Make sure the fire is out and the glass is cool before you start.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning.
  • Scrub stubborn spots with a nonabrasive pad.

Freeing a stuck damper

If a recently working damper suddenly won't budge, you may be able to unstick it yourself.

  • Wear goggles for eye protection; dampers are dirty, and unlodging one will cause soot to fall.
  • Look up from inside the firebox, and tap on the damper's handle with a short piece of wood, such as the handle of a hammer.
  • If the damper won't move, spray the hinges with penetrating oil. Wait a few minutes, and then try again.
  • For added leverage, slide a piece of pipe over the damper's handle, then try to push or pull it free.

Safe fireplace practices

  1. Check the flue regularly for creosote buildup; have the chimney checked and cleaned at least once a year.
  2. Open the damper and look up the flue before lighting a fire; if you can't see all the way, there may be an obstruction. Never close the damper until the fire is completely out.
  3. Never use flammable liquids to start or rekindle a fire.
  4. Burn only aged wood in the fireplace. Treated wood, plastic, charcoal, leaves, trash or pine branches either contain harmful chemicals or flare up too fast.
  5. Use artificial logs one at a time; they can explode if stacked on one another or if they are put into a natural wood fire.
  6. Keep a fire extinguisher within reach of the fireplace, and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
  7. Remove flammable items (furniture, rugs, pillows or curtains) to a distance of at least one metre (three feet) away from the fireplace and dispose of fireplace ashes in a metal container.

Using artificial logs

The paper-wrapped logs you buy at the grocery or hardware store are a great boon to people without a woodpile or the time to lay a proper fire. Made of recycled sawdust and wax, artificial logs come in several sizes and can burn for as long as four hours.

  • Simply light the paper wrapping with a match, and the log will shortly make a cheerful flame.
  • Higher-quality artificial logs produce less creosote and smoke than natural firewood.
  • Artificial logs are intended for fireplace use only; never use them in a woodstove.

Cleaning and maintaining your fireplace can be a dirty (and dangerous) chore. Keep these tips in mind and get the most out of your fireplace.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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