The temperature is dropping, and homeowners who have wood-burning fireplaces are eager to start their first fire of the season. Making small mistakes when lighting a fire in the fireplace can lead to major consequences. To keep your fireplace safe, follow these easy tips.
Have the Right Grate in the Firebox
The metal rack, or grate, that holds the wood off of the hearth should be appropriately sized for your fireplace. A proper grate is two-thirds the size of the fireplace’s opening. Keep your fireplace safe by downsizing the grate if it is too large. An oversized grate will hold more fuel than is safe to burn at once. Another good rule of thumb is to keep all rugs, clothes, décor, kindling, and other objects at least 3 feet from the flame.
Check the Damper to Keep Your Fireplace Safe
The damper is a hatch that keeps cold air out by blocking the chimney. You should keep your damper closed when you’re not using the fireplace. However, if the damper is closed when you start a fire, your house will fill up with smoke, because there is nowhere for it to escape.
One simple way to check that your damper is open is to light a match in the fireplace, quickly blow it out, and check to see if the smoke naturally drifts up and out the chimney. Check that the damper opens and closes smoothly and easily before starting your first fire of the season.
Don’t Leave the Fire Burning Too Long
Although a roaring fire in the hearth is cozy and warm, don’t rely on it to heat your house. Keeping a fire going for over 5 hours is a major safety hazard. To keep your fireplace safe, make sure it is attended at all times. Never leave the house or go to bed with a fire burning. Once your fire goes out, keep the damper open until all of the embers have gone out so that smoke doesn’t begin to circulate indoors.
Keep Your Fireplace Safe Year-Round
An annual chimney inspection is a critical part of fireplace ownership. Hire a professional to evaluate your chimney each year to make sure that it is clear from debris, creosote buildup, blockages, and animal nests. If you move into a new home, do not attempt to use the fireplace until it has been professionally inspected. A blockage in the flue or damaged components can cause a fire to spread and damage your home.