Relaxing in front of a cozy fire is one of winter’s greatest pleasures, but if you haven’t properly maintained your fireplace in preparation for heavy winter use, it’s not yet time to relax. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that heating fires cause 36 percent of residential fires. Regular wood, gas, or electric fireplace maintenance is crucial to ensure their safe use and protect you and your family from a potential hazard.
Creosote fires are the number-one concern with a fireplace in the home. To prevent this and other safety concerns with your wood-burning fireplace, follow these tips:
- Have the chimney regularly cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney specialist.
- Install a stove-pipe thermometer to keep an eye on flue temperatures.
- Visually inspect the chimney for broken or cracked bricks. Exterior damage could indicate an interior problem.
- Remove flammable debris from the roof.
- Install and regularly test smoke detectors throughout the home.
Gas fireplaces are generally safe and are rarely the cause of a fire, but that doesn’t mean regular fireplace maintenance isn’t required for safety and proper function.
- Check vents for obstructions: improper venting can cause a buildup of toxic gases like carbon monoxide.
- Have your gas fireplace inspected by a certified specialist annually. Undetected gas leaks can cause a health and safety hazard.
- Wash glass inserts with a non-chemical, non-flammable cleaner.
- Install and regularly check carbon monoxide detectors in the home.
What could be easier than a fireplace you plug in? Electric fireplaces are perfect for small places where a traditional gas or wood fireplace isn’t practical, but just because they are easy to operate doesn’t mean they are completely maintenance free.
- Dust regularly. Even the inside compartment should receive an occasional dusting with a dry, soft cloth.
- Check the power outlet and cords for any signs of wear or damage.
- Change the light bulbs regularly to maintain the most realistic, even flame glow.
In all cases, keep flammable materials away from the fireplace and supervise young children who might not realize glass or metal shields get hot. Once you’ve completed your fireplace maintenance chores, it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved rest in your favorite chair — fireside, of course.