Safety is a priority nearly all people share, as is creating and enjoying a comfortable home. It’s totally possible to hold these values together and embrace the comfort of a fireplace, all while respecting the nature of fire by exercising proper precautions. Read on for a few helpful ways to enjoy your fireplace safely this fall and winter.

a golden retriever sitting in front of a burning fireplace✔️ Be Present

Even if it seems that your fire is well controlled or dwindling, never leave the house or turn in for the night with an active fire in the fireplace. 

✔️ Talk to Children About Fireplace Safety

Children (and pets) should stay clear of the fireplace area even when no fire is visible – never playing with the ashes or attempting to start or tend to a fire. Children should also know how to respond to a fire alarm, so make a plan and practice it before the start of every burn season.

✔️ Don’t Burn Trash, Plastic, Cardboard, Etc.

Firewood is the only thing you should burn in your fireplace. Pizza boxes, gift wrap, junk mail, treated wood scraps, styrofoam, plastic, and other miscellaneous household tidbits should never find their way in.

Not only can these things release black smoke, which can stain and damage your home, but most also release chemicals which are harmful to human health when burned. Additionally, they may burn unevenly, at unsafe temperatures, or unpredictably – even potentially floating up your flue and onto the roof while still burning if lightweight.

✔️ Use Only Seasoned Firewood

Seasoned firewood is firewood that has been dried. The natural moisture content of wood must be reduced from 40-50% (a typical amount when freshly chopped) to 15-25%, so that it will burn optimally. Wet or unseasoned wood won’t burn as well, leading to cooler flue gases, more smoke, and greater creosote accumulation in your chimney flue. You can purchase a moisture meter to check whether your wood is ready to use.

Can you tell whether wood is seasoned or not just by looking? To an extent, yes. Look for – splits and cracks – caused by the wood shrinking as it dries. Seasoned wood also has darker coloring at its ends that you won’t see in green (freshly chopped) wood. Finally, you can often tell by feel – seasoned wood will be considerably lighter than green wood.

✔️ Invest in Screens or Doors

By having a fireplace screen or set of glass doors in front of your fireplace you can protect your home from flying sparks that can burn holes in your carpet or furniture.

✔️ Never Use Accelerants or Charcoal

Do not use any type of accelerants such as lighter fluid, charcoal grill lighter, gasoline, or charcoal to start a fire. They generate a fire that rapidly becomes too hot and out of control for your fireplace and chimney. They also release unhealthy gasses and residue that may ignite inside the chimney.

✔️ Maintain Proper Clearances

Keep all combustible objects – think furniture, baskets, Christmas trees, blankets, and decorative items – at least 36 inches away from your fireplace. Exposure to the heat can damage and or ignite them if they are too close.

✔️ Open Your Damper

Be sure your damper is open before starting a fire, and don’t close it until the fire is out. If your damper is shut, smoke won’t be drawn up and out of your flue, leaving it nowhere to go but into your living space.

hands pressing buttons on a smoke detector✔️ Test Smoke Alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These alarms are an important part of a safety-conscious home, saving precious moments in the emergency situations we hope never arise. Be sure you have the appropriate number and placement of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for the configuration of your home.

And once they’re in place, don’t forget about them – they should be tested at least monthly.

✔️ Have Your Chimney Swept & Inspected Annually

Our chimney professionals are carefully attentive to all components of your chimney system during each and every chimney service we perform. We check for wear and tear, damage, and buildup of highly combustible creosote and soot.

Sweeping and inspections are a critical part of chimney care, because they help head off issues early and ensure your chimney is in proper, efficient working order. You should have your chimney serviced annually, preferably before the first fire of the season.

✔️ Don’t Put Off Repairs

Delays in making repairs often necessitate more costly work down the road. Be proactive about scheduling routine service and taking care of even minor maintenance issues before they increase in severity. This can be cost-saving, but more importantly, maintains your ability to use your system safely.

Be Confident in Your Chimney Care – Work With Us

With Madewell Masonry & Chimney you’ll get clear communication, a work ethic driven by care for our community, and over 40 years of experience from a family-owned business.

You can have confidence in the service we provide, and know that your family’s comfort and your chimney’s health is of utmost importance to us. Need to get your chimney sweeping and inspection on the books? Have questions about a repair? Give us a call at 901-443-1036 or reach out online today. We’d be honored to help.