Fireplace Maintenace and Safety
Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
It’s late October here in Arkansas and getting to be that time of year homeowners want to get that cozy fire going in the fireplace or wood stove. Before you do, make certain you are knowledgeable about your fireplace maintenance and safety. Wood burning fireplaces and stoves as well as gas fireplaces can pose serious threats to your safety if not used and maintained correctly. Let’s discuss some important things you need to know before lighting that fire.
The smartest thing you can do before lighting that first fire is to have the fireplace or stove inspected by a fireplace contractor. This is especially true if the home is new to you. As a home inspector, I always recommend buyers get a full fireplace inspection prior to use. Inspections are a great idea whether it’s a wood burning or gas device. The inspection can verify all controls are working properly and the chimneys and flues are clean and vented properly. This also the best opportunity for the homeowner to learn about proper usage.
If you use a wood burning fireplace or stove, make certain you are maintaining it properly. It is a good idea to hire a chimney sweep to clean the chimney and/or flue each season. Make certain old ashes are being removed from the firebox after each use. Some fireplaces feature a cleanout door to aide in the removal of the ashes. This door is often located outside. Use caution in where you dispose of the ashes as there may be some hot embers still present.
Make certain chimney and flue caps and screens are kept clear of debris and animal presence (bird nests are common).
For gas fireplaces (or gas start fireplaces) it is a good idea to check for gas leaks prior to use. There should be a valve located on the gas supply line. Turn this valve off during non-use times of the year. A gas leak detector can be purchased for a small cost at a local hardware store. Check all lines and joints prior to operating the gas appliance. If a leak is detected, make certain the gas valve is off and contact a fireplace contractor or plumber.
Burn the Right Wood
One of the keys to fireplace safety is burning the correct wood. All woods do not burn the same. You want to use a dry, seasoned, clean burning wood. Avoid burning wet wood or wood that has just been cut. Certain woods like pine contain chemicals that will build up in flues and chimneys when burned. Seasoned oaks are a great choice for fireplaces and wood stoves with White Oak and Red Oak being the most common here in Arkansas.
Creosote is a buildup of chemicals released when wood is burned. It is a tar-like substance and is flammable. It is often the source of chimney fires. Creosote will build up quickly in fireplaces and stoves that are not vented well and do not burn hot enough to fully burn the wood. It is a common problem in wood stoves that are set to burn slowly overnight. Yearly cleaning of flues and chimneys keeps the buildup of creosote down. You can find more information here https://chimneys.com/creosote/
Other Safety Measures
Make certain your home is equipped with functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These should be placed on each floor of the home and in each living area. Both types of detectors should be able to wake you from a sleep. An easily accessible, functioning fire extinguisher is also a must in every home. Make certain all occupants of the home know where it is and how to use the fire extinguisher.
If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Central Arkansas, consider a home inspection with Ferguson Home Inspections. Make certain you know as much as possible about the largest investment of your life. You can schedule an inspection online at https://www.centralarinspections.com/request-inspection/.
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