Prepare your fireplace before using it for the first time this winter. Almost half of all house fires start in the chimney or fireplace. Don’t let your home become a part of this unfortunate statistic. Here are a few steps to get your fireplace ready for cold weather.
Hire a Chimney Sweep
Hire a professional to clean your chimney every year before using it. A chimney sweep will come in and get rid of all debris, soot, and creosote build-up.
Inspect for Damage to Get Your Fireplace Ready for Winter
Before building the first fire of the season, inspect your chimney and fireplace. Is the chimney attached to the house securely? Check your chimney’s structure for deterioration, missing mortar, cracks, and loose bricks.
Clean Your Blower
Your fireplace may or may not have a blower. If it does, clean it completely. Most don’t have a filter, so you’ll need to clean all the buildup yourself.
Get Your Fireplace Ready, Cap Your Chimney
Take the time to repair or replace a missing or damaged cap. This prevents rain, birds, leaves, squirrels, and debris from entering your chimney and fireplace. The chimney cap also helps prevent downdrafts that blow smoke back into your living area.
Check the Damper to Get Your Fireplace Ready for Use
Check the damper to prepare your fireplace. The damper must work properly before the fireplace is put back into use. The damper is a plate or valve that works to regulate chimney airflow. It should open completely to allow smoke to exit through the chimney.
Test Smoke Detectors
Test your smoke alarms so you know that they are working correctly. Replace the batteries if it’s been more than a few months since fresh ones were installed.
Prepare Your Fireplace: Safe Usage
Make sure you know how to safely operate the fireplace after you’ve prepared it for use.
Select Your Firewood
It’s important to use seasoned firewood. Hardwoods, like oak, are a good choice. Use wood in your fireplace that’s been split and stored for at least six months in a dry area. Softwoods are not the best choice; they produce a flammable by-product called creosote. Creosote builds up inside the chimney and can cause chimney fires.
Prepare Your Firewood
Split firewood into pieces that are no bigger than six inches in diameter. This size ensures that each piece fits into your fireplace and burns properly. Stack your wood in a dry area. Keep it off the ground and make sure to place the split-side down. Cover the wood in case of snow or rain. Store wood for six months or longer before using it in your fireplace.
Build Fires Properly
Place logs at the rear of your fireplace on the metal grate. Don’t use flammable liquids to get the fire started, use kindling instead. Maintain space between the logs so there is enough air for the fire to burn well.