Today’s fireplaces are much different than those of days past. Older fireplaces were primarily constructed of masonry flues that were double lined and strongly constructed to ensure decades of trouble free use with the occasional cleaning. Fireplaces today are designed in pre-fab high tech methods that use metal flues and light weight metal casings that are much more affordable than the heavy duty masonry.
These fireplaces will still provide many nights of toe warming coziness as long as routine inspection and cleaning of the fireplace is performed along with some simple safety guidelines for use.
Almost all homes have fireplaces installed. These fireplaces also account for about 36% of residential home fires every year (U.S. Fire Administration). The keys to safely using your fireplace are as follows:
- Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned every year by a certified chimney specialist.
- Make sure the area around your fireplace is clear of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
- Always ensure the chimney flue is open before staring a wood fire or using gas logs.
- Leave the glass doors of your fireplace open and close the metal mesh screen while burning. Leaving the doors open will ensure the fire receives enough oxygen while burning so that complete combustion occurs. This helps reduce creosote from accumulating in the flue. The metal mesh screen will help prevent embers from popping out of the fireplace.
- Close the glass doors when the fire is out. This helps ensure the still hot ash stays in the combustion box and prevents conditioned air from rising up out of the chimney when the fireplace is not is use.
- Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace.
- Never burn plastics in your fireplace.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Always extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Always allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place the ashes in a covered metal container and keep the container at least 10 feet from your house. Always saturate the ashes with water and never place the ashes in a garbage can or on your homes deck.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside sleeping areas. Test your smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
These guidelines for safe use of your fireplace apply whether you burn wood or use gas-burning logs. If you are using gas-burning logs, make sure you have the gas piping, gas valve and safety devise checked each year to ensure no gas leaks are occurring and your gas logs are operating safely.
Warming by a cozy fire with a steaming mug of hot chocolate is good for the soul. Making sure you follow all the safety rules and have your fireplace inspected every year will ensure many nights of cozy toes and tight snuggling.