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5 Tips For Preventing Chimney Fires - Preparing Your Fireplace For Winter

Follow these tips from our fireplace techs to keep your chimney safe this upcoming winter.

 Sep 6, 2017  Safety & Maintenance, Fireplace Know How

5 tips for preventing chimney firesA fireplace enhances a home with heat, style, and comfort.  As a place where the family gathers on cold winter nights, or a place to romance your loved one, a fireplace often becomes the center of attention through the winter season.  Attention must be given to your fireplace before that seasons starts, though, to avoid the dangers of a chimney fire.

Fireplace Doors Online has 5 tips to help you to avoid a chimney fire this upcoming season. By following these 5 tips, you will be able to rest easy this winter knowing your fireplace is safe. 

1. Have Your Chimney Inspected

If it has been a while since you've had a CSIA certified chimney sweep inspect your chimney, now is a great time to do it. Not only will the inspection tell you if you need your chimney cleaned or repaired in some way, but it will also let you know if you've already had a chimney fire. Did you know that most chimney fires go undetected? When your CSIA certified chimney sweep inspects your chimney, he/she will be able to detect if you've had a chimney fire by looking for these signs (provided by CSIA.org).

  • “Puffy” or “honey combed” creosote
  • Warped metal of the damper, metal smoke chamber connector pipe or factory-built metal chimney
  • Cracked or collapsed flue tiles, or tiles with large chunks missing
  • Discolored and/or distorted rain cap
  • Heat-damaged TV antenna attached to the chimney
  • Creosote flakes and pieces found on the roof or ground
  • Roofing material damaged from hot creosote
  • Cracks in exterior masonry
  • Evidence of smoke escaping through mortar joints of masonry or tile liners​

2. Keep Your Chimney Clean

Creosote buildup is the #1 cause of chimney fires.  You can lessen the amount of creosote in your chimney during the winter by using a creosote cleaner like our Dry Creosote Remover twice a week.  This helps to convert the creosote in your chimney to ash, and decreases chances of buildup, however, if you have a large amount of creosote already, you'll need to clean your chimney.  If you're the DIY type, you can do this by using a steel chimney brush and rod kit, like the one here.  We highly recommend having a CSIA certified chimney sweep come in and clean it for you, though, to ensure it is totally clear of creosote. This should be done before the season starts.

What Is Creosote?
Creosote is made up of smoke, water vapor, gases, wood particles, hydrocarbon, tar fog, and minerals - all by-products of burning wood. It can be a sticky, tar like substance, or, in some cases, can be crusty and flaky. Either way, it sticks to the sides of your chimney and is highly flammable. The more you burn, and especially if you are burning wood incorrectly, the more creosote builds up, and the higher your chances of a chimney fire become.

Only burn seasoned firewood in your fireplace3. Don't Burn Garbage In Your Fireplace

We've seen people burn stacks of newspapers, or piles of junk mail in their fireplace, thinking it was perfectly safe, since they are all paper products.  Burning papers doesn't allow your fire to burn at an ideal temperature. It also will allow large pieces of paper to fly up the chimney and stick to the creosote on the sides - increasing your chances of having a chimney fire drastically.

4. Only Burn Seasoned Wood

It's really important that the wood you burn in your fireplace has been seasoned.  Properly seasoned firewood will burn at maximum efficiency.  When you use unseasoned firewood, most of your fire's energy is spent on heating the moisture in the logs, and bringing it up to a temperature that can burn it off.  Unfortunately, this keeps the temperature of your fire lower than needed to be considered a "good burn".  It also produces more tar like by-products, creating a thicker creosote level in your chimney.

What Is Seasoned Wood?
Seasoned wood has a moisture content around 20 percent.  Freshly cut trees have a moisture content around 45 percent, and should either be kiln dried, or should be air dried for 6-12 months to get to a proper seasoned level.

5. Burn With Your Fireplace Doors Open

Throughout our site, you'll see us stating that your fireplace doors should always be open when you've got a fire going.  If your fireplace doors are closed, the fire won't have good air flow to burn efficiently and to push the smoke up the chimney as needed.  This means your fire won't get a "good burn" and the smoke that hovers in the chimney, instead of being pushed out, adds to the creosote level. And, as we know, the more creosote in a chimney, the higher the chances of a chimney fire.

Chimney fires are dangerous and costly, so we encourage you to use these 5 tips to help prevent extensive creosote build up and the resulting chimney fire. 

If you have any questions about proper fireplace and chimney maintenance, we encourage you to give us at call at 1-877-373-6677 or email us.  Our fireplace technicians are standing by to help you.

Last updated on September 6th 2017.

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