A beautiful fireplace is a great addition to any home or business. The warmth of the flickering flames makes the atmosphere both cozy and inviting. However, when not properly cared for, it is easy for any fireplace to become safety hazards. Plus, if you don’t deal with fireplaces often, the safety concerns are hard to spot and often go unnoticed. Here are a few tips to help you determine if your fireplace is safe.
Check the facing and trim
Safety hazards can range from using the wrong pipe to vent the fireplace, to the wrong type of facing around it. A proper facing that includes fireplace doors and/or mesh screens is required for a safe and up-to-code fireplace. Most modern fireplace doors actually have a mesh curtain built into them. Learn why mesh screens are important in this video.
Also, if you have a mantel encapsulating your fireplace surround, there are safety standards that dictate exact measurements of the mantel and its trim. When trim projects more than 1.5 inches from the facing, it must be at least 12 inches from the fireplace. When the trim projects up to 1.5 inches from the facing, it must be at least 6 inches from the fireplace. It’s best to get out your ruler and see just how safe you are.
Never remove the louvers
Louvers are the vents on the front metal facing of a zero clearance fireplace. They are used to increase airflow and circulation and prevent flammable items from getting into the fireplace and combusting. Blocking or removing the louvers voids the manufacturer’s warranty on your fireplace and ruins its integrity. Louvers are built into the front metal facing, so if you notice that’s missing, you’re most likely also missing the louvers. You will have to reface your fireplace in order for it to be safe again.
Avoid using flammable materials
Every fireplace can benefit from being updated to match the current look of your home. However, it has to be done right to be safe. We’ve seen homeowners use wood 2x4’s and drywall to frame a new fireplace surround. Both of these materials are highly combustible and cannot be less than 6-12 inches from the front of the fireplace, like we mentioned above. Always choose a non-combustible surround, like stone, tile, marble, or metal.
When in doubt, we recommend you have a certified professional check your fireplace and chimney if you've never had it done. A professional from your area would know all of the local codes that you are required to meet, as well as the national ones. Contact a local Certified Chimney Sweep through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
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