By Dan Twomey, Hearth Specialist (WETT Certified), NEEI
Are you a homeowner with a wood fireplace or a dealer selling wood fireplaces? Safety should always be important, especially when it comes to comfortably enjoying a fireplace. There are a number of do’s and don’ts when it comes to up-keeping your fireplace safely, and we would like to tell you about some of the most important ones.
Store paper, wood and flammables AWAY from your wood fireplace
This one comes as an obvious but very important safety tip when using your wood burning fireplace. Children, pets and even adults need to be wary about the items that are placed beside or in front of the fireplace to make sure nothing creates a fire in the home and nobody gets burnt. Safety screens are available for wood burning fireplaces and are recommended to be used in the home when the fire is roaring. Having a safety screen will also ensure that the embers from the fire are kept contained in one space and not flying around the room.
Place cooled ashes outdoors, and away from the home
It is important to clear out the ashes from a wood burning fireplace once the fire is put out and cooled down. Placing cooled ashes outdoors and far away from the house is a great way to make sure that nobody accidentally touches them or steps on them and burns themselves and is also a way to ensure safety of your home by keeping them a fair distance away. Make sure to never place cooled ashes on a combustible platform such as a wooden deck, as this can be a large safety concern for you and your home.
Use small amounts of dry, well-seasoned wood
Make sure that the wood you place into your fireplace has no moisture or dampness to it as this will result in a smoky fire and the flame will have trouble
lighting the surrounding pieces of wood. Burning only seasoned wood (not green wood) aids in making your fire a safer experience. Placing your wood in a clean, dry place while not in use will prevent it from gaining any unnecessary moisture. We recommend purchasing a moisture meter, as this is the best way to see and control the moisture levels of your wood. These can purchased from any main hardware store and are normally between $20-$60. Not only will this ensure safety but also will ensure peace of mind knowing the wood you are using in your home is at a proper moisture level.
There are a number of available options for wood storage that suit all homes and encase wood safely so that splinters are not an issue for young children and pets. Wood should be stacked in an open area exposed to sun and wind for the summer and green wood will not season properly in a wood shed or in deep shade. When seasoned, usually by late September, the wood can be moved to winter bulk storage where it should be fully sheltered from rain and snow. We recommend piling your wood on a skid outdoors, away from your home, as the skid will act as a sponge to retain any moisture that your wood may be retaining. Because of the “sponge-like” effect of wood, it is important to remember not to leave your wood in the basement, as this will allow it to grow mold and bacteria in your space from the moisture.
Do not use fuel or chemicals to start your fire
The use of chemicals such as gasoline or a charcoal starter are dangerous to use in a home with a wood burning fireplace as they emit many toxic chemicals into your living space that could cause breathing problems and further health problems down the line. Ensure safety by starting your wood burning fire naturally and follow safety precautions as you light it. Make sure that nobody is standing close to the fireplace as you start your roaring fire. Never leave firewood in a pile on the ground for more than a couple of days. Wet wood on the ground quickly attracts bugs and mold.
Get your chimney professionally swept
It is always a good idea to get your chimney swept before you start lighting your fire, because even if your fireplace hasn’t been used in a long time, animals can build nests and old dusts and leaves can settle into it without your knowledge. This ensures that you are being precautious and safe before starting your fire. Always check your chimney cap to make sure that there is no dirt, tar or old dust in it before starting a fire!
NEVER leave your fire burning unattended.
Falling asleep beside the fireplace can be an extremely comfortable and relaxing feeling, however make sure there are other people in your house attending to the fire and viewing it to make sure nothing happens in the home. If you are alone, occupying yourself by reading a book or watching tv is a great way to stay awake and alert while the fire is roaring. Always ensure to read the instructions on your specific wood logs on how to properly light your fire. Lastly, before you leave the house, always do a safety check to ensure that all fires (both fireplaces and candles) are put out before leaving. A simple mistake could lead to a horrible accident, so always make sure to cover all your bases! Finally, make sure that all family members in the household develop a fire escape plan within the home to make sure everyone knows the appropriate escape route to take, should anything go sour. Be sure to monitor your fire as it is burning and try not to fall asleep as your logs are burning, you will have a much better rest knowing your home and family are safe!
Print our “Fireplace Starter Kit”, to get started in learning all about how to keep you, your family and your home safe with a wood fireplace. Keep the fireplace roaring!