Few things symbolize the holiday season like the glow of a warm and crackling fire. Whether you’re relaxing after a Thanksgiving feast, savoring a cup of hot cocoa, or wrapping gifts for your loved ones, the fireplace gives you a cozy, safe feeling that’s kept up by good maintenance and proper preparation. Follow these best practices to ensure your fireplace is always an area of comfort and joy.
Use Good Wood
Good wood is essential to a warm and slow-burning fire. Opt for oaks, maple, and birch wood, as they contain less natural moisture than softer woods, giving you a longer burn and minimizing residue buildup. Store your logs outside, stacked on a pallet at least 20 feet away from any structures. Lastly, confirm all logs are completely dry and split into smaller pieces before using.
Prep Your Space
Taking care of the area around your fireplace is just as important as taking care of the fireplace itself. Avoid having combustible objects like furniture, carpet, drapes, and plants too close to the flames. Use a grate to surround the flame and protect children and pets, and slightly crack a window to keep smoke from accumulating. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby and check that the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working, too.
Regularly Remove Buildup
Over time, ash, soot, and creosote (the tar-like substance that sticks on walls) have likely built up inside your fireplace. All these materials are flammable and can block airflow. To evade issues, clean out buildup and residue a few days after using your fireplace with a fire shovel, handheld broom, dish soap and baking soda paste, and scrub brush.
Set Up Your Fire Correctly
Starting a fire can be intimidating—it takes a little more than just logs and matches. Follow these steps to heat your house safely:
- Crack a window and open your grate or screen.
- Make sure your firebox is clean and free of buildup or residue.
- Confirm that your damper (the door at the bottom of your chimney) is open.
- Prime the flue by lighting a roll of newspaper and holding it up the chimney for a few minutes.
- Place your kindling (easily combustible elements, like small bits of dry wood or newspaper) inside the firebox.
- Stack four to six logs on top of the kindling and ignite with matches or a lighter.
- Keep your eye on the fire and enjoy it!
Call in the Professionals
At the end of burning season, all fireplace users should call in a professional chimney sweep. These experts will clean and inspect your fireplace and the surrounding areas. They can also show you how to maintain things yourself, so your fire is always so delightful.
Holiday Home Fire Safety & Prevention
Holiday traditions have a way of bringing together family, friends, and neighbors. However, many of the most popular holiday festivities also invite some added risks to your home. Read our article, “Holiday Home Fire Safety & Prevention,” for six crucial tips to keep your loved ones safe.