Enjoying a warm, cozy fire requires a clean, safe fireplace. Here are some tips for keeping it that way:
Make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are operational and installed correctly. Install on every floor as well as inside and outside of bedrooms.
Use a fireplace for a short-duration fire — no longer than five hours.
Keep the glass open to allow air to be drawn up to cool the chimney, but keep the screen closed to prevent sparks from jumping onto the carpeting.
Never leave a fire unattended when children are in the house. Adults, even if near, should not allow children to play near or with fire tools and equipment.
After a fire make sure to leave the damper open while the ashes are still active. Closing the damper before the burning is complete will allow carbon monoxide to enter your home instead of going up the flu.
Open a window when using the fireplace to prevent the room from becoming smoky. The air coming in from the window will go up the chimney.
Before making a fire, open the glass doors, pull aside the screen curtains, and place the kindling, newspaper and logs inside. Next, open the damper and a window. The window needs to be open only a few inches. You can check to make sure the smoke will go up the chimney properly by lighting a match, quickly blowing it out and watching the smoke to see whether it's going up and out.
Never start a fire with flammable liquids, debris or cardboard.
Keep a nonflammable rug (available at fireplace-supply stores) in front of the fireplace so that sparks won't melt or otherwise damage your carpeting.
Use fireplace tools to handle burning logs. Never use your hands.
Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, to keep animals from nesting and to keep debris from blocking the chimney and causing carbon monoxide to flow into the house.
Use a spark arrester to help prevent sparks from flying out, which could start a fire on the roof or lawn.
Fireplace coals can remain hot enough to start a fire up to three days, so always wait at least that long before removing the ashes. At that point, open the damper so that the airborne ash will be drawn up the chimney instead of into the room. Be sure to wear a dust mask and open a window in the same room as the fireplace to prevent negative air pressure. Use a shovel to scoop the ashes into a metal container. Store the container far from combustible materials and surfaces, and wood floors.
Never use a vacuum to clean up ashes, because live coals may remain in those ashes.
If you have an unvented gas fireplace, make sure you open at least one window for air circulation.
Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney when necessary. Have him show you how to check it yourself, too. The chimney should be checked at least once a year or after about 80 fires.
Clean the firebox (the area where the logs burn) at least once a week during the months you use it, when ash builds up. Leave about an inch of ash because it acts as insulation, allowing the coals to heat faster and retain the heat easier. Keep the firebox completely clean during the months when the fireplace is not in use.
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