Wood-burning fireplaces can create a peaceful, inviting ambiance in your home. They can also cause problems if not maintained or used properly. Safely enjoy the warm crackle on a winter's night by heeding the following fireplace tips. They may save your life.
Get Your Chimney Checked Each Year
Smoke from low-burning wood fires, or from fires made of unseasoned (damp) wood, leaves behind creosote on your chimney walls. After many fires, it can build up and cause its own fire. Hire a qualified professional to inspect and, if necessary, clean your chimney each year. This may save your home from a house fire that starts in the chimney.
Install a Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detector
Most people who die in fires die from smoke inhalation and toxic gases, not from burns. Install a smoke alarm and maintain it properly to protect those in the house from such a fate. Also install a carbon monoxide detector. Wood that is not completely burned produces smoke containing carbon monoxide. Because you can't see or smell carbon monoxide, and because exposure to it makes it difficult for your blood to carry much-needed oxygen, installing a detector is best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Start a Fire Properly
Open the flue. Lay several pieces of crumpled paper in the middle of the fireplace. Over the paper lean pieces of kindling against one another in the shape of a teepee. Then light the paper on fire and keep the fireplace door (if you have one) open just slightly. This will help the air circulate. When the kindling starts to burn, add larger pieces of kindling but don't smother the fire; continue adding larger and larger pieces of dry wood as the next one burns, keeping the fireplace door open slightly between each addition. When larger pieces of dry hard wood are burning and the fire is less smoky, you know that the draft is being pulled up the chimney and you've got a great fire going.
Don't Burn a Fire Overnight
Fire left to burn out overnight can cause a backdraft of smoke. This can pollute the air in your home with carbon monoxide and other chemicals. Instead, keep your fires small but hot, and let them burn out completely (and close the flue) before going to bed for the night.