Withthe cost of gas – and therefore heating your home – on the rise, it makes sense to utilise your beautiful, wood burning, fireplace earlier than usual this year. Now, before you run off and ignite that glorious, radiant fire, providing some much needed heat as well as a mesmerising focal-point, we’ve got a few fireplace safety tips to ensure you stay safe;
– Ensure your chimney is clean and clear. The experts at the ‘Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps’ recommend that wood burning fireplaces have their chimney checked and cleaned quarterly, whilst in use. For most of us, a professional clean – before first use – should see us through the season. However, a dirty chimney may be home to a build up of soot, creosote or the remnants of a birds nest and could provide the necessary fuel for a potentially serious, and very damaging, chimney fire. Head over here to find your local, ‘Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps’ certified sweep.
– Make sure your chimney cap is free of issues. While you’re having your chimney swept, ask the sweep to assess the stability of your cap. If it has suffered any damage during the summer, have it repaired or replaced. If you don’t have one, this is a good time to have one installed. Chimney caps prevent birds, rain and other debris from tumbling down the chimney into your fire/house.
– Keep on top of fireplace cleanliness. As with the chimney, a build up of creosote or soot could potentially cause unnecessary and unpredictable hazards. Use a dust mask and rubber gloves whilst cleaning and vacuum up the cool ashes after every burn. Aside from the safety aspects, lots of dark sticky creosote and soot is unsightly, right?
– Choose your fuel wisely. Burning treated woods, such as pallets, crates or painted wood, could potentially expel harmful, toxic fumes, so be careful and be aware of what you ignite. Seasoned hardwoods, such as oak, ash and birch, tend to be more difficult to initially light, but will provide a longer, hotter burn than many softwood substitutes. They are generally, however, more expensive to purchase. Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, are cheaper, but will burn through much quicker. As a recommendation, perhaps try a softwood to start your fire before loading it up with hardwood, to see you through for a few hours.
– Don’t get carried away. Many people, certainly a number of those that we know, have a certain fascination with an open-fire. Perhaps harking back to our ‘hunter-gather’ days. Anyway, regardless of this, don’t let your enthusiasm affect the safety of your fire. Remember this is a controlled fire in an enclosed space, not a bonfire! Don’t load the fireplace up with stacks of wood. If you do you’ll run the risk of the fire burning too hot and a) getting out of control and/or b) causing severe cracks and damage to your chimney. As a general rule, the flames should never reach the opening of your chimney.
– Invest in a metal mesh fire guard. This will prevent any stray embers being spat out from the fire into your living room, and will prevent any possible damage being caused to your flooring. These are essential should you ever leave the fire unattended, even for very small periods. ‘All-enclosed guards’ are a sensible suggestion, particularly if there are likely to be any young children near to the fireplace.
Preparation is paramount whenever you’re using your fireplace and chimney cleanliness is key. Statistics suggest that there are in the region of 30,000 chimney fires per year, with 9,000 being serious, resulting in severe damage to the home. It’s fair to say that if the chimneys were properly maintained and checked by a professional chimney sweep, many of these incidents could have been avoided.
Having said this, fireplaces needn’t be scary. When done properly and controlled as it should be – alongside sticking to these tips and exercising a good bit of common sense – a glowing fire can be a lovely focal point that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Be sure to enjoy it.