As the temperatures drop and colder seasons approach, many of us enjoy sitting by a cozy fire with our family and friends. To me there’s nothing like a toasty fire on a snowy winter night.
Before the snow flies, however, it’s important to make sure your chimney is clean and ready for those fall and winter fires.
If your fireplace is a wood burning fireplace, you should be careful of creosote buildup. Creosote is a residue that travels up your chimney and builds up on your flue over time. In fact, some creosote builds up every time a wood burning fireplace is lit. If that residue isn’t properly cleaned out, the chance of a fire igniting in your chimney increases. Many consider a creosote fire in the chimney one of the most dangerous fires a homeowner can experience; it can spread quickly and severely damage or destroy your entire home within minutes.
Here is some information you need to know about wood burning fires.
- Wood type: You can burn any type of hard or soft wood as long as it’s seasoned. Seasoned wood is wood that’s cut, especially oak (hardwood), and sits idle in a dry environment for a full year. Damp wood that’s not seasoned for more than a year creates cooler, smoldering fires and isn’t worth burning. Properly-seasoned wood creates hot fires which produce less creosote so there’s less buildup on your flue and in your chimney.
Do you know what seasoned wood looks like? Seasoned wood is dark or grey on the outside and white on the inside. The bark on the wood will also have a flaky appearance. The best seasoned wood is two-three years old.
If you’re not very experienced at building fires in your home’s fireplace or if you only burn a few fires a year, a seasoned soft wood like fir may be the way to go. It seasons quickly and makes nice large flames when it burns. The downside to fir – or any other soft wood -- is that it doesn’t burn as long as hardwoods like oak and walnut.
- Frequency: Do you light fires regularly but for shorter periods of time? If you do, you’re more at risk for a chimney fire! Why? Because the colder your flue is, the greater the chance that creosote will stick to it and to your chimney. Hotter fires that burn longer keep the flue hotter which means less creosote builds up there.
- Carbon monoxide build up: Cracks in your chimney can lead to a dangerous carbon monoxide build up in your home. A cracked chimney can allow carbon monoxide to circulate back into your home. Installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home AND having your chimney cleaned and inspected each year will help prevent you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Chimney inspections are critical: While some products can cut down on the creosote buildup, proper inspections and cleaning are the best ways to protect your family and home.
- Chimney inspection frequency: Experts recommend you have your chimney inspected each year. How much you use your fireplace will determine if you need a chimney sweep. To learn more about hiring a company that inspects and sweeps, visit this website: http://www.csia.org/homeowner-resources/how_to_hire_a_chimney_sweep.aspx?gclid=CJSW8ZTRj7ICFcHCKgod7k8ArA
- Use common sense: Inspect the area around your fireplace to make sure it is free of clutter. Household items should be kept two or more feet away from the fireplace. Also consider buying a fire extinguisher to have on hand in case an emergency situation develops.