Chimneys and fireplaces are very cozy and warm. Owning a chimney is a symbol of wealth and warmth and we all love to stand by the fire on a cold day outside but a chimney is also a potential risk for your home if you don’t follow some safety tips. These are the most important of them, but you should also ask to your contractor if you had something special built in your fireplace.
A clean chimney is a safe chimney, this is the mantra you must know. So, you need to know if your chimney is clean or not, but you are not likely to be able to spot it. The Chimney Safety Institute of America highly recommends to have your fireplace inspected yearly. If you can’t check it properly by yourself, ask for a professional to look for freedom from deposits, soundness and correct clearances. No matter if you use it much or not, you should have it inspected once per year, because it is not just creosote what may block your chimney, also bird’s nests for example, and they will be there no matter if you use it a lot or not.
Creosote is your worst enemy when you have a fireplace but you can’t avoid it at all. Creosote is a byproduct of wood burning so, if you burn wood you’ll have it (see some great energy-saving blinds). However, you can prevent it from building up or at least reduce its effects with the following tips.
- You should only burn seasoned wood and avoid freshly cut wood or green wood. The more moisture in your wood, the more creosote will build up. Seasoning wood depends on the kind of wood and the installations but as a rule of thumb, from six months to one year is fine for most of them. If you buy your wood, buy only seasoned one. The best way to check if it is seasoned or not is by knock together a couple of sticks. Seasoned wood will sound high pitched while green one will thud a deep sound.
- Use a glass door or a fireplace insert to restrict the amount of air reaching to the fire. This will ensure a good airflow and prevent smoldering fires, the ones that create the most creosote.
- By all means, avoid artificial logs. Yes, they burn so well and they help to start the fire, but they build creosote. To help start the fire, better use crumpled newspaper instead.
- Never burn wrapping paper, pizza boxes, Styrofoam or green wood. The first three are highly toxic and a cause of creosote, and the last one will make your creosote problem much bigger.
After you use it, clean your fireplace with a metal scoop and place ashes on a metal bucket. Burning ashes are very hard to detect and they can go unnoticed into regular trash bins and create a fire. Stay safe and use gloves and mask when you do it, as it is caustic.