How to Use Your Fireplace Safely
Get ready for a cozy season with these tips.
If fireplaces are not well maintained, fires can get out of control and damage your property or cause personal injury. Keep safe and warm with these tips for preparing and using your fireplace.
Before You Start It Up
- Have the chimney inspected. Highly combustible creosote — formed from smoke, wood particles, gas, and other by-products of a fire — is the main cause of chimney fires. To avoid buildup, have a chimney professional inspect and clean your chimney every year, whether you have a wood-burning fireplace, a wood stove, or a gas fireplace. Use the Chimney Safety Institute of America to find certified chimney sweeps in your area.
- Maintain the fireplace. Clean it in late summer or early fall to prepare for upcoming use. Scrub the walls, grate, and andirons with a nylon brush, then sweep out any debris. Finish by wiping out the fireplace with water. Click here for more cleaning tips from our partners at Lowe’s.
- Clear the area. Keep any seasonal and home decor items, such as rugs, throw pillows, or furniture, away from the fireplace. (Also check that your rugs are nonflammable.)
- Have a plan in place. It’s important to have a fire escape plan just in case anything goes wrong. Identify the exit routes nearest your fireplace and talk with your family about what to do in the event of a fire.
When in Use
- Burn the right wood — and only wood. Dry, well-seasoned wood burns clean and leaves behind less creosote. Never burn painted or treated wood; this could create potentially dangerous fumes.
- Safeguard against sparks. Use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace and igniting your clothes or furniture.
- Keep a safe distance. Your clothing can ignite if you sit or stand too close to the fireplace. If you have young children, consider using a safety gate.
After you prep your fireplace, it’s also a good idea to make sure your fire extinguisher is in working order. Keep it in a spot where you can grab it quickly — just in case.