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Keeping Your Chimney Safe This Winter

Posted: March 12, 2015

There are few things better than curling up around a fireplace with a good book during the winter. But what you need to remember is that fire is extremely dangerous and should be used with caution. Part of being cautious is making sure your fireplace and chimney are ready for flames. Many people don't know that heating equipment—including fireplaces that burn both wood and gas—is the third largest cause of fire deaths in America. A large part of this is due to poor chimney care. If you plan to use your fireplace when the weather is cold, you need to make sure that your chimney is ready to go. Here are tips for helping to keep your chimney safe for the remaining months of winter:

Keep Your Chimney Clean

To help keep your home safe and use your fireplace effectively, you should have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis. Over time, unwanted deposits of flammable materials build up in your fireplace and chimney. Because those deposits are flammable they can cause house fires. Fortunately, having your chimney cleaned regularly will help prevent this from happening in your home. Just remember that when it comes to chimney cleaning, you shouldn’t try to do it yourself. You'll most likely just make a mess and you might actually get hurt. Hire a company of experts to clean it.

Have Your Chimney Inspected for Cracks and other Problems

Cracked bricks or degraded mortar should be fixed before you light a fire. The structural integrity of your chimney is one of the most important things to think about before you place wood in the fireplace or turn on the gas. A licensed chimney specialist should come out at least once a year to inspect your chimney for any structural problems. If you're hiring someone to come out and clean your chimney, you might as well hire a company that can also inspect and repair any structural problems that your chimney has.

Have All Vents Checked

If you have a gas log, you need to have vents on your chimney so that the gas releases will not build up in your home. After a while those vents may be compromised, which can cause dangerous buildup of fumes inside your home. These fumes can cause health problems—and even death—so it’s important to ensure that the vents on your gas fireplace are in proper working order. Have your vents inspected at least once a year by a professional.

For the Outside of Your Home

Chimney safety is about more than just the bricks and mortar. It’s also about the space around the outside of the chimney. You need to make sure that flammable things, such as firewood, are at least 30 feet from your home. The outside of your chimney should be free of leaves, sticks, and pine needles. Although under ideal chimney conditions it shouldn't matter, it is better to keep the outside of your chimney clear of any flammable debris to help ensure that there will be no house fires.

Prepare the Inside of Your Home for Fires in the Fireplace

The room that the fireplace is in also needs to be prepared. Get a steel screen for the fireplace to keep anything from accidentally getting into the fire and also to catch any sparks or embers that may pop out of the fireplace. Also, make sure to store extra wood and kindling at a safe distance from the fireplace. If you have young children in your home, take time to educate them on fire safety and tell them to alert you if they see anything amiss. Having a fire in your home's fireplace can be a great memory for your children, but you need to make sure that everything is ready for a safe and warm night of fun. You want the flames to stay where they're supposed to. So, before you settle in for a night in front of the fire, call professionals to inspect and clean your chimney and check the integrity of its structure. A clean and clear chimney combined with other fire safety measures will help ensure that you and your family will have a warm and safe winter.