Your fireplace provides a convenient and cozy way to heat your home. In case of a power outage, the fireplace may be your only heat source. Each year, fires cause significant structural damage to homes, sometimes resulting in a total loss. Following these tips will help prevent chimney fires and keep your family safe.

Clean the Fireplace and Chimney Annually

An accumulation of soot and creosote inside your chimney can lead to fire because these substances are combustible when exposed to high temperatures. Creosote is caused when the byproducts of a fire condense on the cooler walls of the chimney. Having your fireplace and chimney cleaned once each year will help to eliminate fire hazards due to creosote and other materials, like pine needles, leaves, and animal nests. Hire a chimney sweep to perform this maintenance service so you know it’s done safely and correctly.

Install a Chimney Cap to Help Prevent Fire

Animal nests, leaves, and other debris will gradually accumulate inside the flue. Unless you keep the chimney cleaned, loose embers may come into contact with this debris, starting a fire.

Keep debris out by installing a chimney cap around the flue’s outside opening. The cap also prevents smoke from re-entering the chimney after it has escaped. Acidic rainwater won’t be able to enter the chimney and cause erosion either.

Use a Chimney Liner

Prevent chimney fires by installing a chimney liner to:

  • Protect against excessive exhaust fumes
  • Keep the chimney from becoming too hot
  • Provide improved airflow
  • Allow combustion gases to escape easily

The result is a chimney that is easier to inspect and clean each year.

Use Seasoned Wood

Use dry, seasoned wood when building a fire in your fireplace. Choose hardwoods for a safer burn. Wet wood creates more smoke because it burns more slowly due to the vaporization of moisture. This also contributes to creosote buildup on the chimney walls.

If you’re uncertain about the wood you’ve purchased for your fireplace, use a moisture meter. Test each piece to make sure its moisture content is never higher than 20%. A $30 wood moisture meter can save thousands of dollars in home damages.

Keep the Fire Small to Prevent Chimney Fires

Small fires are more easily controlled and create a safer overall situation. A well-built small fire produces less creosote than a slow-burning large fire.

The top-down method is a good strategy for burning a clean fire. Here’s how to do it:

  • With the cut area of the logs front-facing, place bigger logs vertically at the bottom of your fireplace.
  • Lay a few horizontal layers of kindling on top.
  • Add tinder to your kindling.
  • Light the fire.

Chimney fires cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to homes every year. Keep your family and your property safe by taking steps to help prevent chimney fires.

20/20 Home Inspection offers inspection services to homebuyers in Coastal New Jersey. Contact us to request an appointment.