As the autumn leaves fall and the temperature dips lower, you may begin to regularly use a fireplace or wood burning stove to fend off the autumn chill. That means now is the time to make sure your wood burning system is in proper working order and that you’re using it safely.
Chimney fires can be hard to detect, but even if you’re alerted to it right away you’ll have the headache of smoke, fire and water damage to deal with afterward.
Here are some tips to make sure your fireplace or wood burning stove is safe and cozy:
Have your chimney cleaned by a professional
Some homeowners clean their own chimneys, but it’s well worth the money to bring in a professional. Not only will you avoid the risk involved in climbing up to the peak of your home with tools you almost never use, you’ll benefit from the professional chimney sweep’s valuable expertise.
For example, a professional would recognize a flue that’s not the proper size for the stove or fireplace it serves, but few homeowners would have that knowledge. A trained sweep will know exactly what signs to look for in a damaged chimney and be able to perform any repairs or modifications your wood burning system needs. Some sweeps can even check your chimney with video inspection equipment.
In addition, if you use a professional chimney sweep, you’ll know you’ve eliminated all creosote, the source of chimney fires. Creosote is also a very efficient insulator, so removing it makes your home more energy efficient as well as safer.
Up on the roof
Even if you’re hiring a professional chimney sweep, it’s helpful to know the signs of a problem. If creosote buildup or other problems have caused excess heat in the chimney, bricks and mortar may be cracked. You may also find black creosote deposits on the roof or on the ground around your home. Check your chimney’s protective cap for discoloration from exposure to flame or extreme heat. If your chimney doesn’t have a cap, get one installed as soon as possible; debris or nesting animals entering the chimney can cause a fire.
Inside, by the fire
Before you start using your stove or fireplace, clean out any debris or ashes and check the inside for cracks, damaged or discolored flues or anything else that seems out of place. If in doubt, have a professional inspect it and make any necessary repairs.
Make sure there’s nothing flammable near your stove or fireplace and use a mesh screen to protect against flying sparks. Make sure air flows freely through the fireplace and even the fire stack itself when it’s burning. The better the airflow, the less creosote buildup will occur in the chimney. Using very dry wood in a loose stack will give you a clean-burning fire with a strong airflow. Avoid wood that’s green or wet and never arrange your wood in a tight, compact stack.
Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in every room that has a fireplace or stove. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so using a detector is the only way you can be sure it will be revealed before it becomes a lethal threat.
Ensure you’re insured
Lastly, make sure you know how your homeowners’ insurance policy addresses stoves and fireplaces. You should also be absolutely sure your insurance company knows you’re using one. If they’re unaware that you have a wood burning system installed, they may not cover any damage resulting from a fire.
Tired after all that work? The good news is you now have a warm, cozy (and safe and efficient) place to rest in comfort.
LDR Cleaning and Restoration is one of the premier restoration companies in Rockford, Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. LDR provides restoration services from water damage, mold removal, fire damage restoration, storm and hail damage repair for commercial and residential properties. Capable of handling any size loss and working with all types of insurance providers, the LDR disaster team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Click here to contact LDR, or call 1-888-874-7066.