Virtually every home has some source of heat to combat the winter chill. The most common of these are fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. While the warm glow of a dancing flame is the perfect way to cozy up in the colder months, it can also present a real hazard.
Here are a few basic safety tips you can implement while using your fireplace or wood stove this winter.
The best tactic for making sure your fireplace is safe to use for the winter season is to have regular visual inspections – both inside and out.
Start inside the home by making sure to clear the area around the fireplace of any combustible material. (This can include wood chips, papers, spare logs, matches or anything else commonly used to start or fuel hearth fires.) Sparks from a fire may fly out of the fireplace and catch on these items, so clearing them away can reduce the threat of a house fire.
Chimneys must be swept annually – sounds obvious but this is often forgotten. It’s important to make sure to clean your chimney before you start using it to rid it of accumulated soot. It is always a wise choice to get your chimney cleaned professionally to avoid the build-up of tar and creosote.
Proper fireplace ventilation is essential to fireplace safety. When looking outside, be sure to inspect the chimney cap, since it keeps foreign objects out of your home while preventing hot embers from flying out of your chimney and on to your roof. You should also check above your fireplace to assess whether the mortar is intact and to ensure there is no physical damage.
Next, check the integrity of the chimney plumb on the roof to make sure it has not begun to tip to one side. A tilting chimney is a sign of a bigger structural problem and requires immediate inspection.
When using your fireplace make sure the vents in each room of your house are open as well. This will prevent any gas or fumes from getting trapped and accumulating inside a single room.
Wood-burning Stove Safety
Proper wood-burning stove maintenance is important. One tip is to make sure to clean the wood stove properly to remove all ash before you use it for the first time in the winter, as well as before each subsequent use through the season. You can read more about cleaning you stove here.
Wood-burning Stove Ventilation
Regularly check your stovepipe to make sure it is kept clear of all combustible materials. Your stovepipe should have no more than two right-angle bends along its length, keeping the venting distance as short as possible. Also, routinely inspect the stovepipe to ensure it is correctly fitted over the wood stove so no fumes leak into your home.
Finally, when it comes to both fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, there are 4 additional safety tips to consider:
1. Wood choice: Most experts suggest using hard woods that burn hotter and longer, as they emit fewer fumes compared to wet woods. Cut, split and dry the wood well for a whole year before burning, or buy fireplace wood that is manufactured for burning. You can read more about selecting your firewood in our handy guide here.
2. Detectors: Make sure you have a carbon monoxide monitor in the room where the fire is. This is required by building regulations. Standard monitors can be bought off the shelf but make sure it has the CE mark.
3. Leaving your Fire: Don’t overload a fire and don’t leave it burning when you go to bed or leave the house – you don’t have to wait until the last embers have died out but don’t leave flames burning – apart from the dangers, this is also a waste of fuel.
4. Fire Screens and Hearth Gates: Making your living space a safe haven for all the family is essential. If you own a stove, fire or fireplace and have young children you may wish to consider using a fire screen, not only do these help protect from sparks or fuel inadvertently falling on to the hearth but they also aid in keeping little explorers from getting to close. There is a large selection of fire screens available providing a stylish finish to your installation but also a safety barrier for young children. Hearth gates are fitted to the walls each side of your hearth with quick release wall brackets, adding extra security.
Following these guidelines when using your fireplace or wood-burning stove can help to keep your home and family safe throughout the long winter season.