Chimney Care Company's Blog
Your fireplace helps you to keep your home warm and cozy all winter long. But the knowledge that fireplaces also can be a fire hazard can leave you feeling anything but cozy. You can implement fireplace safety tips to reduce fireplace hazards and enjoy your fireplace without fear this winter.
Have your fireplace swept and inspected.
The No. 1 thing you can do to lower the fire hazard in your home is to have your chimney swept and inspected at least once per year, preferably between fire-burning seasons. A chimney sweeping and inspection ensures that your chimney is free of flammable creosote and other obstructions that could pose a danger. It also ensures that the fireplace and chimney are free from damage and in good operating condition.
Clear the space around the fireplace.
Embers can jump out of the fireplace and ignite nearby objects or burn anyone sitting too close. Items that are too close to a fireplace can overheat and begin to burn. To reduce this fire hazard, make sure that the area around your fireplace is free of any flammable materials, and encourage pets and children to stay away from the hearth when a fire is burning. All flammable objects be kept at least two feet from the hearth to avoid a fire hazard. Make sure you also check your mantle to be sure that there aren’t any objects dangling too close to the flames.
Screen your fireplace.
Another way to keep popping embers from your fireplace from posing a fire hazard is to use a fireplace screen. Keep mesh curtains on your fireplace and close them when a fire is burning. If your fireplace doesn’t have a built-in screen, invest in a removable screen or spark arrestor to keep sparks, ashes and logs safely in the fireplace.
Don’t burn anything other than the intended fuel.
Wood-burning fireplaces were designed to safely burn seasoned firewood. Gas fireplaces are made to safely handle gas fires. Pellet stoves safely accommodate pellets. Never burn anything other than the intended fuel in your fireplace. Wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and scraps of woods can cause flare ups that can’t be safely contained by your firebox and chimney.
Practice proper ash disposal.
After your fire has visibly extinguished, the ashes can still pose a danger. Embers hidden within the ashes can burn for days after your fire was put out. When clearing out your fireplace, be sure to use a metal shovel to scoop ashes into a metal bucket with a tight-fitting lid. Only remove the ashes to a garbage bag or other receptacle once you are sure that they have cooled entirely.
Consult the experts.
If you have concerns about fire hazards and your fireplace, make sure you consult the experts. At The Chimney Care Co., we view it as part of our responsibility to educate our customers on the safe operation of their fireplaces. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about your fireplace.
Your home houses many devices that create carbon monoxide: Your furnace, your fireplace or heating stove, your gas stove or oven, your clothing dryer, your water heater and your car, to name a few. We all know that these devices are perfectly safe when they are well vented and operating properly. But when vents get blocked or damaged, when appliances fail, or when human error intervenes, these devices can put you and your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
At its lowest levels, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause nausea, vomited, feeling lightheaded or sleepiness. At worst, it can result in confusion, organ damage or even death. That is why it is crucial that you take steps to protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide.
To prevent carbon monoxide from building up within your home and to keep your family safe:
- Have heating appliances cleaned and inspected annually. Furnaces, fireplaces and heating stoves should have their vents cleaned at least once per year, and the appliances should be checked for damage or malfunction that could put your home or your family in danger.
- Make sure appliance vents stay clear. Appliance vents should remain clear at all times. Check that vents are clear after major storms or in heavy snows. Make sure that vents do not get covered during home renovations.
- Clean your dryer vents. Over time, clothing dryer vents can become clogged with lint. Just like your chimney and furnace flues, your dryer vents should be cleaned at least once per year to lower your risk of carbon monoxide buildup or a home fire.
- Only use gas appliances as directed. Never use your gas stove or oven as a heat source. Leave camp stoves or portable gas heaters outdoors where they belong. Do not run a gas-powered generator within your home.
- Never leave your car running inside your garage. Your car’s exhaust can cause carbon monoxide to build up to dangerous levels in your garage and in your attached home, even if the garage door has been left open while the car is running.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors can be life savers, literally. You should have carbon monoxide detectors installed on each level of your home and near each sleeping area within your home. Test carbon monoxide detectors at least once per month, and replace batteries at least once per year.
Know what to do when carbon monoxide detectors sound!
Make sure every member of your home knows what the alarms sound like and what to do if they hear the alarms’ signals. Exit the home immediately and call 911. Do not re-enter the home until the danger has been cleared. If you experience any of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning — dizziness, nausea, sleepiness, confusion — seek medical attention.
The prospect of carbon monoxide poisoning frightens most homeowners, as it should, but by taking precautions to prevent it and by having alarms in place, you can keep your family safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Fireplaces are the heart of a home.
Some common fireplace upgrades include:
- Fireplace repairs. Often, the problem with the fireplace is that the fireplace is showing its age. The firebox tiles crack. The hearth becomes stained. The metal grates corrode. How can you give someone a fireplace facelift? Hiring skilled fireplace technicians to fix their fireplace’s simple cosmetic problems! This provides a restored, beautiful fireplace that is once again a pleasure to look at and that is safe for lighting a fire.
- Fireplace accessories. Fireplace accessories can dress up the hearth and provide and instant fireplace facelift. Andirons, a quality set of fireplace tools, or a well-crafted fireplace screen are all great gift options. This is especially true when you’re looking to dress up someone’s fireplace.
- Fireplace façade. Perhaps nothing reveals a fireplace’s age like the façade. Fireplace trends come and go, and a façade that was trendy 10 years ago can age a home. Fortunately, there are many ways to give the fireplace a facelift. That includes adding tile or veneers over outdates surfaces, changing out fireplace doors, or replacing a passé mantle. Sometimes the right coat of paint or finishing treatment can make a hearth look like new.
- Fireplace insert. One of the most dramatic fireplace facelifts you can gift someone is a fireplace insert. A fireplace insert can instantly change the look of the hearth. In addition, it can upgrade fireplace efficiency and lower home heating bills. An insert also can make a fireplace more use-able.
Are You Ready?
Next to the tree, nothing sets the tone for the holidays quite like a well-decorated mantel. Whether you prefer traditional décor or modern flair, there are some tips and tricks to employ when putting together a stylish fireplace mantel for the holiday season.
Regardless of what your overall vision for your mantel is, knowing some mantel decorating basics that can set you up for decorating success. Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when decorating your mantel:
Focus on symmetry. You will want your mantel to feel balanced. That means having similarly sized items on each side of the mantel. A good rule of thumb is to place your largest décor items on the outside edges of the mantel and work your way inward.
Have both vertical and horizontal components. Garlands are a mantel mainstay for a reason. It’s good design to have a horizontal décor element on your mantel to accompany your vertical décor. Don’t want to go with the traditional greenery? You can choose a long length of driftwood, a garland of Christmas bulbs, a bunting, or an eclectic mix of stockings.
Don’t let your garland or greenery hang too long.
If you do choose to drape décor from your mantel, it should not come more than one third of the way to the floor.
Mix in a variety of materials and textures. Don’t just stick with natural wood candlesticks and greenery, or Christmas bulbs and glass vases. Add interest to your mantel by using a mix of materials and textures. You can add an unexpected element to a traditional green mantel by using antique cars and toys. Or you can add pine cones to a mantel filled with glass bulbs.
Anchor your mantel with a backdrop. Add a mirror, a modern piece of holiday artwork or lighted aluminum or cardboard letters. This theme to the wall above or behind your mantel will anchor your décor. In addition, help you turn your fireplace, mantel, and wall into a stunning focal point.
Mantel safety tips:
If you use your fireplace to provide heat or ambiance to your home, it’s also important to keep fireplace safety in mind when decorating your mantel. Some basic mantel decorating tips to keep in mind are:
Use nonflammable materials. Even if you choose to use natural looking greenery, flame-retardant garlands are available. Also, they provide a safe choice for decorating your mantel. If you light your fireplace, avoid buntings or hanging tinsel that could catch fire or melt.
Avoid hanging décor. If you will be lighting your fireplace, skip hanging the stockings in front of the fireplace. Instead, place garlands on top of the mantel, rather than draping it from the mantel. When you finish decorating, make sure you take a step back and evaluate the mantel décor. This is to make sure none of your decorations are too close to the hearth.
Keep a fire extinguisher handy. If you have a fireplace, it’s always wise to have a fire extinguisher nearby and to make sure it is ready to use. As you decorate your mantel, it’s an excellent time to make sure that you have an extinguisher on hand, in case your décor does ignite.
Gas fireplaces are a modern convenience. They give you the heat and ambiance of a traditional fireplace, without the hassle of building and maintaining a fireplace. They’re also cleaner, without the ash, soot and smoke of a wood-burning fireplace.
Because of their ease of use and clean, efficient burn, homeowners often forget that a gas fireplace requires annual cleaning and maintenance, just like their wood-burning counterparts.
Why your gas fireplace needs an annual tune-up and inspection.
Gas fireplaces are incredibly easy to use and nearly maintenance free. However, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that the gas fireplaces and their chimneys undergo annual cleaning and inspection. This is just like any other type of heating stove or fireplace. With gas fireplaces, chimneys can still face damage or deterioration that compromises their structure and safe use. In addition, chimneys can become blocked by animals, leaves or debris. An annual chimney cleaning and inspection ensures that the chimney is structurally sound. Making it free from damage, and clear of any animals or obstructions.
The inside of the gas fireplace also requires an annual cleaning and inspection for safe operation. The burners and vents can become clogged with debris, either from dust or deteriorating bits of your ceramic logs. Over time, glass can crack or chip, compromising its function, and other parts of the fireplace. This includes seals, valves, fans, and blowers. Even the pilot light can malfunction or fail. Your annual gas fireplace cleaning clears away any debris that could inhibit the fireplace’s safe function. Also, the inspection checks for any problems that could compromise the safe or efficient function of your gas fireplace.
What the annual cleaning and inspection of a gas fireplace entails:
During your annual gas fireplace tune-up and inspection, your Chimney Care Co. fireplace technician will clean and inspect your chimney flue. They will also check your gas fireplace for proper clearances and venting. This is to make sure that valves, seals, gaskets, fans, blowers and the pilot are functioning properly. The technician also will look for damaged or worn-out fireplace components. These include cracks, gaps or scrapes within the firebox, signs of condensation around the chimney, and signs of leaking gases into the home.
What you can do to maintain your fireplace.
In between your annual gas fireplace cleaning and inspection, there are some things you can do to keep your gas fireplace operating optimally. Each month, especially during the months when the fireplace is in use, clean both sides of the fireplace glass. Inspect the glass for signs of cracks or chips. Inspect the inside of the fireplace for signs of deteriorating logs. Clear away any dust or spider webs from the inside of the fireplace. Always call for service if you notice any problems with the fireplace, such as difficulty igniting the pilot or malfunctioning blowers.
Call to schedule your gas fireplace tune-up and inspection today!
Before you fire up your gas fireplace for the season, call The Chimney Care Co. to schedule your gas fireplace tune-up and inspection! We’ll make sure that your gas fireplace is clean and safe for a winter’s worth of heating. We will also talk to you about regular maintenance to keep your gas fireplace burning cleanly, safely and efficiently all year long.