6 Important Wood Fireplace Safety Tips for Homeowners

If you have a wood fireplace in your home, count yourself lucky. They are charming and warm and give a homesteading vibe as you feed them to heat your home. It is a great way to use wood instead of gas or electricity as fuel, and you also are more involved in the process.

While you enjoy the fire’s crackle and the flicker’s wonder, it can be a dangerous manual appliance. That’s why we have put together some essential wood fireplace safety tips to ensure everyone, and everything is cared for.

Safety Tip #1: Chimney Cleaning

Over time with regular use, your chimney will build up creosote as the wood burns. This creosote is highly flammable and can lead to a dangerous chimney fire if left, so getting it cleaned or swept at least once a year is important.

You can also do it yourself with the right tools and know-how. You will need a bristled chimney brush with rods that can reach down the flu to scrub the sides of the chimney. Then you can shovel the excess ash and creosote that has fallen, and you are good to go.

Safety Tip #2: Burn the Right Wood

We all know that firewood once lived as a tree, and it has taken lots of effort to get it ready before it makes its way to your firebox. You may be tempted to get your chainsaw out and cut down an annoying tree, only to immediately burn it up for heat. This is the wrong approach to burning wood.

The best firewood for burning is cut, split and stacked in a dry area for at least six months. While all wood burns, it doesn’t burn the same, so you should discern what type of tree to use.

Softwood is cheap but burns fast, leaving finer ash and a high creosote buildup in the chimney. Softwood includes cedar, pine, spruce, alder and popular.

Hardwood gives you a longer, hotter burn and is cleaner to handle with less pitch and sap. Hardwood includes oak, maple, ash, birch and most fruit trees.

Safety Tip #3: Use a Safety Screen

Wood fireplaces not only produce heat, but they can also spit out sparks. To protect your family, put a screen in front of the firebox. This will keep the child’s hands from getting too close and prevent sparks or breakaway logs from escaping.

Pets are also a worry with a wood fireplace as they may be attracted to the warmth. A safety screen will keep them out of harm’s way, and they can enjoy the fireplace too.

Safety Tip #4: Only Burn Wood

While burning all your garbage in the fireplace may be tempting, resist! You can use a fire pit or burning barrel outside if you have the room and leave dry wood for burning inside.

Items you should never burn in the fireplace:

• Plastic
• Charcoal
• Newspaper
• Painted wood
• Chemically treated items
• Magazines
• Particleboard
• Plywood
• Food boxes

Anything that can release toxic, corrosive or carcinogenic fumes should be thrown away properly. Your house can’t vent any of these gases, so keep them far away.

Safety Tip #5: Ensure the Fire Is Out Before Leaving the House

You may be tempted to let your fireplace burn into the night to heat your home, but it is a dangerous practice. Enjoy all a wood fireplace offers, and ensure it is fully burned out before leaving the room. This includes bedtime or leaving the house. Even a wood stove with a secure door is not recommended, but an open fireplace is a definite no-no.

There is also a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of CO buildup. You can recognize signs during the day, like headaches, dizziness, nausea and confusion, but you may never wake up again if you go to sleep.

Safety Tip #6: Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Having a safe home is vital, especially when the family is sleeping, and most homes have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors all over the place. Burning a fire increases the risk, so you need a dedicated warning system if a dangerous situation develops.

Check both detectors every month to make sure they work. Most have a button to push to sound the alarm. Backup batteries must be changed every six months, and the alarm needs replacement every ten years.

Worrying about the safety of your fireplace may limit its use, which would be a shame. By understanding these fireplace safety tips, you can feel confident that you know what is required to minimize the dangers of an open flame inside your home. Then you can light it up and enjoy the incredible ambiance as much as possible.

Kelly Young is a writer born and raised in Toronto. Proud of her simple and cozy life, a perfect evening for Kelly would be to snuggle up in bed with her cat and a well-written historic memoir.