A cozy fire on a winter evening may warm both your heart and your home, but it can also be a source of danger. Chimney fires are a real threat, although a properly built fire in a maintained chimney is rare. The following tips can ensure your chimney and fireplace are maintained in such as way as to prevent fires.
Tip #1: Schedule an Annual Inspection
If you used your fireplace in the previous year, then an inspection is a smart idea. The chimney tech will make sure that the liner, whether it is made of tile or metal, is in good condition with no cracks or gaps that could allow a fire to burn inside the masonry of the chimney. They will also look for and remove any creosote build up, which is the main cause of any fires.
Tip #2: Manage the Creosote During the Burning Season
Creosote is the black tar-like substance that is a byproduct of burning wood. It builds up on the inner walls of a chimney, where it can ignite under the right conditions. Annual cleaning handles the bulk of the buildup, but you may still get some creosote during the burning season. If you are concerned, there are special logs available at hardware and houseware stores that are made to help clear some of the creosote that builds up. Although good for occasional maintenance, these logs do not take the place of a regular annual inspection and cleaning.
Tip #3: Burn the Right Fuel
Large, fully cured logs are best because they tend to burn hot, which leads to less creosote. Small logs. Those that are filled with sap, or damp wood all burns slowly, which leads to more creosote buildup. Cardboard and paper can also increase creosote buildup, because they don't burn as hot as wood. You can use a small amount of dry paper, such as newspaper, to start a fire, but don't use it as a main fuel source.
Tip #4: Manage the Flames
One of the surest ways to ignite the creosote in your chimney is to have an overly large fire shooting flames up into the chimney. Generally, the flames of your fire shouldn't rage much higher than the top of the firebox. Flames inside the chimney not only risk setting any creosote aflame, they can also send embers out of your chimney where they can land on your roof. While a chimney cap helps prevent this, it isn't foolproof so keep your fire a manageable size.
Call a chimney repair or maintenance company, such as Clean Sweep, to get your chimney onto a regular inspection schedule. They can help you find any potential problems and then fix them before a fire can occur.