This article was crafted with the help of Jeff Peterson of Potomac Services.

Depending on where you live, your fireplace could get used consistently or simply exist as a design element that’s fired up just once or twice a year. Regardless, whenever you’re playing with fire, it’s a good idea to be extremely careful and well informed about the safety hazards associated with your fireplace. We talked to Jeff Peterson, owner of Potomac Services in the metro-DC area, about the best fireplace safety tips to keep you warm and protected during the cooler months.

Limit Creosote Buildup

Limit Creosote Buildup

Being vigilant about the accumulation of creosote (or soot) in your fireplace is of the utmost importance. Creosote dangers can be beyond devastating because it is extremely flammable. “Creosote is a combustible material. If hot amber, a byproduct of wood burning, floats up and rests on flue walls that have an eighth of an inch of creosote buildup or more, your chimney will begin to burn,” Jeff explains. In addition to endangering occupants of the home, chimney fires caused by creosote buildup can seriously damage your chimney and fireplace, resulting in costly repairs or system replacement. You should schedule regular chimney inspections to determine the cleanliness of your chimney as well as the degree of any damage that it has incurred through usage.

Monitor the Temperature

Monitor Temperature

“The firebox is where the fire gets the hottest. It can get up to 2,500 degrees, which is hot enough to melt steel. The number one thing for people with wood-burning stoves to have is a thermostat to keep the temperature in the acceptable range,” Jeff says. When a fire burns too hot, it promotes creosote buildup and fireplace damage. Installing a fireplace thermostat is the best way to keep tabs on how hot your fire is burning. Today, many fireplace thermostats can be monitored and adjusted remotely through apps and smart technology.

Use the Right Firewood

Mold Growth

In order for wood to burn, it cannot be wet or green. Seasoned firewood is the best choice for fireplace burning because it is the driest and burns the hottest and cleanest. “It doesn’t matter what type of wood you burn as long as it is seasoned. Seasoned wood is much denser and is going to burn for a longer period of time,” Jeff states. Storing your firewood properly is also key. If your dry wood is exposed to rain or snow, it could be rendered unusable. Be diligent about storing your firewood off bare ground and in a dry place with adequate ventilation.

Have an Expert Sweep Regularly

Expert Sweep

Reputable chimney and fireplace contractors will know how to properly inspect your fireplace when performing a chimney sweep. Not only will they keep your fireplace clean and creosote-free, but they will also know what to look for and can alert you to issues you may not be able to spot yourself. Catching and solving problems early can help protect you, your loved ones, and your property. “We always like homeowners to do a typical sweep and inspection before the season begins,” Jeff says.

With regular inspections and maintenance, most fireplace issues can be avoided. This article covered safety suggestions revolving around your fireplace, but dangers exist within your chimney as well. Check back on Monday for chimney maintenance and safety pointers.

This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Potomac Services, a Chimney & Fireplace Work Best Pick in Northern Virginia and Maryland. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

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