How to Use a Wood Burning Fireplace

It's important to know how to use a wood burning fireplace safely. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 18,000 house fires a year attributed to chimneys, fireplaces and other wood burning appliances. Use your fireplace correctly to avoid becoming a statistic.

How To Use A Wood Burning Fireplace Correctly

Safety is the key word when using a fireplace. There are a number of things you can do to make the operation of your fireplace a safe, fun activity. Here are several:

  • Start right. When you start a fire, Check to be sure the damper is open and only use clean newspaper and dry kindling to get the flame going. Don't overload the firebox with wood-start gradually, and add wood as the fire gains strength.
  • A seasoned veteran. Seasoned wood is the cleanest burning, most efficient fuel for your fireplace. Seasoned wood is wood that has been allowed to dry outdoors for at least one year. It will appear dark gray or brown and will have loose bark and cracked ends and sides.
  • Stay safe. Install a carbon monoxide alarm in the area near your fireplace. Never leave an open fire unattended and make sure to keep the fire screen in place when you are not actively tending the fire. Also, keep all flammable materials away from the fireplace and hearth areas.
  • Clean up. During the fireplace season, clean out the firebox of your fireplace once a week, making sure to wait until everything has had a chance to cool down. Open the damper to allow flying ash to go up, not out into the room. Remove unburned wood and excess ash, but leave a layer of ash to act as insulation. Never use a vacuum to clean up ash: the air pressure from the vacuum could re-ignite smoldering embers.
  • Plan ahead. Never start more fire than you can finish. Don't start a big, roaring fire during mild weather, or when you'll be leaving soon or going to bed. If you're looking for atmosphere and not heat, a manufactured log or a few pieces of wood are all you need.
  • A yearly check up. Have your fireplace and chimney inspected once a year by a professional chimney sweep. A professional can advise you on everything from creosote build-up to animals nesting in your chimney.
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