Fireplace Safety: How to Safely Use & Maintain a Fireplace

As frigid temperatures, howling winds and deep snows make themselves at home this winter, folks flock to warm themselves in front of a roaring fireplace.

Therefore, it’s a good time to talk about fireplace safety.

Every winter, fireplaces all over the United States glow brightly with the warming flames tickling the hearth.

However, most homeowners are not aware a dirty, soot-filled fireplace can actually cause a fire in their home.


Cobble Field Stone Fireplace 8As wood burns, providing heat for your living room, it also emits a byproduct called creosote. Creosote forms when firewood burns at low temperatures, causing incomplete combustion of the oils in wood. These oils, or creosote, leave deposits in the chimney and flu after a fire has burned.

After a season of fires in your hearth, the creosote deposits in your chimney can accumulate to several inches. This causes a two-part fire hazard.

1. As creosote deposits collect, they prevent the flow of oxygen to the fire in the hearth. In turn, this prevents the wood from burning at an optimal temperature, causing more creosote to form.

2. A fire in the fireplace produces lots of hot oxygen, and as it comes in contact with the creosote deposits in your fireplace, it can ignite a chimney fire.

In fact, 25% of all residential fires can be attributed to creosote buildups in chimneys and fireplaces.

Safety: Creosote Cleanup & Prevention

Mountain Stack Stone Fireplace 7There are a number of things you can do to mitigate the chances of a fire starting in your chimney or fireplace.

• Have a chimney sweep inspect and, if necessary, clean your fireplace and chimney once a year.

• Only use hard, seasoned wood. Soft wood still contains lots of moisture and doesn’t burn efficiently, which contributes more creosote to your chimney.

• While burning a fire, keep nearby glass doors open to encourage a strong flow of oxygen, which will burn your wood more completely.

• Never use flammable liquids to start a fire. Also, do not burn cardboard, trash or debris in your fireplace.

• Never leave a fire unattended. Completely extinguish a fire and any embers before going to bed.

• Make sure there are no trees, branches, leaves or other obstructions above your chimney.

• Cover the chimney with a mesh spark arrester

Follow these steps to ensure your home stays safe while enjoying a wood burning fire.