Having a fireplace is awesome in the winter! It can make any room cozy and warm. But there is so much more to do than throw some logs in and light them up. Fireplaces can cause fires and fill the entire house with smoke. If you just bought a new house with a fireplace or haven’t used yours for several years, have it checked by a professional. Old fireplaces and chimneys can be dangerous with build-up or an inoperable damper.
When building the fire, make sure the damper is open. Open one window in the room a few inches. The air coming through the window will go up the chimney and keep the room from getting smoky. Use the match test to make sure the smoke is going up. Light a match and hold it inside the fire box, blow it out. The smoke from the match should go right up the chimney. Buy a non-flammable rug at your fireplace supply store or online. It provides great protection from errant sparks that can damage the flooring in front of the fireplace.
Keep the fireplace box relatively clean during the months it’s in use. Be careful! Close the damper but open a window in the room. Use a dust mask. Make sure coals are completely out. They can stay hot enough to start a fire for three days. Use a shovel and carefully scoop the ashes and coals into a metal container. Never use a vacuum! Leave an inch or so of ash for insulation.
Outside, make sure there is a chimney cap installed. It keeps out animals and debris and prevents carbon monoxide from flowing back into the house. Also have a spark arrestor to prevent sparks from flying out that could cause a roof fire.
Of course, never leave any fire unattended. Keep kids away. Only handle burning logs with the fireplace tools. Follow these tips for a safe, warm, and cozy fireplace season.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO