Fireplace 101: Building a Safe and Comfortable Fire in Your Home

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Fireplaces are a wonderful aesthetic addition to any home.

As the wood fire burns, your family room is filled with a warm smoky scent reminiscent of the simple pleasures in life. Sometimes there’s nothing better than building and watching a bright, comforting fire on a harsh winter night.

While building a fire is very rewarding, it also requires special care. If you’ve just moved into a home with a fireplace, or have just had one installed, we’ll help you with the basics of keeping the fire contained and enjoyed.

Or, if you’re fond of watching a delightful fire without having to feed it, an electric fireplace could be for you.

3 Tips to Control Your Hearth

Fireplace 101 is essential for keeping your home safe. For those with a wood burning fireplace, here are the top three tips for caring for your fire.

1. Only burn the right wood.

Only use kindle and newspaper to start your fire and keep it going with logs that have been seasoned for over 6 months. Starting a convenient wood pile outside of your backdoor will keep your temptations at bay for testing a variety of items in the fire.

Don’t use any fire starters or gasoline as you might for a bonfire. When you’re in your home, you don’t want to risk any chance of dripping fuel or sparking onto your furniture or flooring. You also don’t want those materials on your hands while your managing the fireplace in your home around your children or pets.

Do not use any wood that has been chemically treated such as polished furniture. The fumes from home furnishings can damage your lungs and affect the environment in unpredictable ways. Cardboard, drift wood, plastics, and other trash will also emit unwanted chemicals when burned.

2. Be ready to put out the fire.

It’s always a good idea to move items away from the fire before you start one. If something unexpected happens, you’ll need to be ready to put the fire out. It’s important to keep emergency supplies for if yourself or a family member is accidentally burned. Your home first aid kit should include pain relief, ointment, and bandages.

Fireplaces with sturdy doors are the safest, and those should be kept closed between adding logs to the fire. Some fireplaces have glass doors, which are nice to see the fire through, but are not as secure as iron doors or a similar metal screen protector.

How to regularly put out your fire.

Your fireplace tools include a shovel. If the fire isn’t dying on its own and you need to put it out, use the shovel to break apart the logs and place ashes over top of them.

This practice is called banking the fire for when you need to leave but want to keep it going just enough to bring it back to life later. This won’t completely put out the fire but it will reduce the logs to a smolder so it can either die down for when you come back or it’ll go out gradually on its own.

How to put out your fire in an emergency.

If a fire spreads to your house, you’ll need to cut the fire off from any oxygen. A fire blanket is one useful item for this kind of emergency to pat and extinguish flames. It’s a good idea to keep a bag of sand by the fire, and if it comes to using the sand, pour slowly so that the fire doesn’t jump to anything around you. Don’t forget to check on your home smoke alarms as well.

If you haven’t cleaned your fireplace, a likely hazard you could experience is a chimney fire. Creosote builds up in your chimney and can spark to cause extreme heats. These fires easily catch to your roof and can quickly get out of control. There are products available for stopping chimney fires with smoke fogs, and the last resort a fire department will use is to flood your chimney (and your living room) with water.

You can clean the chimney yourself if you feel comfortable getting on your roof with a fiberglass rod and wired chimney brush. Be sure to clean your chimney at the start and end of each winter.

3. Circulate the heat.

Turn on your ceiling fans and oscillating fans to disperse the heat to other parts of your home.

To get the most out of the warmth from your fire, make sure your home is weatherized. Seal up any windows and door cracks to keep warm air from escaping. If you have a garage, basement, or attic, consider double checking any insulation for re-padding and sealing.

Your chimney should be able to pull most of the smoke from the fire as a draft. If you find smoke is filling into your home, then you should put the fire out and have your chimney cleaned before you attempt another fire.

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