It’s November, and that means it’s time for family and friends, holidays and food. The holidays are just around the corner, and soon you’ll be setting up plans of when you’ll be getting together, who you will be inviting over, and what everyone should bring. It’s a busy time, and sometimes between fixing schedules and arranging meals, some things can slip through the cracks. Some things are fine that way, such as making sure that all the dust is out of the corners. On the other hand, there are some things that are necessary to make sure that you have a safe and happy holiday season and winter season. One of those things is making sure that your fireplace is clean, inspected, and obstruction-free so that you can build a fire and not worry about a chimney fire or gases coming back into your home and harming your family or your possessions. Here are some tips to make sure you are safe and sound, all winter long!
Make sure that your chimney maintenance is up-to-date. Nothing is more important than making sure that your chimney is inspected and swept on an annual basis. There are many things that can happen over the course of a season of burning that can cause problems for chimney owners, and the only way to catch those problems is to have an inspection by a CSIA certified chimney company like SirVent Chimney and Venting Service. When we come in and check on your chimney, we’ll be looking for key elements that have undergone wear and tear and perhaps need to be repaired or replaced. We’ll look for rust on your chimney cap and cracks in your chimney crown, torn or loose flashing, and crumbly or soft mortar. We’ll also make sure that there are no blockages, whether from a bird’s nest that’s been left behind or dried leaves, twigs, or other debris that may have blown into your chimney. Another thing that we’ll check out is the level of creosote buildup that you have in your chimney.. Whether you burn with gas or wood, there’s a level of creosote that will build over the course of a burning season, and even as little as an eighth of an inch of buildup is enough to cause a nasty chimney fire.
Another safety tip for winter fireplace enjoyment is to make sure that you’re burning wood that has been properly cured. When you cut down a tree for firewood, the moisture doesn’t just immediately drain out. In fact, moisture will remain in the wood for a long period of time. It’s important to let the wood sit for at least six months, and more time is better. As you burn wood, the moisture that remains is released, along with other chemicals released in the combustion process. As this rises up the chimney in the form of smoke, it hits the upper level of the chimney and condenses to form creosote. This material is highly flammable and can cause a major chimney fire. Although we often think of a chimney fire as a major event, most chimney fires don’t get enough oxygen to burn too ferociously before burning out. This can be an even more dangerous situation, however, because there can be damage to the interior of the chimney that doesn’t get repaired. One way to make sure that you don’t have an excess of creosote buildup or undiscovered chimney damage is to make sure that you cure your firewood for at least six months, or, if you buy your wood, to make sure that it is dried out. You can tell this in several ways. First, cured wood is lighter in weight and in color than wetter wood. It doesn’t have as strong of a scent as uncured wood, and if you hit two pieces together, it will give a hollow sound. You will also notice cracks along the edges of the wood.
Another thing you’ll want to do to ensure your home and family stay safe is to scope out your room. Make sure that there are no pillows, cushions, or furniture situated too close to the fireplace, where a stray spark or ember could pop out and start a fire. The same goes for magazines or toys, or even curtains. And now, with the holidays right around the corner, you might be tempted to place your Christmas tree right next to the fireplace. This is also a big don’t do because the tree itself and the presents beneath it are at risk of catching a spark or even of getting too hot from proximity to the fireplace.
Make sure that all protective equipment is up-to-date and working. This includes your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Time passes quickly, and it’s easy to assume that these items are working properly and that they have been checked recently, so make sure to keep a record of when you check the batteries on the detectors and performance on the extinguishers.
Call the Experts if You Have Questions
There are lots of things you can do to make sure that your family and home are safe and secure during the winter fireplace season. If you have questions or concerns, there’s one company that rises above the rest when it comes to customer service and quality fireplace and chimney care, and that’s SirVent Chimney and Venting Service. If you live in or around the D.C. area, be sure to give us a call and let us help you make sure you have a great holiday season and winter of cozy, fireside nights!