If your home has a gas or electric fireplace or fireplace insert, locate the owner’s manual and read it thoroughly. There are too many types of these heating appliances to thoroughly cover in this lesson. We’re primarily focusing on wood-burning fireplaces and wood stoves. This includes fireplace inserts that burn wood pellets.
A chimney fire is no joke. If you have a fireplace or insert, you MUST have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis. Some fire experts advise having your chimney cleaned at least once a year. Chimney cleaners are called chimney sweeps. Chimney sweeps often charge very reasonable rates. It’s worth $100 a year to avoid having your home burn to the ground when you’re not even home.
Leave the chimney cleaning to a professional. There are enough components for you to worry about surrounding the fireplace itself. Your fireplace should have glass doors and a screen. Inspect them faithfully! One slight crack in the glass door could allow a spark to jump out. The screen will stop some sparks but not all of them. Make sure the glass door frame fits securely and doesn’t have any unprotected gaps on the sides.
If you don’t know where the chimney damper is, find out. It’s located inside the chimney. Some people call it the “flue”. This is incorrect. The damper is the metal device located inside your fireplace that adjusts the amount of air being sucked out of the fireplace. The flue is the metal, ceramic, or brick airway that leads from the fireplace to the top of the chimney. Inspect the damper at least once a year. Make sure it opens and closes properly. If the damper fails, it could close on its own and fill your home with smoke. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!
Wood stoves need constant inspection and maintenance. Chances are the flue pipe at the top of the stove has a 60 or 90-degree bend. Clean that pipe faithfully. Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood. Creosote will build up inside the flue and need to be cleaned regularly. Remember the golden rule: wet wood will produce more creosote than dry wood. If you burn green or wet wood in your woodstove, you might need to clean the flue every single week.
The same precautions for wood stoves also apply to stoves that burn wood pellets. Clean the stove regularly, and be sure to remove the creosote from the flue pipe.