Are you taking proper precautions to prevent chimney fires in your home? The leaves have fallen and the temps are continuing to drop as we head into the winter months. Many of us are breaking out the hot chocolate and putting our fireplaces and wood burning stoves to use for the first time. While those pretty flames might provide the perfect backdrop for your favorite holiday movie, they can also present hidden danger to your home, family, and belongings. At Mammoth Restoration, we constantly see families lives turned upside down by chimney fires that could likely have been prevented with proper maintenance and the following of best practices. If you our your family use a fireplace or stove for heat, be sure to check out our checklist below to help prevent chimney fires of your own.
Annual Chimney and Fireplace Cleaning:
Annual inspection of your fireplace, stove, and chimney is an absolute must. Not only can damaged chimneys spread fire throughout your home but build up of soot and creosote can catch fire within your chimney. Inspections and cleaning by your local chimney sweep can make sure creosote is not actively building up, limiting the release of smoke and other gases.
A fall inspection of your chimney may also uncover birds or other animals that have decided to call your chimney home during the spring and summer months.
What is Creosote?
Creosote is a byproduct of carbonaceous chemicals formed from burning various plant-derived materials. Burning items like wood, coal and even oil can produce a buildup of creosote. Check out the video below from the Chimney Safety Institute Of America (CSIA) for a visual representation.
Watch What You’re Burning:
Burning dry wood is key in limiting the buildup within your chimney. Burning wet wood burns at a much slower rate and increases the amount of smoke being discharged through your chimney. The increase in smoke results in an increased amount of creosote deposits in your chimney. The term “seasoning” wood refers to making sure that wood you are burning has been cut and dried for at least 6 months prior to burning, giving the wood proper time to dry.
*Note: Certain woods may require a longer time to fully season.
Burning softwood also can increase the amount of creosote build up in your chimney. Stick to burning hardwood.
Hardwood Examples: Alder, Beech, Hickory, Mahogany, Maple, Oak, Walnut, etc.
Softwood Examples: Cedar, Douglas Fir, Juniper, Pine, Redwood, Spruce, etc.
Burn at a Proper Heat Level Daily:
Burning your stove hot enough on a regular basis will prevent the build-up of creosote. Stove thermometers can be purchased and attached to your pipe in order to gauge the temperature. This thermometer will also advise you when you are burning at a temperature that is too hot.
Using a Creosote Removing Powder or Log:
There are many variations of creosote removers that can be applied to your wood burning stoves to help remove built-up creosote from your chimney. While these agents will be helpful in preventing build-up, these should be used in addition to your yearly chimney cleaning, not as a replacement.
Ultimately, if you use your fireplace or woodstove often, you should make sure that you’re always thinking safety first. The Chimney Safety Institute of America reports that chimney fires result in an average of 22,000 residential structure fires a year and is considered a leading cause of fire loss.
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