During the cold winter months, there’s nothing cozier than snuggling up beside a crackling fireplace. From the warmth it gives off to the soft glow it brings to the room, hearths have long been a family gathering place and a winter staple. But while fires can be enjoyable, they also can be a dangerous threat to home safety.
If you plan on utilizing the fireplace in your home this winter, you’ll want to first review a few safety tips. From injuring loved ones to setting the whole house ablaze, fireplaces can cause some major problems. Fire claims average more than $34,300, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Here are some things to remember:
- First, open the damper on the fireplace before starting the fire. This is the part that seals the fireplace when it’s not in use. By opening it, the smoke can go up and out your chimney instead of filling up your house. Close the damper with the fireplace isn’t in use to avoid loss of heat in your home.
- Whether you have a wood burning or gas fireplace, it’s a good idea to have your chimney inspected annually by a certified chimney specialist. This way you’ll know the chimney is in working order and, if not, you can have repairs done.
- Make sure the area around the fireplace is clear of debris or combustible materials. From the mantle to the floor around the fireplace, you don’t want anything around that could catch on fire. All surrounding items should be a minimum of 3 feet away.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Whether its wood or gas, remember to put it out or turn it off before leaving the house or going to bed.
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your house. Doing this will not only help keep your family safe but may also score you a discount on your home insurance policy. Smoke detectors can often mean price breaks of up to 10% with certain carriers.
- Avoid using soft, moist wood. Instead use dry, seasoned hardwood. Wet wood can cause smoking problems, odor problems and possibly even dangerous chimney fires. For more information about selecting and storing wood, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America website.
- If you have children in the house, make sure you go over fire safety rules with them. Remember, never leave a small child unattended around a fire.
- Equip the fireplace with a metal screen to catch burning embers or shifting logs. This is especially important for wood burning fireplaces.
- If you have an unvented gas fireplace, make sure you open at least one window for air circulation. Why? Because burning gas can deplete the oxygen in your home.
- Use a chimney cap to prevent water damage, to keep animals from nesting and to keep debris from blocking the chimney and causing carbon monoxide to flow into the house.
As the cold takes over outside, it’s a great time of year to warm up next to a fire indoors. Just make sure your family is familiar with fire safety. By arming yourself with these helpful tips, you’ll be able to gather around your home’s fireplace with peace of mind.