Keeping Your Wood Burning Fireplace Working Safely
There’s nothing like curling up next to a roaring fire. But if you’re burning wood, here are some important safety tips to remember:
Not just a Mary Poppins-esque fantasy, having your chimney swept recently is an important part of fireplace maintenance. It’s an important way to keep on top of your creosote build up (see below) and is the most important thing you can do to keep your chimney safe and to prevent chimney fires. Make sure this happens at least every two years- and remember that sweeping services get very busy as Winter approaches so book early!
A standard sweep and check should take about an hour, usually concluding with a ‘smoke test’ where the sweep will light a small fire to check the results.
Sounds simple right? But the temptation is there to toss anything into your fire once it’s burning. But resist! Because items that don’t burn, or just don’t burn well can plan havoc with your fireplace, create toxic smoke and make for an unpleasant clean up job. The fireplace is for wood, firelighters, paper and the odd pinecone- only.
Don’t let ash build up in your fireplace. Let the ashes cool overnight and dispose of them regularly. If there’s an ash bin close to your fireplace, make sure this is covered and a safe distance from the fireplace. This bin should be metal as ash can contain live coals. Leaving about an inch of ash in the fireplace can provide good insulation for burning, but any more than this should be cleared regularly.
Keep an eye out for this hard, crusty and highly flammable substance! It’s created by wood failing to combust completely. But when it accumulates, you’re at risk of a chimney fire.
Two things can minimise the build up of creosote:
- Burn dry hardwoods- the lower moisture content enables complete burning.
- Burn a hotter fire- increasing the air supply means that wood burns more completely.
A screen is a must-have, not just if you have children or pets, but for all fireplace owners. It keeps burning wood in the fireplace, where it should be, and protects against sparks and ash.
Next to your fireplace should be a brush, poker, shovel and tongs, for safely stoking and cleaning your fireplace. Don’t skimp here! You’ll use these tools often, and good quality is paramount.