What You Should Know About Your Fireplace

Problems that can lead to an unsafe chimney or expensive repairs

Rain Caps and Spark Arrestors

Rain can damage metal fireboxes and dampers on unprotected chimneys. It can also erode mortar joints, allowing the chimney to leak flue gases into the home and cause the home to become structurally unsound. A chimney without a proper spark arrestor may permit airborn embers to ignite shingles, leaves, trees, or grass. That's why every chimney needs a chimney cap with a spark arrestor for maximum safety and spark protection. A stainless steel chimney cap gives lifetime protection from moisture damage, keeps out critters, and protects against sparks.

Should My Chimney be Cleaned?

National Fire Protection Code 211 requires an annual safety inspection of all chimney systems. Why? Because, in a woodburning system, incomplete combustion results in unburned residue, which rises in the chimney as part of the smoke. This residue—called creosote—is deposited on the inside of the chimney walls, presenting a major fire hazard to the home. Gas and oil flues should also be checked on an annual basis for any soot deposits or debris blockage which could lead to dangerous carbom monoxide poisoning. A chimney professional can inspect and clean the inside of your chimney to eliminate these dangers.

How To Avoid Chimney Fires

Creosote is the main cause of chimney fires! Slow smoldering fires and/or the use of unseasoned wood can create "cool" smoke and a weak draft. Under these conditions, the smoke condenses and adheres to the chimney interior, forming highly flammable creosote. A buildup of creosote is highly combustible and can result in a chimney fire. To minimize creosote:

  • Burn only seasoned hardwoods.
  • Avoid dampering down the flue to make your fire burn more slowly.
  • Contact your chimney professional to clean your chimney regularly.

Important dos and don'ts

  • Do check the manufacturer's operating guidelines for your woodstove or insert.
  • Do use seasoned hardwood.
  • Do use commercial fire starters if you like. They eliminate the need for tinder and reduce the amount of kindling required.
  • Don't use charcoal lighter fluid or other flammable liquids. These are extremly dangerous (gel fire starters are ok).
  • Don't use coal in a woodstove or fireplace, unless there are specific written instructions; it will burn, but not safely.
  • Don't burn artificial logs in a woodstove unless they are specifically designed for woodstove use.
  • Don't burn treated lumber, trash, or anything other than wood in your fireplace or woodstove.