The most joyous time of the year for many people is the Holidays. Festive decorations which create a celebratory setting can be even more thoroughly enjoyed when you’re watching a crackling fire in the fireplace. But the tragic fact is that wonderful moments made possible during the holidays can be spoiled if the fireplace causes a house fire. One of the most important things you can do before the winter holidays are in full swing is to take all of the safety precautions recommended for homes with a fireplace or wood stove.
Threats Eliminated by Cleaning
It’s essential to have your fireplace cleaned by a professional chimney sweep at least once every year to ensure fireplace safety. Some of the threats a chimney sweep will help you eliminate include creosote, soot, and glaze as well as cracks in your flue lining.
Creosote is smoke and vapor residue caused by wood that doesn’t completely burn. Creosote builds up in your chimney and can be the cause of a chimney fire. It is a highly flammable substance; and it clings to the chimney liner in hard, flaky deposits. You may find that you need a chimney cleaning more than once annually because it’s recommended that creosote and soot don’t build up more than ¼ inch.
Soot is a black or brown soft powder that is mostly made of carbon and sometimes contains ash. The threat of soot depends upon how much pure carbon it contains, since carbon is flammable and creates a greater risk of a chimney fire.
Glaze is the most difficult chimney deposit to remove. It is a shiny, tarry substance which gathers in black puddles in the chimney. Glaze sometimes creates icicle-like deposits which hang above your fireplace. Because glaze is dense, it is the most dangerous of the fire hazards which a chimney sweep will remove during a chimney cleaning. Glaze which builds up to at least 1/8th of an inch should be removed as quickly as possible.
Flue linings sometimes become cracked, whether due to the foundation of the house settling or extreme heat from fires. A chimney sweep will identify this danger for you. A crack in a flue lining makes it possible for the heat in the chimney to begin a house fire and should be repaired before using the fireplace.
Chimney Cleaning Methods
Licensed, professional chimney sweeps have the tools and equipment needed to do a thorough job of cleaning your chimney. These advanced methods provide assurance that your home will be just as clean when the job is finished as when it began, partly because brushes and high-powered vacuums run along the walls of your chimney to help eliminate the possibility that the substances will enter your home.
Wire cables, brushes, and chains are turned and twisted by a motor at a rapid speed to clear the chimney shaft of built up creosote and glaze. Another cleaning option is the use of chemicals to remove tough buildup.
Holiday Fireplace Safety Tips
Once you’ve assured that you can operate your fireplace safely, there are other things you need to do to eliminate hazards:
• Be sure your home has working smoke alarms on every level.
• Get an alarm that alerts you if carbon dioxide poisoning becomes a threat.
• Dispose of ashes with great care and assurance that an unexpected fire will not start due to hot ashes.
• Only burn seasoned firewood, meaning wood that is low in moisture.
Some tips specifically for the holidays include:
• Don’t place wrapped packages or gift boxes near the fireplace because they are highly combustible. Keep all combustible materials at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, candles, and portable heaters.
• There are additives in wrapping paper which makes it burn at extremely high temperatures; don’t burn wrapping paper in your fireplace.
• Do not discard garbage in your fireplace, including wrapping paper and boxes.
• Keep an operable fire extinguisher nearby not only for possible fireplace mishaps but also in case your Christmas tree combusts.
•Never dispose of a Christmas tree by burning it in your fireplace. The wood of the Christmas tree has not been properly dried or seasoned and is not safe to burn.
These are just a few safety tips to keep in mind during the entire year and especially throughout the Holidays. From all of the staff at Nayaug Chimney Sweeps, we wish you a very happy and safe holiday season!
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110