A house fire is something we all hope to never experience. These disasters not only put our families and loved ones in grave danger, but can often cause severe damage to our homes, leaving behind a state of emotional and financial distress.
Recent statistics show that the foremost cause of household fires occurs from the use, and misuse, of chimneys, causing an annual average of 22,300 fires between 2011–2013. Routinely one of the most overlooked aspects of home maintenance, chimney upkeep is a vital part of ensuring our families and homes are safe and sound. By implementing certain steps and actions, homeowners can work towards greatly reducing the risk of a property fire, and diffuse the disastrous results that accompany such fires.
Luckily, when it comes to chimney or fireplace maintenance, the steps to ensuring a safe and secure home are easy to remember, and even easier to apply. Although some of the tips below may seem a bit straightforward, there is a reason why so many household fires in the US start from our chimneys. By adhering to strict care-and-control scheduling for your chimney and fireplace, you can rest assured that your family and home are as protected as possible. Here are just a few key points to have in mind when tending to your chimney:
- Know What You Should Burn
This one should go without saying, but the reality is that too many people forgo this crucial component in the first place. I know what you’re thinking, when it’s freezing outside the only thing we’re concerned about is getting warm, immediately, not what we’re using to fuel the fire. However, if this isn’t strongly considered, it will increase the risk of becoming victim to a property fire.
When it comes to what you should burn in your chimney, there are a few traits that should be applied to ensure you aren’t putting your family and household in danger. First off, the wood must be completely dried out. Wood that still has moisture in it can leave behind excess residue in the form of creosote, a leftover residue that sticks to the inner walls of many unkept chimneys.
You can tell if the wood you’re using is good to go by hitting it against another piece of wood, and listening for a full hollow sound. Additionally, you’ll be able to tell if the wood is dried out by noticing a darker color than other pieces, accompanied by splitting cracks at either end of it.
2) Know What You Should NOT Burn
Above we covered some of the key characteristics of the type of wood that should be used when operating your chimney or fireplace. To stay on top of your fire safety measures, you should also know the things that should never be used to start or fuel your fire.
First and foremost, never use random combustible objects you have laying around the house. No cardboard boxes, no leftover trimmings from the backyard, and most definitely no scratch pieces of paper. When it comes to kindling your fire at the onset, another big red flag is the use of gasoline or kerosene to spark the flame. These fuels can not only leave harmful chemicals in your chimney lining, but also contribute to a buildup of combustible residue.
3) Take Some Easy Steps towards Maintenance and Upkeep When possible
Cleaning a chimney can not only be tedious, but may also require extra specialization and expertise to get it done the right way (we’ll cover that later). However, there are certain steps you can take that are simple, cost-friendly, and effective towards lowering the risk of a chimney fire.
There are various actions you can take today that are not only simple, but crucial in fire safety. These include installing chimney caps to keep out unwanted moisture or residue, or installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home to monitor invisible threats. Although they seem mundane, these simple steps can make all the difference.
4) Hire a Professional to Check and Maintain Chimney Safety
The reality is that, no matter how thorough our personal upkeep is, chimney safety is reliant on the professionals and experts in the field. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to have regular check-ups on your chimney by qualified professionals. Doing so will prevent any potential threats that an unkept chimney may pose.
It is suggested to have a chimney expert do an annual check at the very least, so they can sweep and identify any issues from the get go. Additionally, after any major natural disaster such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or violent storms, it is highly suggested to call a professional to ensure no damage was incurred in the process.
5) Make Sure Your Insurance Provides Comprehensive Coverage
Yes, even through all the personal steps taken, as well as hiring a professional chimney sweeper, human errors still occur and freak accidents can always happen. Although we can never be sure about when a chimney fire might breakout, what we can be sure of is that our homeowners insurance is encompassing and inclusive, so that we’re protected against any unforeseeable incidents.
As we’ve seen above, the steps taken towards proper chimney and fireplace maintenance are fairly straightforward, and easy to keep up with. Though disasters can strike at any given moment, by taking certain measures against the threats of property fires, homeowners can significantly lower their risk of being victims of these destructive disasters.