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Few things are more cozy than a roaring fire on a cold morning or snowy evening, but those with indoor fireplaces should ensure the safety of themselves and their families by following basic safety procedures -- some of which may not seem obvious. Following are five ways that you can enjoy your winters fires while keeping fire danger to a minimum.
Never Use Liquid Fire-Starters in a Fireplace
Although you may be tempted to use a liquid fire-starter designed for use in home barbecues, doing so in and indoor fireplace is a bad idea. Flames can easily burn out of control when these products are used inappropriately. Fire accelerants may also leave residue on the inside walls of the chimney can build up over time and ignite, and chimney fires can easily cause sparks that can land on your roof and start your house on fire!
Use Well-Seasoned Wood
Many people who have never had a fireplace before believe that they can burn any kind of wood, but this practice is not recommended. Wood that is not well-seasoned has too high of a moisture content to burn well. Instead, it produces a great deal of smoke, which then solidifies on the interior walls of the chimney into a highly flammable substance called creosote, which can also cause chimney fires. Softwoods such as fir and pine also tend to have high levels of natural accelerants in their sap and should be used with caution in interior fireplaces. The best firewood choices are hardwoods, such as oak, ash, maple, or aspen, that have been seasoned for two years.
Have a Chimney Cap Installed
Chimney caps can prevent all types of problems. They can keep wildlife such as raccoons, chimney swifts, squirrels, and possums from nesting in your chimney during the summer season, as well as keep rain and autumn leaves from falling down your chimney. If you live in an area that receives a high degree of precipitation, ask your local chimney care professional for advise on chimney caps that are constructed with rustproof materials such as stainless steel.
Always Use a Screen
Although a blazing fire is a beautiful sight to behold, it's best enjoyed from behind a safety screen. Flying sparks can ignite carpets, furniture, or any other type of combustible item. Screens should be made from metal and constructed in a way that they allow for enough oxygen to reach the fire so that it burns well. Fire that is starved for oxygen will produce significantly more smoke than flames, which is another condition that will result in creosote buildup on the interior walls of your chimney.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Maintaining the interior of a chimney is a job best left to skilled professionals, so be certain to schedule regular visits from a local chimney sweep. Most homeowners choose to schedule chimney maintenance for the autumn, before the cold weather sets in, so that they can be assured that their fireplaces are in good working order for the cold months ahead. However, if you live in an area that experiences long winters and has a relatively mild spring and summer climate, you may want to schedule chimney service in the spring as well in order to have any creosote buildup removed so that you can safely use your fireplace to take the edge off of chilly spring and summer mornings.
For more information, contact a local chimney repair and maintenance company.