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Fireplace Prep for Your Home

Protect your family and your home this winter by following these tips when you use your fireplace:

 Clean it out. Schedule a cleaning and inspection with a certified fireplace specialist, and make sure there’s nothing flammable—like hanging tree branches—near the chimney pot. Before you start each new fire, clean out the old ash and store it outside in a metal bucket with a lid. (Hot, live embers can survive for up to four days in ashes.)

Get the right type of wood. Wet wood creates more sparks, so use dry. If you’re using commercial fire logs—a wood alternative made from wax and sawdust—follow the package instructions, burn the logs one at a time and avoid poking or breaking them apart while they’re burning.

Start with a small fire, which—when given room to breathe—will burn hotter and create fewer sparks than large fires crammed into small spaces. To achieve the right-sized fire, start it in the back of the fireplace, preferably on a grill, and use kindling, twigs and small balls of newspaper, instead of fire accelerants, to get it going.

Use a tight-fitting screen at all times, and keep it closed while the fire is burning, to contain sparks and embers. Never leave a fire unattended or use a home fireplace to burn garbage, leaves or piles of newspaper, which burn quickly and at very high temperatures—and might create toxic fumes.

Prepare for emergencies. Install and/or check smoke alarms throughout your house and keep a fire extinguisher nearby. And before lighting a fire, remove objects like decorations and cards from around the fireplace, and move rugs and kindling away from the hearth.

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