A wood stove or custom fireplace in your home instantly adds visual appeal, not to mention coziness for your family on a chilly winter evening. This heat source, however, comes hand-in-hand with a degree of responsibility. To be a responsible stove or fireplace owner, it's important to not only be vigilant in several areas. Fortunately, safe fireplace ownership is simple. Once you learn what to do, take some time to inform your whole family and keeping safe will soon be second nature. Here are three important points to keep in mind.
Around the Fireplace
When you have a certified fireplace technician visit your home for the installation, you'll notice part of the complete job is to have fire-resistant materials -- typically bricks -- on the walls and floor around the fireplace. You should view these necessary precautions as a reminder of the importance of keeping the area clear. Although it might occasionally be tempting to hang a wet winter jacket or a damp pair of mittens over the fireplace, doing so is extremely dangerous and never advisable. Likewise, unless you're adding logs to the fireplace, it's best to keep wood at least three feet away at all times. Reinforce this message with your children and place a protective fence in front of the fireplace if your children are young. Finally, install a carbon monoxide detector in the same room.
Starting Your Fire
Even if you're in a hurry to warm your home, you should never take shortcuts when you start a fire. Always use a combination of newspaper, well-dried hardwood, and kindling made of softwood such as cedar. It's extremely dangerous to use an accelerant such as lighter fluid to get your fire going. The trio of newspaper, kindling, and firewood are more than enough to give you a roaring fire in a short amount of time. Although it can be safe to burn some household items in the fireplace, such as paper and cardboard products, never burn plastic products as these can put off harmful vapors.
Maintaining the Fireplace
Be vigilant about removing the ashes of your fireplace when they begin to build up. Wait until they're cool, use a flat-bottomed shovel to scoop them out, and set them gently in a metal pail. Being gentle prevents clouds of ash from becoming airborne. Take the pail outside, douse the ashes thoroughly with the garden hose to ensure they're completely cold and then place them in a bag in your garbage. It's important to have your fireplace and its pipes professionally inspected -- and cleaned, if necessary -- once per year, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America. For more information, talk to a professional like Alpine Fireplaces.