10 Tips to Prevent Chimney Fires

Chimney fires account for 75% of home heating fires according to Property Casualty 360. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report states that there were an estimated 22,300 fireplace and chimney fires annually from 2012-2014. These fires resulted in approximately 20 deaths, 60 nonfatal injuries, and $116.4 million in damages annually over that time. Luckily, there are simple steps we can all take to prevent these tragedies in our homes.

1) Have Your Chimney Cleaned Annually

It is best to get your chimney inspected and cleaned each year, preferably in the spring or summer months when usage is minimal. Accumulation of flammable materials like soot and creosote, which are left behind from burning wood, will increase the likelihood of a fire erupting in your chimney. Even if you don’t use it frequently, animals like birds and squirrels will often nest in or on the chimney, leaving behind debris that can block it up.

2) Install a Stainless-Steel Liner

Older homes may not have a chimney liner at all. Without a liner, cracks in the brick or mortar of the chimney could allow harmful gases such as carbon monoxide to leak into the home. While many turn to traditional clay liners, stainless-steel liners can withstand higher temperatures and will last longer, while also helping to keep embers from fires contained. They will be a better option.

3) Keep an Eye Out For Soot Build-Up

Soot is softer than creosote but far more flammable. Excessive collection of soot is a disaster waiting to happen. The walls of your chimney’s flue (the interior of the chimney) will be lined with flammable materials. If an uncontrolled fire was to occur, the damages would be amplified.

4) Clean the Interior of Your Fireplace Regularly

You should be regularly cleaning the interior of your fireplace as well, including sweeping the floor of the fireplace and vacuuming cold ashes.

5) Check The Cap on Your Chimney

Your chimney has a cap on it at the top to prevent rainwater from entering the flue. However, the cap can often be clogged with ash or leaves which constricts airflow. It could also be clogged with nesting materials, as animals like birds and squirrels are often attracted to the heat emitted from the chimney. See our site for more tips on how to prevent pest damage in the wintertime.

6) Watch for Creosote Accumulation in Your Chimney

Creosote is a flammable byproduct of burning fuels, similar to soot. Creosote is both thicker and stickier than soot though, which allows it to accumulate on the walls of your chimney faster.

7) Monitor Wood-Burning Fireplaces for Build-Up

Throughout the year you should be actively checking for signs of build-up of flammable materials like soot, creosote, ash, and more. Excessive accumulation of materials in your chimney could restrict the airflow. If this happens, there may not be anywhere for the smoke from your fires to go, and it can come back into the home. Early detection of potential hazards will always be your best bet at preventing smoke and fire damage.

8) Act Immediately if There is Smoke Indoors From Your Fireplace

If smoke from fires is leaking into your home, don’t hesitate to act. Stop burning new fires and have the chimney inspected. Smoke leaking into the home could be a result of cracks in the chimney walls. The smoke can stain your walls and ceilings, as well as pose a serious health risk to your family. Poisonous fumes such as carbon monoxide could be allowed to enter your home.

9) Install Heatproof Glass Doors

Having glass doors installed on your fireplace will reduce the chance of sparks and cinders flying out of your crackling fire and onto your carpet or furniture. These doors can also increase energy efficiency and reduce your heating costs. Some chimneys have a flue damper which can be opened and closed to restrict airflow when the fireplace is not in use. These are often forgotten about and left open. If the damper is not closed, your fireplace becomes like an open window, allowing warm air to flow right out of the house. If your chimney does not have a flue damper, or you often forget to close it, consider installing glass doors. Closing off that opening when not in use will keep heat from escaping up the chimney.

10) Burn Hardwoods Such as Oak or Maple

Hardwoods burn longer and hotter than softer woods. The longer burning will save you wood and money by reducing the number of times you have to feed the fire. The hotter burning lessens the amount of soot and creosote left behind. Hardwoods are a little more expensive than softer woods but can go a long way in preventing fires and lowering the frequency of necessary cleanings.

The TJ Woods Insurance Agency is here to assist you with any and all of your insurance needs. See our site for tips on readying your chimney for winter. For any inquiries about coverage for chimney damages, or any other homeowner’s insurance-related issues you may have, contact us. We’ll walk you through all of the options to find the best plan available, and even offer a free quote.