I inspect a lot of homes with some sort of fireplace. So many fireplaces today are merely decorative and can be started with a flip of a switch, but there are many homes purchased by “first time home owners” that have masonry fireplaces designed to burn “solid fuel”, meaning wood logs or fire logs. Starting and managing a real wood fire seems to be a fading art, so I put together a quick list of tips for those home owners out there who are planning on starting up the fireplace this year.
- Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, damp wood accelerates creosote buildup. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pellets.
- Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
- Never burn cardboard boxes, trash, or other debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
- When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
- Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Allow ashes to cool before disposing of them. Place ashes in a tightly covered metal container, and keep the ash container at least 10 feet away from your home and any other nearby buildings. Never empty the ash directly into a trashcan. Douse and saturate the ashes with water.
As a home inspector, I always advise buyers to have there fireplace inspected by a professional before the first use of the season. It only takes a minute for a romantic evening to turn into a three alarm disaster.
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