How to Properly Use a Fireplace

How to Properly Use a Fireplace

Fireplaces have been a staple in many houses for years. Not only do they provide warmth and eliminate cold drafts, but they also add a touch of elegance to any place. Many people think that using a fireplace is hard as it requires a lot of patience and some caution. While this can be true, there are, in fact, simple guidelines that any beginner can follow to make sure that their fireplace is functional and safe for use. If you have recently installed a fireplace and feel way over your head, you have come to the right place. In this article, you will find all the information you need on how to use a fireplace, maintain its fire, and ensure your family’s safety from fireplace hazards.

How to Use a Fireplace

Let’s kickstart this article with the most vital information you will need. To use a fireplace, you first must have all the tools you need before you attempt to start a fire. Generally speaking, you need to have a flashlight, fire poker, and fireplace gloves at hand. After you make sure you have these tools, it is time to prepare your fireplace. To do so, try the following.

Collecting Your Materials

When you have the right materials, starting a fire is usually a breeze. First, you need to collect some tinder. If you do not know what that means, it essentially refers to any dry material that can help your fire keep burning. For example, you can use old newspapers, sticks, or even straw. Now, it is time to prepare your kindling. Kindling refers to the logs of wood that will sustain your fire. The folk at Buy Firewood Direct point out that you need to be careful about the logs you choose, and they recommend that you try hardwood logs because they are generally better at keeping the fire going for longer. So, you should opt for ash, maple, and oak logs instead of alternative softwood logs like cedar. Just keep in mind that skimping on the logs you are going to use means that you will have a harder time maintaining the fire. Thus, it is always better to choose high-quality wood.

Checking the Damper

After you make sure that you have all the materials you need, you should inspect the damper. The damper is responsible for opening and shutting your flue, the passage between the fireplace and the chimney. When you are ready to use the fireplace, you need to check whether or not the damper is open. An open damper allows the smoke the fire emits to escape through the chimney. On the other hand, if you start a fire with the damper closed, the smoke will seep into your home instead, creating a safety hazard. Sometimes, it is hard to make sure that the damper is open, so you can use a flashlight to see better. 

Warming the Flue

Just as an open damper allows smoke to escape, it also allows cold drafts to seep into the flue. Because it is nearly impossible to keep a fire going when cold air is continuously interfering, you must ensure that your flue is properly prepped before you start one. To do so, you need to check the temperature of the flue and eliminate any currents of cold air. You can light either a piece of paper or some very small logs to warm the flue. By warming it, you can expel the cold air that is going in, start a long-lasting fire, and avoid any safety hazards like excessive smoke.

Lighting a Fire

There are many techniques you can employ to build a fire. However, most people usually start by using the tinder as a base for the fire, then pile up wood logs on it. Often, it is recommended that you start with the smallest logs and work your way up to the biggest ones, meaning that the largest logs should be at the top of the pile. Nonetheless, you can opt for the top-down method that dictates the opposite. First, start with the largest logs, then keep adding smaller ones on top. Finally, you can add your tinder on top of the pile. This method produces less smoke and helps keep the fire going for longer. You also do not have to tend to the fire, as the log will keep burning without your assistance, which is always a plus!

Stoking the Fire

Now that your wood logs are burning nicely, you have to check the color of the smoke that the fire has emitted every now and then to make sure that everything is in optimal condition. In case you notice that the smoke black, then it is definitely a sign that the logs are too tightly stacked and need more oxygen to properly burn. To add some air, you can use your fire poker to create some space between the logs. Optimally, your fire should not produce any noticeable smoke if everything is working as it should. Once you eliminate all combustion problems, you can add some extra tinder and logs to maintain the fire.

Extinguishing the Fire

When the room is warm and toasty enough for your liking, you may want to extinguish the fire. You can let it die on its own or you can speed up the process by spreading the logs. Doing so ensures that the fire uses up the logs much faster. The remaining ember will glow for a while, then cool down. So, it is extremely important not to close the damper before this happens, as hot embers can restart the fire if there is some kindling or tinder left.

Safety Measures You Should Follow

Using a fireplace to warm up your house should be completely safe. In fact, most fireplace accidents occur as a result of carelessness. However, because fireplace accidents are usually catastrophic, you need to be extremely careful when using your fireplace. You can avoid all the possible mistakes that create safety hazards by following the next steps.

Keep a Window Open

Fireplaces use up the air in the room to warm it up and maintain the fire. So, you may notice that you have trouble breathing or feel uncomfortably hot when your fireplace is in use. For this reason, safety experts recommend that you keep one of your windows open to ventilate the room and guarantee a continuous supply of fresh air. Nevertheless, avoid opening the window all the way, as cold air currents can interfere with the fire. You can simply keep the window cracked open to allow some fresh air to seep in without compromising the fire.

Install Carbon Monoxide and Fire Detectors

The two most common results of fireplace accidents are carbon monoxide poisoning and fires. Since both scenarios are equally dangerous, you need to take some precautions to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. Installing carbon monoxide and fire detectors is a sure-fire way of ensuring your family’s safety. Such detectors alert you to potential problems, allowing you to act fast and eliminate any hazards before it is too late. Just remember to change the batteries of your detectors when needed to make sure that they are functional.

Add Glass Doors

We all know that children and pets are equally curious, so there is a big chance that they might want to explore how the fireplace works. Of course, this could be extremely dangerous and lead to many accidents. Just as you would not leave your oven opened, you should have a barrier between your house and the fireplace. Thus, you can add glass doors to your fireplace. These doors can work as a safety net and a barrier between you and the burning fire. They also prevent errant logs and embers from falling out of the fireplace and causing injuries. 

Use Protective Gear

When tending to the fire, you may be tempted to use another log to stoke it. Yet, this is just asking for trouble as the log can catch fire, burn your hand, and cause other nearby flammable material to catch on fire. So, you must use protective gear whenever you interact with your fireplace. Generally, you should wear protective fireplace gloves and use a fire poker to move the logs. By doing this, you can avoid unnecessary accidents and injuries; better safe than sorry!

Clean Residual Ashes

Ashes can indeed form a great base for a fire, as they help the logs ignite faster. Nevertheless, ash accumulations can create serious health problems and increase the amount of smoke that your fireplace produces. Consequently, you should remove excessive ashes to guarantee your safety. Under no circumstance should the accumulation of ashes in your fireplace be more than one inch. Leaving any more than that can cause severe health implications.

Remove Flammable Materials

Keeping carpets, curtains, and other flammable materials close to your fireplace is a recipe for disaster. These materials can easily catch fire when you are not paying attention, especially if you do not install glass doors. Even small embers can cause huge fires. Thus, you have to keep such materials out of the way. Optimally, any flammable objects should at least be 15 inches away from the fireplace.

Maintenance Guidelines

Just like any utility in your house, your fireplace needs to be regularly maintained to ensure that it functions as intended. Poor maintenance is one of the main reasons behind fireplace accidents. In this spirit, you should keep the following points in mind if you want your fireplace to remain in tip-top shape.

Clean the Fireplace

It goes without saying that your fireplace should be frequently cleaned. The more you use it, the more deposits you will find inside it. These deposits include soot and creosote. Creosote, in particular, is very dangerous because it is flammable, meaning that its deposits can cause accidents. So, make sure that you regularly clean your fireplace using appropriate tools. You can find many fireplace-cleaning kits that include brushes and cleaning solutions. In any case, you should not use any random tools to clean your fireplace because this can do more harm than good.

Check Your Chimney

As mentioned before, the chimney is essential because it helps the smoke and other fumes escape from the fireplace. Any blockage in the chimney can cause many problems and put your life at risk. For this reason, you have to regularly inspect your chimney to eliminate any blockage or animal nests. If you have a metal chimney, you should look for any dents or signs of rust and fix them right away. On the other hand, if you have a brick chimney, remove and replace any damaged bricks.

Use the Right Wood Type

Not only does the type of wood you use affect how long your fire burns, but it can also impact your fireplace itself. Recently chopped wood houses more moisture, which translates to more deposits. You should know by now that soot and creosote are a fireplace’s worst enemy. Instead, you should go for seasoned wood—wood that has had at least six weeks to completely dry. This kind of wood logs does not produce much soot or creosote, which can go a long way towards maintaining your fireplace.

Call a Professional

Sometimes, you just need the expertise of a professional. Just before winter, hire a professional to take a look at your fireplace and fix any problems. You should also do the same after winter is over. Professionals can easily spot the tiny problems you cannot notice, so their help is valuable. Moreover, you should not wait until your fireplace ceases to work to enlist the help of a professional. Annual maintenance is crucial if you want your fireplace to remain in an optimal state.

Having a fireplace can be a great way of keeping your house warm on freezing winter nights. Yet, you must be careful when using yours to avoid any serious implications like fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. By following the above steps, you can easily build a fire and keep it going for longer. Just remember to regularly maintain your fireplace and keep any pets away from it. Also, do not hesitate to call a professional if you have any qualms about your fireplace or need an expert’s opinion.

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