There is something primal about a fire. Once, gathering around a fire was a daily human occurrence, necessary for heat, light, and cooking. Nowadays we don’t need fire for any of these things, yet spending time in front of a fireplace still speaks to many people.
Fireplaces lend great ambiance to your home, especially when you’ve got a roaring fire going. They evoke images of family Christmas parties or romantic interludes. However, they are not without risk. There’s nothing fun or romantic about sparks melting holes in your carpeting or the built-up creosote in your chimney catching fire and potentially destroying your home.
Here are some tips to help you get the most enjoyment from your fireplace.
Learn before you burn.
If fireplaces are new to you, learn the basics of fire starting and safety before you start your first fire. Know how to open and close the damper (hint: use the hook on your fireplace tool set) and how to use tinder and kindling to get the fire going before burning larger logs. Never use any liquid accelerants inside the house.
Don’t burn anything but seasoned hardwood in your fireplace.
Never burn unseasoned wood, cardboard, trash, wrapping paper, or anything else in the fireplace. Never place any part of the Christmas tree in the fireplace. Dispose of all these items properly.
Don’t leave a fire unattended.
Make certain the fire is out before you leave the house or go to bed.
Clean out the ashes.
But don’t clean out the ashes until you are absolutely certain all live coals are extinguished. After a large fire, this could potentially take days.
Keep children away from fireplaces.
Even with close supervision, do not let young children play near the fireplace or use the fireplace tools. Teach children that fire is something to be respected.
Protect the surrounding area.
Keep the fireplace screen closed and protect your floor from sparks with a fire-safe hearthrug.
Hire an inspector.
Have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year, particularly if you use your fireplace often.
Prepare for the season.
Before you make the first fall fire, check the chimney top to make sure it’s intact and no birds have nested near the cap. If you don’t already have a cap, install one to help keep birds and animals out. Make this a part of your annual winter readiness routine.
If you are nervous about using the fireplace, will not be home long enough to let a fire run its course, or for any other reason wish to enjoy your fireplace without a full-fledged fire, consider grouping several large, decorative pillar-type candles together in the fireplace. You’ll have all the ambiance with none of the bother!
Don’t forget the hot chocolate!
The best place to consume a mug of hot chocolate is next to a fire, so find a good recipe for homemade hot chocolate. Or, for more romantic settings, have a bottle of wine nearby, and enjoy the sparks.