Few things are more comforting on a cold winter night, than a warm, wood-burning fire in the fireplace. But with that comfort comes concern for safety. Last year there were almost 30,000 fire department calls for chimney fires, all resulting in property damage and some relate to injury and death as chimney fires spread into house fires. At European Copper we take chimney safety very seriously.
We know certifications are extremely important. That’s why our chimney pots are U.L. Listed and approved to exceed every fireplace manufacturers standards. We also have the only U.L. Listing for standard masonry fireplaces.
According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (https://www.csia.org/chimneyfires.html) some signs of a potential chimney fire include:
- loud cracking and popping noise
- a lot of dense smoke, and
- an intense, hot smell
Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane. However, those are only the chimney fires you know about.
There are a number of important steps to ensure keeping your family safe and warm as the temperatures drop. Neglected chimneys accumulate creosote, a combustible byproduct of charred wood, along their walls. Add to that a high internal flue temperature and you’ve got a potentially dangerous chimney fire on your hands.
The best way to avoid a house fire caused by the fireplace or chimney is to hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect for cracks and loose bricks. He’ll also clean your chimney. Chimney inspections are typically broken down into three different types.
A standard, annual inspection for chimneys that have no major changes. The chimney inspector will examine the interior and exterior, as well as the chimney connection. The general soundness of the chimney will be examined, and any obstructions will be noted.
The second type of inspection is one that follows a change in fuel type or changes to the shape or materials in the flue.
The third type of inspection is rare. These inspections are conducted when a hazard is suspected. Typically, part of the building or chimney is removed to examine the chimney thoroughly.
Chimney Safety Tips for Keeping Warm this Winter:
European Copper wants you to keep your family warm and safe this winter by following important guidelines for chimney safety.
Once your chimney gets the all-clear, you should follow some basic safety tactics when it comes to your chimney and the vicinity of the fireplace or woodstove:
- Keep the area in front of the fireplace clear of paper and debris. It can be tempting during the holidays to place decorations close to the fireplace, but keep them at a safe distance.
- If your fireplace doesn’t have a glass door, use a wire mesh screen.
- Use seasoned hardwoods that have been split for six months to a year. “Green” wood creates more creosote. Don’t burn your Christmas tree (pine creates more creosote) or be tempted to throw wrapping paper, boxes, or trash into the fireplace.
- Keep the area near the chimney clear. If you have trees that hang over the house near the chimney, make sure branches and leaves are at least 15 feet away.
- Cap your chimney. A top that has wire mesh along the sides will keep out rain and snow, birds, and other critters that might be running around on the roof.
- Think small. If you try to burn too much wood, the chimney can crack and you run the risk of creosote build-up. Burn wood on a grate placed near the back of the fireplace.
Like fire, carbon monoxide can be a deadly threat. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible toxic gas that kills about 400 people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and sickens many more. There are also almost 70,000 fire department calls for carbon monoxide poisoning in homes each year.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can come from poorly maintained chimneys. The chimney and chimney connector serve as a furnace’s exhaust system. If debris is blocking the chimney, carbon monoxide can accumulate inside the house.
Perhaps the most important rule of all when it comes to chimney maintenance is to install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside and outside of bedrooms. Replace the batteries each season and test the detectors regularly. If the detector is more than 10 years old, replace it.
When it comes to keeping your home warm this winter, don’t ignore the importance of following these valuable guidelines for chimney safety. And don’t forget, a European Copper Chimney Pot is not only safe, but stylish. Our chimney pots add curb appeal and architectural interest to your home but their most important function is to safely carry dangerous flue gasses from your fireplace, wood stove, and furnace out of your home.