Norton Seal Mother and children enjoying a fire in the fireplace

At Home

How to Prepare Your Winter Fireplace for Wood Burning

Time spent around the fireplace is all about togetherness — from playing board games to snuggling with the family pet. That’s why it’s important to prep your fireplace so that it’s safe and ready for the first fire of the season.

How to Get Your Fireplace Ready for Winter

Your wood-burning fireplace is a great way to stay warm during the wintertime. If not properly maintained or cleaned, your fireplace can be a potential fire hazard though. Before you and your family gather around the hearth, use this checklist to ensure you're equipped with the know-how to safely light a fire in a fireplace, creating a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.

Check your home for fire safety first

Before checking your fireplace to ensure it’s ready to use this winter, be sure you’ve installed smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors — and make sure they’re in working condition by testing them monthly.

Clear debris to prepare your chimney for use

Check your chimney for objects like bird nests, leaves, sticks — maybe even animals. Having critters and debris in your chimney is dangerous for everything involved. Debris can build up and potentially cause a chimney fire, harming animals and, potentially, your home. If your chimney doesn’t already have a cover — also known as a chimney cap — consider installing one to prevent the risk of debris and animals taking up residence in the future.

Clean up your fireplace to get ready for winter

Sweep out your fireplace and remove as much soot and creosote — a tar produced from wood burning — as you can, since excess build-up can cause chimney fires. It’s also a great idea to get the interior and exterior of your chimney checked by a pro yearly. Read more about how to prevent chimney fires.

Double check air flow before burning wood in your fireplace

Be sure the damper on your fireplace is in working condition by opening and closing it. When you start your fire, check that it’s open in order to provide proper air flow. Ensure that nothing above your home, like overgrown tree branches, could be obstructing the fireplace or preventing airflow. Having limited airflow in your chimney is dangerous because it may prevent smoke from properly leaving the chimney. If this happens, the interior of your home may fill with smoke.

Check your chimney for cracks

Part of making sure your chimney is ready for fires is checking to see if it has any cracks. Loose joints in the bricks inside your fireplace or cracks along the chimney can easily get worse and cause significant damage if not identified right away. Regular DIY mortar will not last due to high heat, so hire a professional mason for repairs to your chimney and fireplace if needed.

Create a barrier around your fireplace

Always make sure there’s ample space between your fireplace and furniture. Besides damaging their material, furniture and your carpet can become dangerous fire hazards if a spark lands on them. To prevent sparks and wood pieces from escaping and singeing your carpet or furniture, consider buying a fire screen or metal fire curtain for your fireplace.

Collect kindling and firewood to prepare for winter fireplace burning

As fall approaches, start collecting potential kindling for your fireplace. Stockpile newspapers and paper bags, or make it a family affair by scavenging pinecones, dried corn cobs and sticks. Besides kindling, be sure to stock up on quality firewood that burns hot over a long period of time like maple or oak. Avoid green wood or softwood that doesn’t burn as well, such as pine, and wood that can emit dangerous fumes when burned, like painted or treated wood.

Store your firewood in a dry place outside your home for at least six months. This will allow your wood to properly dry, as wood with moisture in it will not burn nearly as well.

Protect Your Home from Fire and Smoke Damage

Now that you've taken the proactive steps to learn how to prepare your fireplace, it’s time to warm the hearth and make some memories. When it comes time to start your fire, relax and enjoy the time spent with family and friends around the crackling fire.

But, before you get too relaxed, make sure everything that matters most to you is protected with the right homeowners insurance coverage. It can provide much needed financial protection if the unexpected happens. For extra liability protection that may not be included in your standard homeowners policy, you may want to consider an umbrella insurance policy too. Talk to your agent today to find the coverage that’s right for you.

How would you rate this article?

Related Topics: Home DIY , At Home , Home Insurance