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Fireplace Safety | Tips to Keep Your Fireplace and Chimney Healthy

by vscontent on December 16, 2016

fireplace safety tips - pacific air systemsOne of the most relaxing ways to spend a winter day indoors is to turn on the fire and enjoying the crackling wood. As romantic as it is to have an indoor fireplace, they require annual inspections in order to ensure the safety of your home and family.

House fires occur every year due to poor chimney maintenance. This is preventable and should be taken seriously. In addition to annual fireplace and chimney inspections, you should also schedule annual heating maintenance.

For a more efficient and safe fireplace this winter season, follow our fireplace and chimney inspection tips. If you’re up for it, you can perform a DIY inspection, but when it comes to repairs and getting on the roof, leave the chimney sweeping to the professionals.

Get your chimney inspected and cleaned before Santa makes his way down, or you could be looking at black soot all over the room and a fire hazard waiting to happen. We promise you’ll have yuletide cheer when the chimney is clear!

As you’re performing your annual inspection, listen to “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and get to work:

DIY Fireplace and Chimney Inspection

What you’ll need:

  • Goggles
  • Respirator Mask
  • Chimney Crush
  • Stiff Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Flashlight
  • Fireplace Poker


1. Put on your goggles and respirator.

2. Don’t remove hot coals until they are completely cold.

3. Scoop the ashes into a metal can and transport it to a larger outdoor metal can.

4. Use the stiff broom or chimney brush to get the sides and the bottom.

5. Use a wet/dry vacuum to get the rest of the ashes and debris.

6. Open a window to ventilate.

7. Open and close the damper to ensure it is smooth and secure.

8. Scratch the chimney liner to measure the creosote build up. If the soot is a matte black finish and 1/8 in. deep or less, then you are at a safe amount.

9. If you see a shiny tar-like finish and the build up is deeper than 1/8 in., do not use your fireplace and schedule a chimney sweep with your local professionals. 

Warning Signs You Should Know:

  • Creosote that is over 1/8 in. is much more likely to ignite in the flue. This will shoot flames straight out the top of your chimney, and could even cause a house fire! Creosote buildup is the leading cause of chimney fires.
  • Another issue that can cause house fires is cracks in the masonry or signs of corrosion in a metal chimney. Annually check the condition of your chimney with the above fire safety inspection tips.
  • Never DIY a chimney sweep. Unless you’ve had past experience and training, you need to be a professional to get this job done right. Heating and fire safety is not to be taken lightly. Any repairs that need to be done should be called in to your local chimney experts.
  • Avoid going on the roof if you do not know proper ladder safety or if you feel at all uncomfortable. The roof may be too steep and the risk of injury is far higher. If you do feel comfortable on the roof, look for cracking, rusting, buckling, curling, blistering, missing or broken shingles, and missing or damaged chimney cap. Click here for more DIY roof inspection tips.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector. Depending on the ventilation in your home, fireplaces have a tendency to use up a lot of oxygen.
  • When you vacuum the ashes and debris from the fireplace at the beginning of your inspection, be careful. Black dust and soot can spread around the room easily, causing a much bigger mess than you anticipated.

Common and Not-So-Common Sense Fireplace Tips:

  • Never leave a fire unattended, especially if there are children in the room alone.
  • Always use hardwood in your fireplace. Wet wood causes excess creosote to build up in the flue much more quickly than with recommended hardwood. Wet wood also reduces the fireplace’s heat output. Meaning, hardwood will always be the safer choice and the hotter choice!
  • Make sure the damper is closed as much as possible. This slows combustion and saves heat whenever you are using the fireplace. If your damper does not fully close, consider adding or replacing weatherstripping to conserve energy and reduce air leaks. You may also want to invest in a chimney balloon to provide additional air sealing underneath your damper. This should only be used for fireplaces that are rarely, if ever, used.
  • A huge roaring fire is not necessary and never recommended. You need to test your chimney and its ability to draft properly. While the smoke might smell nice, it’s horrible for indoor air quality. Smoke should go straight up the chimney. If not, schedule a professional fireplace inspection right away. Also the masonry would need to be cured completely in order to support a large fire.
  • Use oak, ash, maple and other hardwoods as opposed to pine, poplar, cedar, and other lighter woods.

Get Ahead of the Winter Freeze

fireplace, chimney, and heating safety tips (NFPA)


Click here for more fireplace and chimney maintenance tips.

Additional Holiday and Fire Safety Advice:

Make sure your heating system is working all year round by calling Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service (holidays included)!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

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