When you first move into a home with a fireplace, you can't wait to try it out. Images of yourself and your family members snuggling around a fire and drinking hot chocolate seem so cozy and perfect. But before you light that fire, there are a few things you need to do in order to ensure your own safety.
Have the chimney cleaned.
Even if the old homeowners were using the fireplace up until the day they moved out, it has probably sat unused while the house was on the market and while you were moving in. There could be soot buildup you cannot see from the base of the chimney, and there may even be birds' nests or other debris inside. You don't want to risk a house fire, so call a professional chimney cleaner, such as those found at Country Corner Chimney Sweeps, to come out and give the chimney a once-over before you light that first fire. This is not a task you should attempt tackle yourself, since it takes special equipment to reach all of the way through the chimney and remove any flammable deposits.
Buy a carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide is a dangerous, but odorless gas that is released when wood burns. Ideally, it will flow up the chimney rather than into your home, but if there's a leak somewhere or the chimney should somehow become plugged, it may end up on your home. Carbon monoxide can cause confusion, nausea, headaches, and even death, so invest in a carbon monoxide alarm for your family's safety. Place it in the same room as the fireplace, but not directly next to it. If it rings, you know to extinguish the fire and spend some time outside until the fumes dissipate and the alarm no longer reacts.
Make sure all family members are familiar with basic fire safety.
If there are no kids in the home, then this one may not be so important as most adults know better than to stick their fingers or a toy in the fire. But if you have little ones, you'll want to have a family meeting to discuss fire safety before you light that first fire. Make sure your kids know:
- Never to put anything in the fire
- To stay far away from the fireplace when a fire is lit
- How to call the local fire department in case of emergency
- How to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch on fire
Once your chimney is clean, your CO detector is in place, and your kids know how to be safe, you can finally curl up in front of that first fire without worry of calamity.