How to prepare your fireplace for winter weather

October 6, 2014

Lighting up a cozy fire during the winter can help you save money on heat, but it's crucial that you prepare your fireplace and chimney. So before you start chopping wood, write up your chimney checklist to make sure your home and family will be safe when there are chestnuts roasting.

Have the chimney cleaned
Your first step should be to hire a professional chimney sweep. The National Fire Protection Association suggested that you have your chimney cleaned at least once a year to remove soot and debris. Ideally this should be done at the beginning of the winter. In addition to cleaning the chimney, ask your service professional to check for any leaks or problem areas.

Install a spark guard
Next, you'll want to install a spark guard in front of your fireplace. These guards can either be mesh or glass and stop any embers from being spit into your room. You can open the grate when your family is sitting around the fire, but be sure to close it whenever the fire is unattended.

Test your smoke detectors
There should be a smoke detector in the same room as your fireplace. If there's not, install one before you light a fire. You should also test to ensure that the alarm is working and change the batteries if needed.

Prepare for your fire
Lastly, clean out your fireplace. Sweep up any ashes from last year and remove decorations that could be a fire hazard. If you're buying wood to burn, choose a cord that's been dried for at least six months. Green wood creates more byproduct that can build up in your chimney. When you're stacking wood in the fireplace, place it toward the back. Don't overload your stack, as you don't want the fire to be too large. Finally, This Old House recommended using kindling to light a fire as opposed to liquid lighter.

The information in these articles is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.