How to Keep Your Fireplace in Tip-Top Shape This Winter

Nothing beats sitting beside a glowing fire on a chilly night. But before you enjoy the comforting crackle, consider how dangerous those friendly-looking sparks can be if not properly tended to. Guest author Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada, has 5 tips to keeping your fireplace in great shape.

QDT Editor
3-minute read

mother and children in front of fireplaceNothing beats sitting beside a glowing fire on a chilly night. You sink into your favorite cozy chair and shift it just close enough to warm your toes while you read a good book.

But before you enjoy the comforting crackle of a fire, consider how dangerous those friendly sparks can be if not properly tended to.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 4 out of 5 fire-related deaths occur in the home. House fires can be caused by a number of things — from pots and pans left unattended on the stove, to forgotten candles, to indoor smoking, to unsafe fireplaces. In fact, the NFPA indicates that fireplaces and stoves with chimneys account for 33% of all house fires, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage and an alarming number of casualties every year.

But there are easy ways to protect yourself, your family, and your property from those powerful sparks. Simply follow these 5 steps and you’ll be back to warming your toes in peace in no time:

  1. Keep a clean chimney. With 87% of heating fires occurring in the chimneys, flues, and fuel burners of homes, keeping a clean chimney is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself. If you neglect your chimney, the burned material (or creosote) will build up, becoming highly combustible and putting you and your property at risk. Make sure you get your chimney professionally cleaned or swept regularly.

  2. Minimize the risk of sparks. Keep any kind of flammable material, such as rugs or curtains, away from your fireplace to reduce the risk of sparks kindling and catching. Fires that begin from one spark catching on a flammable furnishing can quickly escalate and become destructive. Adding a screen to your fireplace can also reduce fire hazards by containing the sparks.

  3. Invest in alarms. You can save your home and its residents by having functioning smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors. Check these alarms regularly. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced the batteries, then it’s probably time for a change.

  4. Ventilate your rooms. Make sure you have sources of open ventilation around the house. It’s not just flames that can be deadly; smoke inhalation accounts for many fireplace-related deaths. The toxic gases in smoke can make you feel nauseous and dizzy at first, but they can ultimately render you unconscious. Keep your rooms aired to give any fumes the chance to escape before they start affecting your health.

  5. Practice safe fireplace behavior. You can make your home a lot safer by remembering to never leave a burning fire unsupervised and ensuring your fire is completely out before heading to bed at night. One in 5 home fires occur between 11pm and 7am and those fires make up half of fire-related deaths. When the family is sleeping, smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation can be silent killers.

Follow these 5 safety tips and you’ll be able to curl up in front of the fire this evening comforted by the knowledge that your home and family are protected. It doesn’t take much time or money to keep your chimney area clean and unobstructed and ensure your flames are out at night, but it can save you everything.


Elizabeth Dodson is the co-founder of HomeZada, a cloud-based home improvement and organizational software. HomeZada strives to educate and provide resources for homeowners in all areas of home management, including home improvement projects, maintenance, inventory, property information, and property value. Check out HomeZada’s blog for more helpful tips!

Family fireplace photo courtesy of Shutterstock.