Indoor Fireplace Safety for Your Home

By MNR News posted 11-29-2023 02:47 PM

Stay cozy—and safe–this winter
There’s nothing like cozying up to a crackling wood-burning fireplace, especially during Minnesota’s long, cold winters. An indoor fireplace is a feature many Minnesotans love about their homes. Not only do fires provide warmth and comfort, but they also offer ambiance and help cultivate relaxation.

But if you have wood-burning fireplace in your home, there are several important things to know to ensure you enjoy fires safely and responsibly.

Get a professional inspection
Having your home’s fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional is essential to fireplace safety. For fireplaces that are used regularly, most experts recommend an annual inspection and cleaning. The cost typically ranges from $200–$300, not a small fee, but well worth it to protect your home from soot buildup or other dangerous chimney defects. Regular inspection and cleaning help ensure your fireplace is ready for another year of use.

Have a working carbon monoxide detector

Ensure you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector on the same level as your home’s fireplace. 

Use quality wood
Something easy to overlook is the type and quality of wood you use in your fireplace. Burning wood that is wet or overly moist not only hinders the quality of the fire but can also be a safety hazard. Pockets of moisture in wood can cause small explosions, sending embers into your living room. Further, always avoid burning treated wood or anything containing paint, glue, or old nails/screwsthese can release unhealthy toxins into the air when combusted. 

When burning wood in your indoor fireplace, it’s best to use dry hardwoods such as maple, oak, birch, cherry, and ash. 

Start your fire safely
The hardest part of having a fire is starting it. It’s best to start your fire naturally, using dry kindling (sticks or other pieces of small, dry wood) and some old newspaper. You can also use approved fire starters. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to start a fire in your indoor fireplace. 

Use a fireplace screen and grate
A fireplace screen will help keep any hot wood or embers from exiting the fireplace. Investing in a quality grate is also important—this props the wood up and helps prevent logs from rolling out of the fireplace. A cast iron grate is the most common and can be purchased at most local hardware stores. 

Invest in gloves and tools
A quality set of fireplace tools helps you build and maintain safe fires. Standard tools include a fiber broom (for cleaning ashes), poker, tongs, and shovel. Also, it’s worth investing in fire safety or welding gloves—these allow you to briefly handle hot logs if needed. 

Have an accessible fire extinguisher
This one is simple: have a working fire extinguisher near your fireplace and know how to use it. 

Educate and prepare
Finally, take time to educate yourself and your family members about fireplace safety. Further, have an emergency plan, including evacuation routes and meeting points outside the home. 

Cozy up and enjoy
Your home’s fireplace can be enjoyed with peace of mind when you’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure it’s safe and functional. If you have any concerns about your home’s fireplace or chimney, seek help from a professional chimney sweep.