Preventive Fireplace and Woodstove Maintenance Crucial to Protect Your Home Before You Light a Winter Fire

There’s nothing more comfortable and beautiful in a home during a Michigan winter than a roaring fireplace and the heat of a wood stove.  But without regular maintenance, that comfort could turn into a life-threatening hazard, not only for your family home but also your vacation home.  

“If you work with us on your home protection, chances are your home is already covered for a chimney or wood stove fire.  But what’s never covered are your family memories,” Autumn CEO and President Curt Rager said. “It’s crucial for Michiganders to not only make sure their home is protected from fire hazards, but northern vacation properties also need to be fully winterized to avoid frozen pipes.”  

Here are some maintenance tips for your chimney and your woodstove to make sure you are ready to enjoy your family and/or vacation home.  

Chimney Maintenance
In spite of the ambiance and relaxation that a fireplace provides, there are also inherent fire dangers. To combat the risk of fire or inhalation of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas, it is important for you to make chimney care part of your home maintenance plan. Follow these tips to keep your chimney in good shape and prevent fire hazards.

General Maintenance Tips
Both metal and masonry chimneys require maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly. At the very least, you should have your chimney inspected annually before each heating season. In addition:

*Have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to reduce creosote buildup.
*Make sure your masonry chimney has a flue liner in place to reduce the possibility that the masonry could absorb creosote.
*Replace damaged liners, as they will allow creosote to accumulate and heat to escape.  
*When hiring someone to reline your chimney, only allow the contractor to use a product that has been tested and listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Specific Maintenance Tips
There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to limit the risks in your home.

  1. Fireplace inserts—Make sure the vent is connected to the flue of the chimney.
  2. Factory-built metal chimneys—Do not use natural gas, fuel oil vents, well casing, stovepipe or other material in the chimney, as they cannot withstand the heat in the wood burner.

Keep These Precautions in Mind
Do not vent more than one heater or appliance into a single flue, as major complications can arise. If one fuel-burning appliance is connected to a flue and then you attach another appliance, such as a water heater, you are running the risk of various problems—including heavy creosote accumulation, deterioration of the flue or CO gas drifting into your home.

Wood-burning Stove Safety
The top source of fires in American homes comes from fuel-burning appliances—such as a wood-burning stove. That’s why it’s vital to follow proper precautions when using your wood-burning stove. Consider the following guidelines to ensure the safe operation of your stove—keeping you, your family and your home protected against the risk of a fire.

*Read the instructions for your wood-burning stove and follow them carefully.

*Inspect the firebrick liner in your stove, if you have one. 

*Should the liner show signs of wear, replace it immediately and do not use the unit until the liner is replaced.

*Don’t use flammable or combustible liquid (e.g., gasoline, kerosene or lighter fluid to start a fire.

*Burn wood that’s recommended by the manufacturer only.

*Don’t burn plastic, wood or garbage that has been painted or treated with chemicals.

*Be sure to have properly maintained smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and an approved multipurpose fire extinguisher in your home.

*Never close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. Doing so will cause the fire to heat up which will force toxic carbon monoxide into your house.

Prioritize Routine Inspections and Maintenance
Solid fuel units (including wood-burning stoves) tend to require significantly more upkeep than other heating systems. Failure to conduct regular inspections and maintenance could lead to the development of cracks, leaks, warping, baffle gaps, or creosote buildup in your wood-burning stove—all of which can cause a fire.

With this in mind, be sure to have your stove inspected at least once every year by a qualified professional for potential problems, and make repairs as needed. In addition, conduct monthly maintenance practices of your own to keep your stove in good (and safe) condition.

As always, you can call us at Autumn Insurance at 248-478-1177 if you have any questions about home maintenance and homeowners insurance solutions. 

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