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 fireplace maintenance tips for your chimney and your wood stove to make sure you are ready to enjoy your family and/or vacation home.
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 fireplace 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. Proper ventilation keeps smoke and flue gases out of your home. 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 from a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
Specific Fireplace Maintenance Tips
There are two types of chimneys that require specific maintenance to limit the risks in your home.
- Fireplace inserts—Make sure the vent is connected to the flue of the chimney.
- 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. Attaching another appliance, such as a water heater, you are running the risk of various problems. These include heavy creosote accumulation, deterioration of the flue or CO gas drifting into your home.
Wood Stove Safety Tips
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 shows signs of wear, replace it immediately.
- Don’t use flammable or combustible liquid (e.g., gasoline, kerosene, or lighter fluid to start a fire.
- Burn wood from the manufacturer only.
- Don’t burn plastic, wood, or garbage with paint or chemicals on them.
- 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.
Following these tips will go a long way to keeping your family safe.
Prioritize Routine Inspections and Fireplace Maintenance
Solid fuel units (including wood-burning stoves) tend to require significantly more upkeep than other heating systems. Failure to conduct regular inspections and fireplace 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.