You are grateful on this snowy day for the warmth and ambience of your fireplace. Fireplaces are relaxing and also help you save on energy bills. Our question is, are you taking as good of care of your fireplace as it is of you? Routine maintenance is key to following safety precautions, especially with folks being in their homes more than ever right now and to avoid fire from breaking out. Here are a few fireplace safety suggestions from Biller Associates to keep you and your family safe. We always recommend checking with your local fire department for latest safety guidelines for your fireplace as well.

What Safety Measures Should I Take when Using a Fireplace?

Never use your fireplace as a furnace, as a matter of fact, fireplaces are built for shorter duration fires that burn for five (5) hours or less. If your fireplace has a glass door, keep it open as it will allow cool air to go up and cool the chimney, but you must have a screen in order to do this and always make sure the screen is securely closed. This will ensure sparks do not jump from the fire and into your home and or carpet. You should never leave children unattended when you have your fireplace in use. Beyond that, kids should not play near the fire, they should not add logs to the fire and should not be allowed to use the fire tools.

It isn’t uncommon for the room or house to become smoky, however if you have any concerns, you should have the chimney serviced immediately. We recommend cracking a window to prevent smoke and the cool air will also help to cool off the chimney. When you are preparing to start a fire, prepare the kindling and newspaper before you open the damper and windows. The best way to ensure the smoke is going up the chimney is to light a match, blow it out and watch to see whether or not the smoke is going up and out of the chimney versus into your home.

How to Maintain and Keep my Fireplace Safe?

If you have glass doors, the heat will create stains on the glass and it is important that you clean them often. To clean them, you must first wait for them to cool off and we recommend safely and properly using a razor blade to scrape of the thick stains that are stuck on the glass. We find that adding a little dishwasher detergent, a little vinegar into a warm bucket of water helps loosen it up. Once you spray on the cleaner, use a sponge and razor to scrape it away.

Most people do not realize that hot coals within a fireplace are capable of starting a fire for up to three days, so it is important to wait at least seven (7) days to remove the ashes. Once you have waited and are comfortable that the ashes have cooled (one week), close the damper and begin removing the ashes. We recommend eating a mask and safety glasses. The best tool for the job is a square shovel and make sure you use a metal container and never use a vacuum to clean up ashes. It is important that you clean the area where your logs burn, which is called the firebox at least once a week when your fireplace is in active use.

Maintaining and cleaning your fireplace is critical to avoiding devastating house fires. If you have experienced damage to your home due to a fire caused by your fireplace, your first call should be 911, then Biller. We will help you navigate the complex process of dealing with an insurance company and most importantly, get you the maximum settlement for your claim.

We will share best practices for chimney cleaning in a future post.

In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at 203.234.9865 or visit our website at