Wood-Burning Stove and Fireplace Safety in Spokane and Eastern Washington
Not much compares to the warm pleasure of gathering around your fireplace or wood-burning stove on a cold winter’s night. Enjoy the warmth, but do be safe. Here are a few wood-burning stove and fireplace safety tips:
1. Have a professional annual inspection
If you’re planning to burn wood, make sure your stove (or fireplace) and chimney have been thoroughly checked by a professional chimney sweep. Stoves, fireplaces, and chimneys should be cleaned at least once a year. Wood-burning stoves should be inspected annually for ash and creosote buildup, cracks, and animal or bird nests.
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2. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Make sure you have enough smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Are they in good working order? Important in all homes, these detectors are especially essential in homes with wood-burning stoves.
3. Check your wood-burning stove’s ventilation
Venting the stove is the most important part of the wood-burning system. According to Nationwide Insurance, 90% of all stove-related fires originate within the venting system. A venting system is not a chimney – it consists of lengths of 24-gauge or heavier stovepipe which connects the stove to an approved chimney.
4. Consider a moisture meter
If you stack wood outside in the weather, the Environmental Protection Agency advises you to consider purchasing a moisture meter. You can use one to make sure your timber is dry and safe to burn. Meters can be purchased online for a little as $20. Hardwoods—such as maple, beech, ash, hickory, or oak—are the best fuel for a wood-burning stove. Your wood should be cut, split, and air dried for at least a year before burning.
5. Keep flammables away
Keep furniture, drapes, rugs, and anything flammable away from your fireplace or wood-burning stove. Sometimes people move furniture closer to the fireplace or stove during warmer months. If you do that, move the furniture and any home decorations back a safe distance before lighting up your fireplace or stove.
6. Always have the right flooring
Never have carpet installed directly in front of your fireplace or wood-burning stove. A spark could land on it and start a fire. Good flooring to have near your fireplace or stove is linoleum or brick. You want a floor that’s not as combustible as carpeting.
7. Keep your insurance company informed
Tell your insurer you have installed a fireplace or a wood-burning stove. If a spark from the fireplace or the wood stove pops out and burns your couch and a large portion of a neighboring wall, you could be stuck paying the entire bill if the insurance company doesn’t know about that particular heat source.
8. Inspect the dampers
If your wood-burning stove has an automatic draft regulator controlled by a thermostat, carefully follow the manufacturer's installation instructions. A manually operated damper can be installed on the pipe near the stove. This damper should not obstruct more than 80 percent of the pipe area. A second damper higher up on the vertical section of the stovepipe is advisable to permit shutting down the stove in case of a chimney fire.
9. If you’re buying a wood stove, buy quality.
Be sure any stove you buy is made of sturdy, suitable material, such as cast iron or steel. Look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label. If you purchase a used stove, check it carefully for cracks or other defects. The legs, hinges, grates, and draft louvers should also be checked carefully.
10. Never do these six things
Be careful with how you install, monitor, and maintain a fireplace or wood-burning stove. Five things you should never do are:
1. Connect your wood stove to a fireplace chimney unless the fireplace has been sealed off
2. Connect your wood stove to a chimney serving another appliance burning other fuels.
3. Start a wood stove fire with flammable fluids, such as gasoline
4. Extend the stovepipe through a wall or ceiling (unless there’s no alternative)
5. Burn trash in a wood-burning stove. That may start a chimney fire.
6. Let a wood fire burn unattended or overnight
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