How NOT To Burn The House Down! Part 1

Real Estate Agent with LONG & FOSTER


How NOT To Burn The House Down..
From the Outside!
Wood Burning Safety Outdoors

Part 1

Keep the home fires burning without setting the house on fire. When cold weather hits, it’s time to budget for higher electric or gas heating bills. Others will lay in a supply of coal. But many people will be using the cord of wood they bought last summer to heat their homes, either with a woodstove or fireplace or other wood-burning heating device. If you’re using a wood-burning device, there are steps you can take to ensure that your wood fires will be safe ones even if you’ve already begun using your wood burner for the season.

Up to Code?
The first step is to make sure that your wood burner has been installed properly in the first place. Most places have strict codes regarding the installation of wood-burning devices, and with good reason. If you’re not sure whether or not your device has been inspected, contact the proper authorities in your area to make sure.

Start at the Top                                                                                                        
Assuming installation is correct; begin each season by starting at the top. This means chimney and roof care. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 45,000 chimney fires each year.  So many of these could be prevented with proper maintenance and cleaning of the chimney.  Look around your chimney. Are there dried leaves or pine needles on the roof? If so, time to get out the push broom and clear the roof. Are there limbs overhanging the chimney area? Prune them away.

Get a Professional Inspection
Whether you have a metal or masonry chimney, begin with a visual inspection, preferably by a professional, so that the gases and smoke from your fire will vent as they should.  On a masonry chimney, look to see that the spark screen and rain cap are nice and tight (remember, winter weather can be intense). Make sure there are no cracks in the bricks on the chimney. If there are, make sure you repair them properly. Hiring a professional allows them to check creosote levels, for example, if your clearances are up to code, if the clean-out door is on tight, if the flue liner is not damaged, and that there are no obstructions in the chimney, such as nests that birds so often build there.                                                                                                                               


For factory-built metal chimneys, the rain cap and spark screen should be secure. The chimney braces should all be securely attached to your house. Check all fasteners. There should be no signs of corrosion. If you find some, replace the corroded portions with new materials. Is each section of the chimney secure? If not, secure them immediately. If any cracks are present, do not use your woodstove until they have been professionally repaired.

A professional will also be able to double check your clearances, that the wall pass through is installed and meets code, that the chimney is adequately supported at the bottom, and that the stovepipe is free of creosote. Creosote can become a problem if not cleaned out. It can ignite if it builds up. You can reduce your likelihood of building up too much creosote by not burning unseasoned wood and by avoiding slow smoldering, smoky fires. It can also vary based on the kind of heating unit you have, the type of chimney, and the draft. If there is more than 1/8- to 1/4-inch creosote buildup, it’s time to clean. Though there are some chemical creosote cleaners on the market, they can only help in reducing the total amount of creosote. They will not replace a thorough cleaning.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will talk about Wood Safety Indoors.

Courtesy of Yvette Smith, SRES® REALTOR®

Comments (8)

Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

Yvette, most informative and detailed. Thank you for sharing your extensive knowledge.

Nov 14, 2008 03:13 PM
Kathy McGraw
CELLing Realty - White Water, CA
Riverside County CA Real Estate

Yvette- this is some good advice.  I had no idea about wood burning stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, or anything else other than either wall or central heat. Every year we all hear about someone that lost their lives tying to stay this is a good article.

Nov 14, 2008 03:42 PM
Dinah Lee Griffey
Windermere Peninsula Properties - Allyn, WA
Managing Broker Windermere Peninsula Properties

That was a great blog. very informative. Thank you for the post. you learn something new everyday!-Dinah Lee

Nov 14, 2008 04:28 PM
Richard Dolbeare, R(B)
eXp Realty - Wailuku, HI
R(B), ABR, CRS...Hawaii Multi-Island Specialist

Ah yes, your tips would have been helpful in my Maryland home.  But that was before I moved to Hawaii where fireplaces are rare.

Nov 14, 2008 05:24 PM
Terrie Leighton
Ferrari-Lund Real Estate - Reno, NV
Reno Real Estate Agent ~ Selling Homes in Reno

You are so informative! I love it! Great job detailing the importance of safety when it comes to wood burning devices. My husband, being a fireman, would defiantly appreciate reading this article.

Nov 15, 2008 01:30 AM
Bo Hussung
Bell Title /Triserv LLC - Nashvle, TN

Yvette, if you haven't already, this needs to be a special WhitePage piece for all yiour clients.

Good job


Nov 15, 2008 12:52 PM
Yvette Smith
LONG & FOSTER - Williamsburg, VA
Realtor In Williamsburg VA, Homes for Sale

MARIA - Thank you for taking the time to leave your comments!!

KATHY - You hear about homes catching fire a lot during the winter months.

DINAH LEE - Thank you for visiting!!  It's a topic that I thought folks would benefit from.

RICHARD - You get around!!  I love HI, Aloha!

TERRIE - Wow, a firefighter!!  I bet he's already up to speed on this type of thing!

 BO - Great idea!  I'll have to do something like that!


Nov 16, 2008 04:22 AM
clean burning coal

thank you for the informations its a very great blog

Nov 16, 2008 09:32 PM