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