Fall is in the air, so it’s time to prepare your home for cold weather. One of the most important things you can do is to get your chimney cleaned and inspected. A dirty flue is a significant fire hazard. Each year, thousands of residential fires start in chimneys. Here are a few tips to help you prevent a chimney fire in your home this winter.

1. Prevent a Chimney Fire: Have the Chimney Cleaned Regularly

One of the best ways to prevent a chimney fire is to have it cleaned yearly. If you use your fireplace frequently, you may need to have it swept more often. Ash and creosote build up in the flue over time, and if not removed, they can create a dangerous situation. A professional chimney sweep will remove leaves, pine needles, and other debris in your flue to ensure it’s safe to use.

2. Use Dry Wood

Another way to prevent a chimney fire is to use seasoned wood when you build your fire. Wet wood doesn’t burn as well as dry wood, producing more smoke and leading to dangerous creosote buildup in the flue. When choosing wood, make sure it’s well-seasoned and stored in a dry place. Don’t use construction lumber or treated wood, as they’re manufactured with chemicals and unsafe for burning in a fireplace.

3. Prevent a Chimney Fire: Don’t Overload the Firebox

One common cause of chimney fires is overloaded fireplace grates. When you load your fireplace with too much wood, the flames can grow out of control and ignite creosote deposits on the walls of your flue. To avoid this, build small fires and add only enough wood to keep the flames going. It’s also important to keep anything that could catch fire, like newspapers, kindling, draperies, and furniture, at least five feet away from the opening of your fireplace.

4. Inspect Your Chimney Regularly

Homeowners should inspect their chimneys at least once a year for cracks or deterioration that could lead to a fire. If you notice damage, have it repaired by a professional contractor familiar with the requirements for repairing masonry structures. Taking simple precautions and regularly inspecting your chimney can help prevent fires in your home.

5. Test the Smoke Detectors

Before building a fire in the fireplace, test the smoke detectors in your home. Verify the alarms will sound and replace the batteries if necessary. Working smoke alarms won’t prevent a chimney fire but will alert your family if a fire breaks out.

These are just a few tips to help prevent a chimney fire in your home this winter. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when operating your fireplace, and contact a professional if you notice any damage to the structure of your chimney.

DMV Home Inspections offers professional inspection services in the Washington DC metro area. Contact us to request an appointment when buying or selling a home.