If you just bought a house with a fireplace, and you've never used one before, you're in for a treat. Fireplaces are a great way to keep your home warm during the winter. However, before you use your fireplace for the first time, there are some safety measures you should take, especially if you want to make sure that it's safe to use.
Have Your Fireplace Professionally Cleaned
If you've never had a fireplace before, you probably don't realize that they need to be professionally cleaned once every couple of years. The inside of the chimney can get coated with a material called creosote, which is quite flammable, and can lead to carbon monoxide emissions. When you have a professional chimney sweep clean your fireplace, they'll inspect your fireplace from top to bottom, and then give it a thorough chimney cleaning. Be sure to mark the date on your calendar so you can keep track of when you'll need to have your fireplace cleaned again.
Use the Right Type of Wood
You might think that you should be able to use just about any type of wood, and to a certain extent, you're right. However, to get the cleanest fire, which is what you want, you should choose seasoned hardwoods, instead of moist softwoods. Using seasoned hardwoods for your fires will help keep your fireplace cleaner, reduce creosote deposits, and reduce the amount of smoke that backs up into your home. If you're not sure where to get seasoned firewood, ask your chimney sweep when they come out. They should know where to send you for the cleanest wood.
Don't Overdo It
If you want a fire that lasts a few hours, you'll probably be tempted to fill your fireplace with a lot of logs. However, that's actually not the best way to get a good fire going. Instead, stack a couple of logs on the fireplace grate, towards the back of the fireplace, and then add a few pieces of kindling. Use the kindling to start the fire. You want to avoid using newspaper, or lighter fluid to ignite the fire in your fireplace. Using newspaper, or lighter fluid to start your fire could cause harmful fumes to build up in your home, and could create a fire that's too big to control.
Install a Spark Guard
Finally, before you the first fire in your fireplace, make sure you have a spark guard in place. The spark guard will prevent sparks from exiting the firebox in your fireplace. If sparks leave the firebox, the could ignite things that are around the fireplace, such as rugs, carpeting, or upholstered furniture.