Thanks to improved design in modern fireplace inserts and woodstoves, fire and wood burning safety is easier than ever to implement. Wood heat is wonderfully warm, romantic, and quaint, but if it causes loss of life and belongings, it loses its charm in a hurry. Fortunately, wood can now be as safe as any other method of heating.
If you are burning wood for the first time, make sure you invest in a safety-certified woodheating system, and make sure you have it properly installed. If you plan to use an older fireplace or stove, get it checked out by an expert and updated as necessary to make sure it is in safe working order. If you are an avid do-it-yourselfer, get plenty of good advice. Do your homework when it comes to learning fire and wood burning safety principles.
In addition to the stove or fireplace, the chimney must be in proper shape. The material should be brick or metal. Metal chimneys should be labeled as UL listed. At the roof, the chimney should extend at least 2 feet over the highest part of the roof, and 3 feet over a flat roof. Every year, the chimney needs to be cleaned or at least cleared of any obstructions and creosote before you begin to burn wood in the stove.
Eliminating chimney fires is a critical aspect of fire and wood burning safety. A chimney fire almost always leaves the chimney or lining damaged. If you have a chimney fire, do not light another fire until you have had the chimney examined and repaired. To minimize the risk, have a stove and flue that are the right size for each other and for the area being heated.
Also, avoid closing off the air supply in an effort to make the wood burn slowly all night. This practice causes more creosote to form on the inside of the chimney and it keeps the gases produced by the fire from burning the way they should. Using unseasoned (green or wet) wood also increases the amount of creosote that forms. Creosote is a gummy combination of water and wood resins that cakes up on the inside of the chimney and is very flammable.
When you think you have everything together properly for safe wood heating, let your homeowners’ insurance company know about it. They will send someone out to inspect your set-up. If they approve and are willing to insure you, then you probably have things in good working order for burning wood.
If you have children, you will really want to make fire and wood burning safety a priority. Make sure they understand the importance of staying out of danger areas. And remember that there is no substitute for paying attention to your children, especially when they are small.