All homeowners should be wary of the dangers that can lurk within a seemingly functional, sound flue.
The flue is the most overlooked item on a home safety checklist. Flues may appear fine from the exterior but be damaged extensively on the interior, which can lead to a very dangerous situation such as a house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
In order to help ensure the safety of the home, here are seven tips on flue safety:
1. Your Home Has More Than One Flue – They All Pose Risks: all vents to the exterior of the home are technically flues and should be maintained on a regular basis.
2. Flues Should Have an Annual Check-Up: schedule an annual visit with a flue service professional to inspect all flues. This will keep you informed of their condition and help ensure they remain clean, operable and free of blockages.
3. Burn Only Seasoned Hardwoods: these woods burn the longest, produce the most heat and leave behind the least creosote. Creosote, a highly flammable substance, can build up on flue walls, increasing the risk of a flue fire.
4. Burn Small, Hot Fires – Not Long, Cool, Smoky Ones: smaller, hotter fires drive creosote up the flue and away from the home.
5. It’s Not Just the Stuff That Goes UP Your flue That Can Cause Problems: debris such as animal nests (or even lint, in the case of a dryer vent), can cause a back-up of harmful gasses in the home. Additionally, water seeping into a flue can erode the seam and compromise the structural integrity of a flue. Solution: put a cap on your flue to prevent rain and animals from entering, and schedule an annual inspection to ensure all flues remain free from blockages.
6. Beware of Warm Winters: warm winters can lead to increased creosote buildup because long, cool, smoky fires are more common. However, homeowners may feel complacent about having an annual inspection since they didn’t use the fireplace often.
7. Fireplace Screens, Toolsets and Hoods Aren’t Just For Show: fire is dangerous and every family needs to take precautions to protect themselves and their homes. Be sure to always:
- use a spark screen in front of your fireplace
- use a metal container to remove fireplace ashes
- install working smoke alarms on every level of your home
- install a working carbon monoxide detector in your home
- replace batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a year
- ensure proper floor and wall protection with gas and wood burning appliances
- keep several multi-purpose fire extinguishers in the home
- establish a family fire escape plan, and
- hold regular family fire drills.