Fireplaces provide a generous amount of warmth and add a special ambiance to your home. Before you relax and enjoy your fireplace during the fall and winter months, here are key answers to common questions about how to safely enjoy this unique home feature.

How do I know if my fireplace needs repairs? Before the first spark is ignited in your fireplace this winter, make sure your chimney is structurally sound. If bricks or joints are chipped or if your chimney is titling, it may be time for some repairs. Visible cracks and holes are other signs that your chimney needs attention.

What is a chimney cap and do I need one? A gaping hole on the top of your roof can invite trouble. Tree branches, leaves, twigs, birds nest and critters of all types can enter your home or create a blockage. Luckily, there is a simple solution to keep pests and unwanted materials from nestling in your chimney: a chimney cap. This device is strongly recommended because it partially closes the opening of your chimney to prevent harmful debris buildup.

Does my fireplace need to be cleaned? Yes, a chimney sweeper can ensure your fireplace is in the ideal condition to be used and thoroughly inspect your unit for any tar-like build-up known as creosote. A build-up of creosote can catch fire that can spread to the attic and other parts of your home. You may want to ask the chimney sweep for additional advice on cleaning and maintenance for future use.

Can I keep my holiday décor on or near my fireplace? Experts recommend keeping furniture at least 36 inches away from the fireplace to avoid a spark igniting object in your home. If you have stocking or other holiday decorations hanging from your mantle, it’s best to remove them when your fireplace is in use as a precaution.

How and when do I clean my fireplace after I use it? Once the fire has flamed out, only remove the ashes up to three days after use. Fireplace coals are extremely hot and still have the potential to start a fire. Live coals can remain in the ashes so avoid using a vacuum during clean up. Once you’ve swept up the ashes, store them in a metal container away from wood floors or combustible materials.

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