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Don’t Burn These Items in Your Fireplace!

houston tx great wood fireplacesIt may be called a “fireplace,” but that doesn’t mean that any kind of fire that can be burned in it is suitable and safe.  Every year, we hear about house fires and health issues that stem from using fireplaces as “burn-all” appliances, rather than what they were intended for: seasoned (dry) wood, and nothing else.

Here’s a checklist to remind you of the types of things that should never be burned in your fireplace.

1. Household waste and plastic.  General refuse like boxes and packaging are no good for fireplaces as they burn way too hot and can emit dangerous toxins.

2. Treated wood.  Any burning wood products that are treated with paint, stain or weatherproofing compounds will produce toxins and carcinogens.

3. Colored paper.  This includes magazines, colored newsprint and wrapping paper.  Toxic fumes are created when colored ink is burned.  Additionally, paper burns fast and big; it’s possible that flames could extend up into the chimney and ignite any built-up creosote.

4. Christmas trees.  Evergreen trees are packed with resin, which ignites rapidly and pops with embers, which can start a chimney fire if they shoot that high.  Also, a big tree in the fireplace will create way too much heat for the appliance.

5. Charcoal/coal.  If your fireplace is built to burn wood, don’t use charcoal or coal in it.  The heat produced by these substances can rapidly exceed what your fireplace is intended to handle.  In addition, these fuels produce significantly more carbon monoxide, a dangerous gas that is invisible, odorless and deadly.

6. Fire-starters.  Gasoline, lighter fluid, kerosene and other fire-starters are good for their intended purposes, but not for fireplaces.  These chemicals burn very hot and can cause quick and dangerous flare-ups.

7. Driftwood.  If you live near the seashore, don’t collect driftwood for the fireplace as the wood will have absorbed chemicals from the water, making its fumes toxic.

As you can see from this list, most of the non-appropriate fireplace items either create large amounts of toxins or burn way too hot for the average fireplace.  Fortunately, you don’t need any of these things to get a good fire started.

Building a safe fire

burning firewood in houston txThe key to a great fire is dry wood.  Dry wood burns evenly and produces much less smoke than wood that is wet.  To get the logs burning, set them on a rack inside the firebox then place kindling beneath them.  Ideal kindling is small twigs or wood shavings that will catch fire quickly.

Remember, too, that wood logs burn better when there’s some air between them, so don’t stack them too tightly.

Guardian Chimney Sweep is Houston’s preferred and most-trusted provider of full-service chimney cleaning, inspection, maintenance and repair.  A big part of fireplace safety includes regular cleaning, and we’re standing by to help with that.  Arrange a meeting with a certified, licensed chimney sweep, or get your questions answered by calling (713) 401-2011.