The warm, romantic crackle of a fireplace is a part of the cooler months many people look forward to. The fireplace brings holiday comfort for many people, but it can also be dangerous if not used properly. Although it may be tempting to simply discard trash into the fire and watch it burn away, you should never burn anything other than properly seasoned wood in the fireplace. Small pieces of trash that burn easily may seem harmless, but come with hidden consequences. Here are 11 things that should never be burned in your fireplace.

Treated Wood

If you have some wood lying around from your latest home improvement project, don’t throw it in the fireplace. Painted or treated wood is full of synthetic chemicals that can have harmful effects when burned. Not only will treated wood release toxic substances into the air, it can also do a lot of damage to your fireplace. The only wood you should burn is properly seasoned, dry firewood.

 Wet Wood

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wood with a moisture content above 20% should not be burned. Wet wood creates more smoke than seasoned wood, which leads to more creosote buildup. The more creosote buildup a chimney system has, the more likely it will be to cause a chimney fire.

Cardboard

Cardboard can contain harmful chemicals, especially if there is any type of printed design on it. Although it may seem harmless, cardboard, like many of these other materials, can release toxic chemicals into the air.

Trash

Don’t burn any trash in your fireplace. Trash tossed into the fireplace can contain paper, cardboard, plastic, and other materials that can cause damage to your fireplace. It is always best to dispose of trash properly to avoid any dangerous chemicals from being burned and released into your home.

Plastic

Like many of the other items on this list, plastic contains chemicals that can be toxic. When plastic is burned, these chemicals are released into the air, which can lead to health problems.

Paper

Many types of paper are chemically treated, especially if there is any kind of printed design on it. Another reason paper is dangerous to burn is because embers can float out of the fireplace, causing anything flammable to ignite.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees should never be burned in the fireplace because they contain sap and tar. Additionally, Christmas trees are full of wet wood that can cause excessive smoke.

Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations are made with lots of synthetic chemicals that release harmful fumes when burned. Even “natural” decorations such as wreaths are often treated with materials that can become toxic when burned.

Wrapping Paper

During the holidays, when the floors are littered with wrapping paper, it may be tempting to throw it in the fire. However, wrapping paper often has printed designs that are made with toxic materials. Also, the paper itself is typically coated in chemical treatments.

Accelerants

Don’t use accelerants or fire starters in your fireplace. Accelerants like lighter fluid can cause large flare ups that can easily ignite any surrounding objects.

Dryer Lint

You may have heard that dryer lint makes a good fire starter. The truth is that dryer lint should never be burned in your fireplace. Most clothing nowadays contains synthetic material. This material is picked up in lint when your clothes are dried, and can produce harmful fumes when burned.

 

While throwing trash in the fire may seem like a quick way to dispose of it, it can be extremely dangerous. Burning materials other than seasoned wood in your fireplace can lead to health hazards and a buildup of creosote in your fireplace and chimney. If you have burned any of these materials in your fireplace, schedule a chimney sweep and inspection. Our chimney sweeps can clear away buildup and ensure that your chimney system is operating properly.

 

chimney cap

Caps, Covers, & Damper Repairs

Living in the south, mainly along the Gulf Coast, then you know there are lost of rain storms. Actually, we get more rain than anywhere else in the country, including Seattle. The ranking of the most amount of rainfall goes as follows: Mobile, Pensacola, and Seattle in 41st.

This region has such a big deal about rain when it comes to chimneys and fireplaces. As the Chimney Safety Institute of America explains, “water, not fire, causes most chimney damage.”

“Whether masonry or factory-built,” says the CSIA, “prolonged water exposure can result in cracks or gaps in chimneys where creosote can collect and increase the risk of fire or where noxious gases can escape into your home and expose your family to carbon monoxide.”

Fireplaces, Chimneys and Leaks

In basic terms the problem with fireplace and chimney leakage is that water combines with the creosote that remains from fires to form an acidic mixture. Over time that mixture can eat out the silica in the mortar joints.
Once the joints are no longer secure, moisture — remember all that Gulf Coast rain — can get into the house through the chimney. For example, if water comes in through the chimney and is released under the shingles it can lead to the need for a roof replacement.

Also, without proper sealing, heat from fires can travel into areas which should not be exposed to heat, dry out wood, and in some cases actually cause the wood to catch on fire.

In fact, according to a staff report by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 22,000 fires a year which are associated with fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors. Such fires can cause substantial damage and in some cases may lead to fatalities.

Also, without caps it does happen that birds and animals get into fireplaces. Sometimes nests are built and in some cases animals unable to get out die inside chimneys and fireplaces. Noises and odors can result from such problems.

Caps, Covers and Dampers

You can protect your household with caps, covers and dampers. Caps with spark arresters are devices that go over the flue. They keep out both moisture and animals, plus they help prevent sparks from leaving the chimney. Covers are at the top of the chimney, go around the flue, and protect against moisture. Dampers are inside the chimney itself. They can help create a proper draft to achieve the best fire, plus when closed they prevent animals from getting into the house.

Cap, Cover and Damper Services

We can install, repair and maintain caps, covers and dampers. We inspect such devices as part of our basic chimney sweep services. We have many devices in stock and can recommend the equipment which is right for your fireplace and chimney, whether it is masonry or metal, new or historic.

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