With Thunderstorms predicted Friday night and then cold weather, highs not over 50 for the weekend, it’s a good time to make sure you have followed these tips for your chimney.

As the temperature drops, you may be thinking about building a nice fire in your fireplace. In preparation for those days, we spoke with Tommy Nelms of Sweeps and Ladders in Franklin to find what safety precautions we need to take before using our fireplace.

1. Ensure the fireplace is clean and safe

“A clean flue will not burn, therefore preventing the risk of a flue fire….call a certified chimney sweep to do this.”

If you have a fireplace, it should be checked by a professional at least once a year, added Nelms.

“So much can happen to a fireplace in one year that the homeowner may never see. We run a camera up all chimneys to ensure that the places we cannot see with the naked eye are safe as well. If the fireplace is used a lot, (i.e., if they are burning more than one rick a year) it should be cleaned twice a year.”

2. Get your dryer vent checked

A certified chimney sweep can check your dryer vent as well, a service homeowners should utilize to prevent home fires.

“Dryer vents should be cleaned annually as well. In between cleanings, the homeowner should make sure that the lint trap is always clean. Check outside where the dryer vents and make sure that there is a bird screen covering the vent and that it is clear. If the dryer is taking longer than normal to dry clothes there may be an issue with the vent, and we need to come out and check.”

3. Get educated

You can also expect your certified chimney sweep to educate you on how to use your fireplace correctly.

“As a chimney sweep I am there to clean your chimney, but the biggest part of my job is educating the homeowner on the safe operation of the fireplace.  For example, what size fire to build depends on the size of the firebox, making sure that they are burning dry, seasoned firewood, teaching them how to light the fire safely. The homeowner needs to know how to open and close the damper. After we are gone they need to get familiar with these things, so they too know what to look for.”

sweeps and ladders4. Have Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

After having a service clean the flue and check your dryer vent, your job as a fireplace owner is not over yet. Nelms says it is extremely important to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home.

“These should be in every home whether you have a fireplace or not. Early detection of a fire can save a life. Keep a fire extinguisher in your home as well. Each family should have an exit plan in the event of a fire in their home. At the fire department and in my business we teach families E.D.I.T.H.= Exit Drills In The Home. If a fire occurs the family should have a meeting place outside the home where everyone gets out and meets. Once out do not go back inside. The fire department will be there shortly and that is their job. Families should practice this regularly. If their are children teach them how to call 911. The Franklin Fire Department is more than willing to provide these materials to homeowners on how and when to do these drills.”

5. Use seasoned hardwood when building a fire

“Oak and hickory are really good wood to burn.” Learn more about how to select firewood here. 

6.  Use the “Top Down Method” to Burn a Fire

“This is where the kindling is at the top instead of on the bottom. It is opposite of what most people do. The gas starter logs work well, but they can cause the creosote or soot to build up in the flue more rapidly. Learn more here. 

7. Hire a Certified Chimney Sweep

“The Chimney Safety Institute of America or CSIA is the most recognized certifying agency. We would love to earn everyones business, but please if you are going to use a chimney sweep make sure that they are certified through the CSIA. You can go to csia.org and find a sweep in your area.  In order to become a certified sweep one must be proficient in many different areas. These include, fire codes, chimney physics and design, and international building codes to name a few. ”

About Tommy Nelms & Sweeps and Ladders:

My background is in the fire service. I worked as a fireman in Williamson County for over 13 years, and I have seen a lot of chimney fires that were preventable. That is why I got into this business in the first place. People needed to be educated on how to use their fireplace safely. My first goal is to educate our customers. People are starting fires in their homes and they expect that fire to stay there. We want to make sure that it does, and the homeowner can help in this effort. Teaching them how to burn a fire, what size fire to build, how to start the fire. For example, once you have started your fire, do not throw loose paper (wrapping paper, newspaper, etc) on the fire. These items will ignite and float up the flue and could possibly start a chimney fire. Again, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and a clean chimney are the most important things.

Learn more about Sweeps and Ladders at www.sweepsandladders.com or call them at 615-772-7389.