Robert Lamoureux | Ensure fireplace safety before you use it

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux

Question No. 1 


What are the winter safety items we should check on to keep our homes safe? I know you’ve done outside things to check regarding leaks and water issues, but what can we do to be proactive on and in our homes, if anything, for winter? Any input? Thank you. 

— Roger H. 

Answer No. 1 


Great question especially now as the temperatures are going down and people will be getting ready to be inside more and enjoy their homes. The first thing that comes to mind is the fireplace. This is often the one luxury item that people continue to use but fail to do safety checks on. 

Out of sight, out of mind in most cases, but I relate this to the same thing that can happen if you fail to remember to check the fluid levels in your car. It’ll run well until it doesn’t … and by then it could have catastrophic effects. 

When the firebox and chimney flue are not kept in good working order, it could be the source of your home burning to the ground. Annually, this should be checked by a professional chimney sweep/contractor. They will do a thorough check of all aspects including running a camera to inspect the flu all the way through, looking for any cracks or issues that could be dangerous. 

Even something like a bird’s nest could cause a fire within the chimney, this can happen if the chimney cap is damaged or possibly gone due to weather and wear. I’ve had people tell me they inspect their chimneys themselves with a flashlight but this is not thorough enough. With a camera, they can see the walls of the flue also, and they will use proper tools to clean them. 

The residue that is from the burnt wood, creosote, sticks to the walls of the flu and under the right conditions it is literally fuel for a fire to erupt. 

The cleaning from the contractor will eliminate all of the buildup, and the inspection will ensure that all aspects are in good working order. 

I highly recommend this annually, before you light the first fire of the year. 

Good luck.

— Robert

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].

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