A wood-burning fireplace in the family home can make any cold dark night feel like a winter wonderland retreat. But, there are safety precautions when using it. Here are safety tips and proper maintenance tips to help you enjoy this beautiful addition to your home:

Fumes
The biggest concern in fireplace safety is creosote build up. Proper maintenance will ensure this does not reach dangerous levels, avoiding chimney fires, potentially toxic fumes or having your living room fill with smoke.

Keep it Hot
A roaring fire is a clean fire. Keep fireplace glass doors open longer to ensure there is enough air reaching your fire, creating a hotter fire.

Always avoid burning green or new wood, which can carry excess water, causing fires to not burn as hot and in turn create creosote. Seasoned wood will ensure the hottest burn.

While some creosote build up is inevitable, you can counter this by limiting large fires. Choosing a smaller fire that will not climb up the chimney will limit dangerous fire potential.

Keep It Swept  
Regular visits from the chimney sweep are essential and will ensure fireplace safety. Once a year is the minimum suggested, however if you find you are using your fireplace nightly, or are burning a lot of wood, an extra cleaning can make a big difference.

In addition to keeping it clean the chimney sweep can also spot potential problems an untrained eye may miss.

Keep it Clean
If you are using newspaper for kindling, make sure it is balled up tightly. Any paper wafting upward may spark a chimney fire.

Take the time to inspect your chimney yourself. Shining a flashlight up from the bottom or down  from the top will allow you to see shiny, tar-like deposits of creosote. Duller black deposits are soot, which is also flammable and should never be more than 1/8 inch deep.

Inside and Out
Maintenance of the outside of the chimney is important as well; watch for cracks in the mortar.

Venting and damper system must fit tightly. If you find they are loose, remember warm air can escape from your chimney. This will also help to keep your heating bill low.

A chimney cap will prevents birds from building nests, unwanted leaf collection or rust and brick cracks from exposure to rain.