It’s that time of year when fireplaces and wood stoves are lit to help heat homes across the country. Heat from wood is a renewable energy source that has many benefits. However, if you are not careful, using wood heat can cause problems.

The first thing to do every year is to have a chimney sweep clean the chimney. This will remove the creosote that had built up. Creosote is the black substance that condenses in the flue or stove. It is flammable. Once clean, have the sweeper inspect the flue for defects or fire hazards, such as cracked tiles.

Check the clearance of combustible materials in the fireplace or wood stove. The required clearance will vary depending on the wood stove model. Fireplaces must extend at least 18 inches into the floor in all directions and, of course, must not be combustible. the free space from the wall depends on the use or not of a heat shield. Consult their manufacturers’ suggestions. If manufacturer’s suggestions are not available, keep fuels 36 inches away.

Care must also be taken with the wood to be burned. Firewood should not be stored directly next to the house or indoors. Doing so runs the risk of introducing wood-destroying insects such as carpenter ants, termites, and gunpowder post beetles. Better to bring the wood when you need it. Always burn suspect wood immediately once you have brought it inside to kill any bad bugs.

As an Ohio home inspector, I see a lot of wood burning stoves and fireplaces. I even once found a home that was made of thin plywood. Be safe and have a warm heating season and take a look at yours and clean the fireplace.

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