7 Tips: Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety

An open fire or wood burning stove makes for a lovely home feature, providing warmth, comfort and a cozy glow. However, there is always a risk when it comes to open flames. As winter approaches, it’s important for seniors and their caregivers to be aware of fireplace and wood stove safety, so they can be enjoyed safely.

Wood stove safety tips that will keep your loved one safe at home.
These wood burning stove precautions can keep your loved one safe at home. © Can Stock Photo / BackyardProduct

Top tips for wood stove and fireplace safety this winter.

#1 Schedule Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is vital for fire safety, especially when it comes to preventing creosote build-up. Creosote is a black, sticky liquid that forms when a fire burns at too low a temperature. Creosote forms in pipes and chimneys, and can easily start a dangerous fire. A professional chimney sweep can clean away all creosote traces, and check stove components to be sure they are sound, too.

Related: 7 Ways Caregivers can help Seniors Winterize at Home

#2 Get A Fire Screen

A fire screen is inexpensive and doesn’t need any installation. Simply purchase your chosen screen, and stand it in front of the fire. It’s a simple item, but it plays a huge part in fire safety by shielding people, furniture, and carpets from errant sparks.

#3 Choose The Correct Wood

Not all wood is created equal. If you throw any old wood on the fire or in the stove, you run the risk of incorrect burning and subsequent creosote buildup. Hard woods are the best fuel – choose oak, ash, beech, maple or hickory. Wood should be cut, split, and left to dry for at least a year before burning. Make sure wood is stored in a dry place.

#4 Start The Fire Correctly

Never use lighter fluid or anything of that ilk to start a fire – it could cause an explosion. Steer clear of charcoal, too. It’s designed for outdoor grilling and the fumes are not safe to breathe indoors. Always start fires using dry newspaper and small pieces of dry kindling. Add bigger pieces of wood as the fire grows. It’s best to add two or three logs at a time rather than adding individual logs.

#5 Dispose Of Ashes Correctly

Many home fires are started because of fireplace ash. A buildup of ash can also shorten the life of the fireplace. Ashes must be raked out regularly – always use an ash shovel. If possible, wait 24 hours from when the fire burned out before raking the ashes. Store ashes in a metal ash bucket outside of the home, and away from fallen leaves, wood or kindling. Only transfer ashes to the trash when they are completely cold.

#6 Be Mindful Of Ventilation

Wood burning stoves have a vent system connecting them to the chimney. Stovepipes should be as short as possible with no more than two right-angle elbows. Stovepipes must not pass through floors, ceilings, or internal walls. Make sure stovepipe inspection is included as part of annual maintenance.

Both stoves and fireplaces should have good clearance around them with plenty of space for air to move, and no combustible materials in the immediate vicinity.

#7 Place Stoves On A Stable Surface

Unlike fireplaces, stoves can be positioned wherever you like. It’s important to position stoves on a stable, fireproof surface.

Brick and tile are ideal places for a stove to rest. A stove must be positioned in a stable place with good clearance.

Regular maintenance, cleaning, and sensible precautions when choosing wood and starting a fire, all contribute to fire and stove safety. Seniors and caregivers are advised to follow these tips this winter to enjoy the warmth and comfort of an open fire with less risk of accidents.


  1. It really helped when you said that there must be an inspection done yearly to ensure that the fireplace is maintained. I will keep that in mind since we will be having one installed in our house next month. We need to have a fireplace as soon as possible so that we are ready when the winter comes. I get hypothermia easily that is why there must be something that adds warmth in our home since it is our first time living in a place where it will snow.

  2. I’m glad you talked about getting a firescreen since it’s inexpensive and doesn’t require an installation. My older brother is looking to get fireplaces installed in his new home but is worried about it being open to his children. I’ll be sure to talk him about getting a firescreen after the installation.

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