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Try asking 10 different people how they know for sure that the blazing hot days of summer have ended, and that the crisp, chilly nights of autumn are officially here, and you may very well end up with 10 different answers. The sun begins setting earlier in the day, for instance. Burnt-orange leaves appear in piles everywhere. Halloween candy and costumes show up on store shelves.

And indeed, those are all sure signs of the changing season. But here at Estates Chimney Sweep in Bucks County, fall hasn’t truly arrived until we’ve spent an evening curled up in front of our wood stove or wood fireplace with a loved one. (And yes, maybe a bottle or two of good California wine.)

But before getting too excited about sparking the first fire of the season, we’d like to share with you a very serious and somber reminder: Fireplaces that have not been properly cleaned—chimneys especially—can result in house fires, severe injuries, and even death. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), roughly 26 percent of all home fires are the result of heating equipment—primarily chimneys—that isn’t properly cleaned.

We know: That’s not exactly the mental image you want to associate with your beloved home hearth. But let’s not kid ourselves: A fireplace can be a very dangerous thing indeed if it isn’t properly maintained. And that’s exactly why we’ve compiled this fall-time fireplace preparation guide. Simply follow the steps outlined below, and you should be in perfectly good shape to enjoy your wood stove or fireplace throughout the end of the winter season.

Have Your Fireplace Properly Serviced

If you’re the owner of a wood fireplace, you should know that a highly flammable byproduct known as creosote is released whenever your wood is burned. Because creosote builds up on the inside walls of your chimney, a few small sparks are all it takes to start a potentially dangerous house fire. What’s the solution? According to the NFPA, it’s as simple as having your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional Bucks County chimney sweep—as long as that professional is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

Stock Up on Supplies

Good ol’ common sense tells us that you won’t be having much of a fire without something to burn—namely wood pellets, seasoned wood, or whichever wood stove or fireplace combustible happens to work best for your particular needs.

You may also want to replace worn-down parts of your stove or fireplace, or you may want to purchase a useful new accessory. Chimney caps, for instance, which keep rain from entering your chimney—which itself can lead to very expensive-to-repair water damage—have become especially popular. The various chimney caps and screens we offer also keep out birds, squirrels, falling leaves, and just about anything else that may unexpectedly find its way into your home.

If you’re a wood stove owner, you may want to consider stocking up on necessary accessories such as a new catalytic thermometer or a catalytic combustor, or perhaps a new ash scoop or cast iron grate.

Perform a Review of Fireplace Safety Tips

No matter what sort of wood burning hearth you own, reviewing a few common-sense safety tips with your family (and anyone else living with you) should be at the top of your fall season fireplace preparation to-do list.

  • Always bear in mind that your home fireplace is not an oil drum. Never use it to burn trash, including Christmas trees.
  • Remember the combustible material known as creosote that we discussed earlier? Due to its highly flammable nature, you should always keep anything flammable at least two feet, if not more, away from your fireplace’s opening.
  • Never clean your fireplace immediately after the fire has gone out. Instead, you’ll want to be 100 percent sure the ashes are cool before you scoop and dispose of them.
  • Your ashes should always be stored in a non-combustible container with a tight-fitting lid. Keep the container outside your home, and as far away from the house as possible.
  • If you don’t already have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, purchase some before lighting your first fire of the season. If you already have home detectors, replace the batteries in all of them as soon as possible.

If you need your chimney or fireplace cleaned or serviced by a certified and reliable professional, give the experienced staff at Estates Chimney Sweep a call. Established in 1979 as a family owned and operated business, we now have two brick-and-mortar locations and eight full-service chimney vans at the ready to perform an inspection or chimney sweep in  Bucks County. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the winter chill is already here—do yourself and your family a big favor, and get your wood stove or fireplace ready for the coming cold weather now.