With the temperatures dropping below freezing, you're probably ready to chuck a few logs into your fireplace and get warm and toasty. However, before you can get a fire going, you must ensure it's prepared for safe use.

Here are some steps to get your fireplace ready for more extensive use in winter:

  • Schedule a property inspection. Have a professional take a look at your chimney to identify any damage that needs to be repaired.
  • Have your chimney cleaned. After using your fireplace the previous winter, creosote and soot may have built up in the chimney. Contact a cleaning service to clear your chimney of any debris. If you use your fireplace without having a thorough cleaning performed, sparks can fly up and ignite the creosote and soot. Don't ignore this task, as many house fires occur each year because of chimney buildup.
  • Inspect the fireplace itself. If you have brick or other materials adorning your fireplace, ensure they are in good shape. If the brick is crumbling, for instance, you'll want to have it repaired.
  • Purchase the right fuel. For wood-burning fireplaces, you need the best fuel to ensure you get more heat and less smoke. When selecting logs - whether you chop them yourself or buy them from a vendor - opt for wood that isn't as fresh. Recently logged wood tends to hold more moisture, which can create extra smoke when the wood burns. Dense wood such as oak tends to create a bigger, warmer fire.
  • Have an spark guard in place. You don't want errant embers popping out of your fireplace and onto your carpet. A glass or mesh metal guard can protect your home.
  • Keep an eye out for insects. Some creepy crawlies like to reside in wood and may become active once you bring your logs indoors. Typically, these insects remain dormant in colder temperatures, so leave your wood outside until you're ready to burn it.
  • Open your chimney flue. This allows any smoke that does accumulate to exit your home. Just be sure to close the flue when you're done with your fireplace so animals can't set up shop in the chimney. If the flue is damaged, replaced it.
  • Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. To keep your family safe and maintain your indoor air quality, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Replace batteries if necessary and test the devices once a week.