It is that time of year again where fireplaces and wood stoves are lit to help heat homes all across the country. Wood heat is a renewable energy source that has many benefits. However, if not careful the use of wood heat can result in problems.
The first thing to do each and every year is to have a chimney sweep clean the flue. This will remove the creosote that had built up. Creosote is the black substance that condenses in the flue or stove pipe. It is flammable. Once clean, ask the sweep to inspect the flue for any defects or fire hazards such as cracked tiles.
Check the clearance of combustible materials from the fireplace or wood stove. The needed clearance will vary depending upon the model of the wood stove. Hearths should extend at least 18 inches on the floor in all directions and of course be non combustible. the clearance from the wall depends upon use or not of a heat shield. Check your manufacturers suggestions. If the manufacturers suggestions are not available then keep combustibles 36 inches away.
Care should also be taken with the wood that is intended to be burned. Firewood should not be stored directly next to the house or inside. To do so risks bringing in wood destroying insects such as carpenter ants, termites and powder post beetles. It is better to bring in the wood as you need it. Always burn suspect wood immediately once brought inside to kill any bad bugs.
As an Ohio home Inspector I see many wood stoves and fireplaces. I even once found a hearth that was made of thin plywood. Be safe and have a warm heating season and take a look at yours and have the flue cleaned.