Heating Your Home Safely – Fireplace Safety Tips

Moshe Amos

The “heat season” in New York always brings fresh challenges for landlords and tenants across the state. If you’re renting an apartment in NYC, your landlord must provide heating from the beginning of October to the end of May. This legal requirement states that:

  • The temperature inside your apartment should be at least 68F if the temperature outside drops to below 55F
  • The temperature inside your apartment should be at least 68F from 10 PM to 6 AM

If your landlord violates this law, you may decide to withhold rent until they comply. However, informing your landlord about the issue in writing is better, or filing a complaint through the 311 hotline.
Suppose your NYC apartment has a wood-burning fireplace. It can certainly boost your heating if the building’s radiators still run too cold. You can also install a ventless fireplace, but you need to follow building regulations and get approval from your landlord.
Remember, though, that fireplaces lead to around 15,000 fires in the U.S. every year. If you have young children or elderly family members, you want to keep them safe from accidental burns and respiratory problems, too. Follow this guide to enjoy your fireplace and heat your home safely every year.

Fireplace Basics: Top Tips to Maintain Your Fireplace

Four main things make a fireplace an active hazard:

  • Poor maintenance
  • Overfilled fireplace
  • Blocked chimneys
  • Flammable objects around the fireplace

While a ventless fireplace needs less maintenance than a wood-burning fireplace, you still need to take the proper precautions to avoid fire damage. Follow the tips below to use your fireplace safely.

Wood-Burning Fireplace Maintenance Tips

  1. Use The Right Fuel

Avoid using chemicals like gasoline or kerosene in your fireplace, or painted, moldy, or rotten wood. These could release toxic chemicals into your home. Instead, use dry kindling or newspaper to start your fire, and use locally-sourced firewood. Hardwoods typically burn longer than softwoods, but both must be completely dry to burn well.

  1. Check the Chimney

If excess carbon particles accumulate in your chimney, they can lead to a fire. They can also block the vent, leading to smoke and carbon monoxide poisoning. Check your chimney cap mesh and masonry for damage, and cut any overhanging tree limbs that may potentially catch fire or otherwise damage your chimney. Get a professional chimney cleaning every year to avoid fire damage.

  1. Clean the Hearth After Use

Don’t let ash build up in your fireplace because it may hide embers that could catch fire again. Scoop out the ashes once the fireplace is completely cold. Wear heatproof gloves for safety. Use a handheld vacuum cleaner to remove the fine ash particles from your fireplace.

  1. Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Regularly

A clean chimney keeps carbon monoxide levels low. Still, this deadly gas is completely odorless, and you need to know if you’re at risk. Opt for a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector to monitor both gases every time you light your fireplace.

Ventless Fireplace Maintenance Tips

1.      Cool Completely Before Cleaning

A ventless fireplace takes about half an hour to cool down enough to handle. If the glass face is still warm, don’t attempt to open or clean the inside of the fireplace. Otherwise, you could risk fire damage and injury.

2.      Pay Attention to The Log Arrangement

Take a picture of your ventless fireplace before taking the logs out. They’re arranged to reduce vent blockage, soot, and carbon monoxide. Replace the logs in the correct order once you finish cleaning the fireplace.

3.      Do A Visual Inspection

Check the fireplace for dark stains, soot, dirt, embers, and ash. Gather the tools you’ll need, such as a vacuum cleaner or vinegar solution, to clean soot stains.

4.      Use Compressed Air to Clean Ducts and Tubes

A can of compressed air works wonders to remove dust, dirt, and lint from your fireplace inlets. Clean all the air ducts and tubes every three months or more frequently if:

  • You live in a dusty environment or have fur-shedding pets
  • The flames change color from blue to orange, yellow, or red, which may indicate soot or carbon monoxide.

5.      Cleaning the Glass

A ventless fireplace glass face is supposed to withstand high heat, but avoid using your regular oven cleaner, especially if it contains ammonia. Paper towels and abrasive cleaners are also unsuitable for fireplace glass. Instead, use a mild glass cleanser and cloth. To clean both sides of the glass, remove it from the fireplace and put it on a towel to avoid cracks and scratches.

General Fireplace Maintenance Tips

Whether your fireplace is wood-burning or ventless, here are some extra tips that enhance safety when heating your home:

  • Never leave the fireplace unattended. If you’re leaving the house, ensure the fire is entirely out.
  • Keep fuel at least three feet away from the fireplace. In this case, fuel means anything flammable, including paper, cardboard, plastic, cloth, tissues, matches, etc.
  • Store your fireplace tools safely away from children’s reach. These include lighters, matches, brooms, tongs, and pokers.
  • Add a safety screen in front of your fireplace to protect yourself and your loved ones from accidental burns.
  • Your fire extinguisher should always be within reach. Also, keep a fire blanket at hand to suppress small fires.

Fire Damage from The Fireplace? Restore Your Home Today

A fireplace is a beautiful feature in any home, and the tips above should help to keep you safe and warm. Unfortunately, that cozy fireplace ambiance still poses a risk of fire damage. If a fire gets out of hand, call NYTDR as soon as possible. We specialize in restorations for New York homes and apartments after a fire, including soot and smoke damage. NYTDR handles:

  • Insurance management: We intervene on your behalf to get the proper settlement for fire damage restoration at zero cost to you.
  • Restoration design: Our expert home designers help you visualize your home to restore it to pre-fire damage or create a brand-new space.
  • Construction: We handle the contracting and on-site construction work from start to finish for your peace of mind.

Talk to NYTDR about restoration after fire damage. Contact us online for your free consultation, or call 212.206.1300 today.


Moshe Amos

Moshe has more over 15 years as a licensed contractor in the New York City area. 

As a New York State-licensed Mold Assessor, he is especially knowledgeable about mold assessment and remediation.


Fire & Water Damage ‧ Mold Remediation ‧ Asbestos & Lead ‧ All Abatement ‧ Total Renovation