Now is the time of year for your home to shine—literally. Lights go up outside and in, trees, wreaths, pinecones, garland, and more. When it comes to decorating your home, the sky is the limit. For some, less is more. For some, the more the better! As you plan your decorations for the holidays, make sure that you always put safety first when it comes to decorating around your hearth. This doesn’t only mean the fireplace opening and the mantel. It’s important to carefully place all of the decorations in the room where a fire burns.

stockings on a chimneyDecorating the Mantel

You CAN decorate your mantel for the holidays, but it’s important that the items selected will not roll or fall off the mantel, nor reach the flame when the fire is lit. Because of this danger, any stockings which are hung from the mantel should be removed when the fire is lit. They should never be left hanging while a fire is burning no matter how large the flame is. With that in mind, be sure that all garland and lights which are on the mantel are not hanging below the opening of the fireplace.

  • Use nails, hooks, wood staples, or tacks to attach decorations to the mantel. Using adhesive products will be affected by the heat of the fire and may become detached, allowing decorations to fall into the fireplace. You can install these and leave them hidden year-round, changing out the decorations for each season, or replace them each year when putting up your holiday décor.
  • Place loose decorations in dishes, vases, baskets, or even plates to prevent them from rolling or falling into the fireplace. Some of our favorite displays are simple items like ornaments, pinecones, or candy canes stacked in a clear vase or bowl.
  • Only hang items from the masonry above your mantel when specifically okayed by your chimney professional. When your chimney is in good shape and your liner and masonry are intact, this should not be a safety issue. However, to avoid damaging your masonry, ask your chimney sweep to install a hook that you can leave year-round and which won’t become a hazard.
  • Use free-standing floor decorations on the mantel to add height when you are unsure about hanging something from the chimney above the mantel. This can also be accomplished by using vases of different sizes and heights and by placing tall items inside vases (such as tree branches, etc.).

Decorating the Outer Hearth

If your fireplace has a step that protrudes out of the fireplace and into your room, this is considered the outer hearth. Essentially, it is the floor of the fireplace. You may not have a step, but you may see firebrick that protrudes into the room. This is still considered the outer hearth. It may just be right in from of the fireplace opening, or as often in steps, they reach across the whole room. Homeowners love to decorate this space, and when done safely, it can add personality and beauty to your home.

  • Place free-standing decorations far enough from the fireplace opening that they will not reach the fireplace if they fall over. This includes even your Christmas tree. If you are placing a tree on the outer hearth step, even some distance away, make sure it is far enough away. If you have a 7-foot tree, place it 8+ feet away from the fireplace opening.
  • Hang garland and lights from the FRONT of the outer hearth step. Do not attach these items to the top side of the step because this is a serious fire risk.
  • Do not decorate your outer hearth with organic materials such as dried plants or pine cones. These dry out when exposed to heat and will easily ignite from a stray spark or high temperatures.

Fire Safety For a Safe Christmas

No matter how good your fireplace is, how efficient it is, and how well you place and attach your decorations, your fireplace is only as safe as how you use it. Do not use a fireplace unless you have read the manual for your unit and are well aware of how to light and maintain your fire once it’s lit. It’s not only important for you to make safety a priority, but for you to also make everyone who visits your home this season safety-aware as well. Here are our tips for the safest fire possible:

  1. Only burn the fuel that your fireplace or unit is designed to burn. You should only burn properly-seasoned firewood in your wood-burning fireplace. You should never put anything else in your gas fireplace because it is designed to burn exactly the amount of fuel that disperses from the unit. No matter what type of fireplace you have you should never burn other items such as trash and clothing. This will create a fire hazard, a ventilation problem, and will add to the creosote particle buildup in your flue.
  2. Install both carbon monoxide and smoke alarms. Make sure you check these devices every month and change the batteries when you turn back the clocks.
  3. Have your chimney and fireplace system or appliance serviced by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep annually. West Texas Chimney and Venting Solutions offers chimney sweeps and CSIA inspections year-round so that you’re never left uncertain whether or not your fireplace is safe and ready to burn.
  4. Practice fire safety and make sure everyone in your home is aware of who is allowed to light and maintain the fireplace.

This season may very well be the busiest time of year for your family and your home. It’s exciting to light the fire for the first time and to decorate for the holidays. Be sure you’re doing these things safely!

Call West Texas Chimney and Venting Solutions at 806-358-0817 and we can help you determine if your fireplace is safe for the holidays.