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7 Tips: Fireplace and Wood Stove Safety



An open fire or wood burning stove makes for a lovely home feature, providing warmth, comfort and a cozy glow. However, there is always a risk when it comes to open flames. As winter approaches, it’s important for seniors and their caregivers to be aware of fireplace and wood stove safety, so they can be enjoyed safely.



#1 Schedule Regular Maintenance


Regular maintenance is vital for fire safety, especially when it comes to preventing creosote build-up. Creosote is a black, sticky liquid that forms when a fire burns at too low a temperature. Creosote forms in pipes and chimneys, and can easily start a dangerous fire. A professional chimney sweep can clean away all creosote traces, and check stove components to be sure they are sound, too.



#2 Get A Fire Screen


A fire screen is inexpensive and doesn’t need any installation. Simply purchase your chosen screen, and stand it in front of the fire. It’s a simple item, but it plays a huge part in fire safety by shielding people, furniture, and carpets from errant sparks.


Not all wood is created equal. If you throw any old wood on the fire or in the stove, you run the risk of incorrect burning and subsequent creosote buildup. Hard woods are the best fuel – choose oak, ash, beech, maple or hickory. Wood should be cut, split, and left to dry for at least a year before burning. Make sure wood is stored in a dry place.


#4 Start The Fire Correctly


Never use lighter fluid or anything of that ilk to start a fire – it could cause an explosion. Steer clear of charcoal, too. It’s designed for outdoor grilling and the fumes are not safe to breathe indoors. Always start fires using dry newspaper and small pieces of dry kindling. Add bigger pieces of wood as the fire grows. It’s best to add two or three logs at a time rather than adding individual logs.


#5 Dispose Of Ashes Correctly


Many home fires are started because of fireplace ash. A buildup of ash can also shorten the life of the fireplace. Ashes must be raked out regularly – always use an ash shovel. If possible, wait 24 hours from when the fire burned out before raking the ashes. Store ashes in a metal ash bucket outside of the home, and away from fallen leaves, wood or kindling. Only transfer ashes to the trash when they are completely cold.


Wood burning stoves have a vent system connecting them to the chimney. Stovepipes should be as short as possible with no more than two right-angle elbows. Stovepipes must not pass through floors, ceilings, or internal walls. Make sure stovepipe inspection is included as part of annual maintenance.


Both stoves and fireplaces should have good clearance around them with plenty of space for air to move, and no combustible materials in the immediate vicinity.


#7 Place Stoves On A Stable Surface


Unlike fireplaces, stoves can be positioned wherever you like. It’s important to position stoves on a stable, fireproof surface.


Brick and tile are ideal places for a stove to rest. A stove must be positioned in a stable place with good clearance.


Regular maintenance, cleaning, and sensible precautions when choosing wood and starting a fire, all contribute to fire and stove safety. Seniors and caregivers are advised to follow these tips this winter to enjoy the warmth and comfort of an open fire with less risk of accidents.


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Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips


1. Think ahead.

When redesigning a kitchen, put function first, says interior designer Jacqui Hargrove. "There's no ideal kitchen shape," she says. "Whether it's a galley or U- or L-shaped, plan for the sink, fridge and cooktop to form a triangle, with no more than 6 feet between each for ease of movement."


2. Make room for storage.

"The biggest mistake people make at the planning stage is not allowing for enough storage," Jacqui says. "Use every nook and cranny. Put overhead cabinets right up to the ceiling, rather than leaving a gap on top that collects dust." Consider deep drawers for easier access to pots and pans, and include enough storage for appliances that otherwise would clutter up countertops.


3. See the light.

Unlike in other rooms of the house, overhead lighting is insufficient in kitchens, says electrician Richard Terode. "In the kitchen, you don't want the light behind you, casting a shadow on the workspace. You need it positioned to fall in front of you." He likes under-cabinet lights because they shine directly on countertops.


4. Power play.

Be sure there are appropriate power sources for relocated or new appliances. Many people realize too late that they don't have the right gas or electric lines, Richard says. Plumber Stuart McGroder also suggests measuring appliances to ensure that they fit comfortably into allocated spaces. "If a dishwasher is crammed in, it could push up against the hose and won't drain properly," Stuart says.


5. Space and surface.

There's no such thing as too much counter space. Choose a surface that's easy to work on and care for. But keep in mind that grout between tiles is hard to maintain and that stainless steel will scratch very easily.


6. Start fresh.

Don't reuse appliances or items from the old kitchen. It may seem as if you're saving money, but an old appliance will stick out like a sore thumb in a new environment, says Jacqui. Find other ways to economize. "You don't have to spend $100 on a drawer handle when cheaper ones still look fantastic," she says. "The same goes for countertops."



7. Safety first.

Make your kitchen as safe and family-friendly as possible by planning for good visibility to backyard and indoor play areas from the cooking area, suggests Dorothy Bell, a home safety expert. Also consider such safety-conscious elements as rounded countertops, slip-resistant flooring and ovens located at adult height to minimize the chances of accidental burns. (For more tips, visit usa.safekids.org.)


8. Clear the air.

A range hood helps ventilate cooking odors, says appliance consultant James Moore. "Buy one that's efficient, quiet and vented outside," he advises.


9. Trash talk.

Don't forget to plan for garbage and recycling bins. Do you want built-in bins cleverly disguised behind a cabinet door, or a sleek, stainless-steel garbage container that's positioned out of the way?


10. Look out below

When it comes to flooring, consider slip-resistance, ease of maintenance and porosity, suggests consultant Craig Verdon. Stone floors, which are somewhat porous, for instance, may need periodic resealing. If so, ask how often, and think about whether you want to deal with that process. "Hardwood floors are beautiful, but be aware that they wear out faster by the fridge, stove and sink than other areas," he notes. "Hard, natural stone works wonderfully, and the earthy look and feel of it is very popular."