Nothing warms the heart more during the chilly winter months than lounging by the fire in your home. The smells of the natural wood serve as the perfect antidote for the frost and snow outside – and the flames can be relaxing and calming. Furthermore, it is a wonderful energy-efficient way of reducing your heating bills and bringing warmth into your apartment or house without turning up the thermostat. However, it is important to check that the fireplace is in good working order, that the equipment is up to order and can be used safely, and that any landlords, co-homeowners, and roommates are ready to accept the duties involved for caring for a fireplace. Before lighting your first fire of the season, use the following guide to properly prepare for the safety hazards and other responsibilities involved for owning and using a fireplace.
Hold the Match: First Steps for Homeowners or Renters With a Fireplace
One of the most important steps – to be completed before any other preparations are begun – is to check if the fireplace can even be legally used. If you rent your apartment, remember that it is incredibly important to check in with your landlord or housing management company to see if the fireplace can be used, or if it is merely meant to serve as decoration. When your landlord gives the go-ahead to begin using the fireplace, be sure to ask him or her if any inspections have taken place before you moved into your home or apartment. You should also check your lease documents, or any other materials you have about the apartment from your housing management company, to see if the fees for inspection, upkeep, and maintenance are covered by the management, or must come out of your pocket. If these terms are not defined, or if you would like to attempt lowering your financial responsibilities, take the time to try negotiating with your landlord.
Depending upon the safety restrictions, insurance policies, and city codes involved, you may unfortunately learn that using the fireplace this year is not a safe possibility, nor would it be legally permissible. If this is the case, it might be important to refer back again to your lease documentation, and check if there has been a misrepresentation about the working order of the fireplace. Many people are able to renegotiate a lower monthly rent cost by pointing out the faulty nature of their fireplace, therefore being able to put more money towards heating, electric, and other monthly utility costs.
Homeowner Responsibilities: Dividing Duties Involved in Fireplace Ownership
Once you know that you can in fact use the fireplace, you have to make sure the responsibilities involved in keeping the flue clean, maintaining any chimney issues, and keeping the fire alarms in working order. These responsibilities should be clearly documented for safety and legal purposes, if they are not already outlined in your lease documents. Without a doubt, it is your responsibility to keep the hearth clean and free of any flammable materials.
If you are going to be the one using the fire, it is completely your responsibility to educate yourself on how to best build and light a fire. Many community-based, local organizations – such as your local Girl or Boy Scouts chapter – offer free lessons to the public on fireplace responsibility and safety. Other organizations offer these lessons for a small fee, and some towns also offer educational workshops under the umbrella of safety and fire prevention initiatives. Take advantage of these opportunities, even if they involve a fee: they will be able to educate you on energy efficiency, proper fire building methods, and what kinds of wood and seasoning methods are best for use in your own fire.
Inspections and Repairs: When to Enlist the Assistance of a Professional
Another key responsibility of owning a fireplace is scheduling preventative inspection and maintenance appointments with qualified specialists. Whether or not you perform cleaning within your fireplace, you will certainly need to have the fireplace inspected and thoroughly cleaned annually by a professional. By scheduling an appointment with heating and air Indianapolis specialists before the start of the winter season, you can be sure that your needs as a fireplace owner will be taken care of before you want to light your first fire of the year.