The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) had this great article posted in their Autumn Watch booklet. I’m including it below for those of you who burn wood in your homes.
Your wood stove or fireplace
This time of year, it can be comforting to curl up beside a crackling fireplace, or gather family and friends around the warmth of a wood stove. Take the necessary steps now to ensure that wood stoves and fireplaces are operating properly and free of potential hazards.
Check stove pipes and connections. Ensure that screws are located at every joint and that each connection is a tight secure fit. Also, look for signs of dark staining or white powder (also referred to as leeching) at every joint. Rust is a clear sign that it is time to replace the stove pipe.
Check walls for excessive heat. If the wall above your fireplace or wood stove gets very hot, it could be a sign of improper chimney installation and a potential fire hazard.
Protect walls and floors from heat and sparks. Keep combustible objects away from your wood stove or fireplace and always use a properly fitted screen to cover the fireplace opening. Floors and walls should be protected with noncombustible shields.
Watch for the warning signs. Look for corrosion or rust on the outer shell of a metal chimney. Watch for bulges or corrosion of the liner as well. Loose bricks, crumbling mortar, dark stains and white powder all indicate problems with a masonry chimney. It should be repaired immediately by a certified heating contractor or mason.
When in doubt, call an expert. The safest and most practical way to handle the annual maintenance of your chimney, woodstove and fireplace is to contact a WETT*Certified Chimney Sweep. It is a relatively small investment for peace of mind.
*Wood Energy Technology Transfer