Cozying up to a fire is often the highlight of a cold winter's day, but it only takes one errant ember to spark a disaster. Keeping furniture too close to the fireplace can create conditions that allow a major fire to start in your home. Play it safe instead of sorry by moving all furniture a good distance from the fireplace. If your space is cramped and you infrequently light fires, go ahead and position your sofa or chairs close to the hearth and put furniture sliders on the feet so you can easily move them out of the danger zone while the fireplace is in use.
Furniture Risks Near Fireplaces
No one wants an all-steel couch. The materials most commonly used to make living room furniture tend to be highly combustible. Upholstered sofas and chairs will ignite quickly and spread to carpets, wooden tables, and other furniture if they're hit with sparks or flying embers from the log fire you built in a wood-burning fireplace.
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Not only can furniture be highly combustible but the synthetic materials used in many kinds of upholstered furniture melt quickly and spread toxic smoke and gas. So, if a spark from the fireplace ignites an upholstered couch, dangerous fumes could fill the air before residents get out of the building. You don't want to pass through a cloud of that smoke as you evacuate.
Even electric fireplaces that don't use real flames generate a great deal of heat and could damage or potentially combust upholstered furniture and other burnable materials. No matter what kind of fireplace you have, keeping furniture and other combustibles a good distance away is an important part of your fire safety plan.
Furniture Distance From Fireplaces
Generally, fire departments advise people to keep burnable objects at least 3 feet away from a fireplace. Allow at least this much space between furniture and any kind of fireplace, whether it's gas, electric, or wood-burning. (Measure from the opening of the firebox, not from the fire source itself.) Maintain the same safety zone of 3 feet for around outdoor fire pits and space heaters too.
Your wrought-iron fireplace tools may be kept within the 3-foot clearance zone while the fireplace is hot, but remove anything else from the area, including firewood, floor decor, and any greenery or decor hanging from the mantle. If your rug comes within 3 feet of the fireplace opening, roll it up while you enjoy a fire.
Fireplace Safety Tips
Furniture proximity is just one of the factors that may contribute to home fires. Creosote buildup inside the chimney can create dangerous chimney fires. Routinely clean your fireplace to prevent creosote buildup and have it inspected every year. Never operate a fireplace without a protective screen or guard in place to keep embers and sparks from flying out of the firebox. Verify that you have an appropriate working fire extinguisher before using your fireplace, never leave the fire unattended with a child or pet in the room, and never go to bed or leave the house without making sure the fire is completely extinguished.