Is It Safe to Use a Fireplace That Has Not Been Used In Years?

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As a homeowner, you might find yourself asking, is it safe to use a fireplace that has not been used in years? Or, could there be a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if I do? These are important questions, and we’re here to guide you through them.

Operating an unused fireplace can be dangerous due to the buildup of soot, creosote, and other debris, creating hazardous gases, such as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can be deadly if inhaled in high enough concentrations. Therefore, it’s crucial to know how to check for this deadly gas to ensure your safety before using such a fireplace.

If you decide to use your unused fireplace, it’s best to have it professionally cleaned and inspected first to ensure it is safe.

This guide will help you understand what needs to be done before you operate an unused fireplace safely.   

Is It Safe to Use a Fireplace That Has Not Been Used In Years?

woman reading a book about how to check fireplace

While some people may feel that using an old fireplace is perfectly safe, the truth is that it can be quite dangerous. This is because, over time, fireplaces can build up a significant amount of soot and other debris. To mitigate these risks, ensuring safe chimney operation is crucial, particularly before the cold season begins.

Using a fireplace that has not been cleaned for an extended period can lead to fire hazards due to the buildup of creosote and debris. This poses significant risks to your home’s safety and endangers you and your family.

Suppose you’ve just moved into a new home with an unused fireplace. Is it safe to use this old, forgotten fireplace? That would also be a big no no.

To safely use an old fireplace, professionals must thoroughly clean and inspect it before lighting a fire. This may include removing any buildup of ash or soot from the interior surfaces of the fireplace, as well as checking for any cracks or damage that could cause dangerous sparks or embers to escape.

Animals are another factor to consider when using an old fireplace. If you suspect rodents or other animals may have taken up residence inside the chimney, it’s best to call a professional to remove them before using the fireplace again.

Ultimately, if you are unsure whether an old fireplace is safe, it’s always best to consult a professional for a thorough chimney inspection. You can safely enjoy your unused fireplace for many years with the proper care and attention

Why It’s Important to Inspect and Clean an Old Unused Fireplace

As we’ve discussed, an unused fireplace and chimney can be home to all sorts of dangers if left unattended. Inspecting and cleaning your unused fireplace before using it again is essential.

That said, here are the main reasons you must inspect and clean your old unused fireplace before using it:

1. To Prevent the Toxic Buildup of Gasses and Fumes

Over time, smoke and gases can build up in an unused fireplace. This can result in toxic fumes and noxious odors that can harm your health.

Some common gases and fumes that can build up in an unused fireplace include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and more.

2. To Ensure That the Chimney Is Safe and Functional

In addition to removing built-up gases and fumes from your unused fireplace, inspect your chimney to ensure it’s safe and functional.

This can involve checking for cracks, corrosion, obstructions, or other damage that could compromise safety.

3. To Keep Your Health and Home Safe

Finally, inspecting and cleaning your unused fireplace and chimney can help protect your health and your home’s structural integrity.

Because an old fireplace may have animals living in the chimney, it can be a host for harmful bacteria and toxins released into the air when you light a fire.

Additionally, if your fireplace has not been used in a while, creosote buildup or other debris could lead to a chimney fire.

Hiring a professional to inspect your fireplace and chimney at least once a year can help ensure they are safe.

After your unused fireplace and chimney have been inspected, make sure to follow these safety tips:

  • Only burn dry, seasoned wood
  • Never leave a fire unattended
  • Use a metal screen or glass doors to keep sparks from flying out
  • Keep flammable objects at least three feet away from the fireplace
  • Don’t burn garbage, paper, or green wood in your fireplace
  • Don’t overload the fireplace with too much wood
  • Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house 

Overall, if you want to use your old unused fireplace again safely, it’s essential to take the time to inspect and clean it thoroughly.

Why You Should Hire a Professional to Inspect and Sweep Your Old Fireplace

There’s a significant difference between cleaning an unused fireplace yourself and hiring a professional to inspect and sweep your old fireplace.


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If you’re trying to use an old, unused fireplace in your home, you must be aware of the hazards or safety issues it can cause. This is why we highly recommend hiring a pro to inspect and sweep your fireplace before using it.

Chimney contractors can look for any signs of damage, such as cracks or leaks. They can also ensure that your fireplace is vented correctly and sealed so that no dangerous fumes or smoke will escape your home.

Additionally, they can properly clean and remove any soot or debris that may have accumulated inside the fireplace over time.

How to Inspect an Old Fireplace Yourself

While it’s important to have your fireplace inspected by a professional periodically to ensure it is safe to use, you can also take some steps to inspect an old fireplace yourself.

Simply follow the guidelines below:

Things You’ll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Work gloves
  • Ladder
  • Vacuum
  • Broom

DIY Steps

Here are simple DIY steps you can take to inspect your old fireplace:

1. Inspect the Firebox

The firebox includes the fireplace’s glass, screen, and interior surfaces. Check for cracks or other damage, and check for any firebox deterioration.

2. Examine the Hearth

The hearth is the surface on which your fireplace rests. It can be susceptible to wear and tear, so check for cracks or other damage.

Use a broom to sweep out accumulated ash and soot, and vacuum any dust or debris. Once those are out, you can use a flashlight to inspect the chimney and flue, looking for any damage or buildup.

3. Look for Signs of Creosote Buildup

Creosote buildup is common in older fireplaces and can lead to dangerous fires if improperly cleaned. Using the flashlight, check for creosote buildup in the hearth and chimney flue. 

Creosote is a black or brown substance that can build up in your chimney. It comprises tar, soot, and other chemicals released when you burn wood.

Consult a professional for safe removal if you notice creosote buildup on the chimney or flue walls.

4. Check the Damper and Flue

When you’re not using your fireplace, checking the damper and flue is a good idea. Make sure that they’re both clean and in good condition. You don’t want animals living in the chimney and don’t want to start a fire because you neglected your chimney’s condition.

That’s why it’s important to hire a professional to inspect your fireplace and chimney at least once a year. This way, you can ensure they’re both safe to use.

5. Ascertain the Chimney Structure

The final step in inspecting an old fireplace is assessing the chimney structure. Is it structurally sound? This means you look for cracks, holes, and damage. Is it free of debris?

Check the inside and outside of the chimney for any signs of blockages. Animals and birds could cause this. So could debris like leaves and branches.

If you notice anything that looks off, consult a professional to help with any repairs or cleaning.


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Tips When Using an Old Fireplace After Having It Cleaned

Now that you’ve had your old fireplace cleaned and inspected, taking some safety precautions when using it is essential.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid using flammable liquids or materials near an open flame, and keep children and pets away from the area.
  • Always use a fireplace screen and grate to prevent sparks from flying out and starting a fire.
  • Never leave your fireplace unattended while it is in use.
  • Keep flammable materials such as paper, carpet, or other decorations at least 6 inches from the fireplace.
  • Clean out any ash or soot after each use to prevent buildup that could lead to a fire hazard.
  • Use dry and seasoned wood to avoid exposing your chimney and fireplace to soot buildup.

With the right precautions and maintenance, an old fireplace can be a safe and enjoyable part of your home.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re using an old fireplace that’s been sitting unused for years or looking to clean and inspect a fireplace in a new home, it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep your family safe.

Hiring a professional to inspect and sweep your old fireplace ensures that any potential risks or dangers will be addressed and properly managed.


How much does a chimney sweep cost?

Typically, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200 for a basic chimney sweep service.

The cost of a chimney sweep can vary depending on the size and type of fireplace and other factors. The costs may be higher if your fireplace requires extensive cleaning or repairs.

How often should a fireplace be swept?

The National Fire Protection Association recommends having your fireplace swept at least once a year, especially if you use it frequently.

However, this may vary depending on your home and the type of fireplace you have. As always, consult an expert for recommendations on how often your fireplace should be swept and maintained.

Can I sweep the chimney myself?

While some homeowners may be comfortable using professional-grade equipment to clean and inspect their chimneys, hiring a professional for this task is generally recommended.

This will ensure that your fireplace is properly cleaned and inspected and that any repairs or maintenance tasks are handled safely and correctly.

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Thomas Green

Thomas has worked in the Chimney & Fireplace field for over 12 years. He is an expert in his trade and loves to help People with their needs. Thomas Write helpful articles so that homeowners can make the most informed decisions about their fireplace and chimney.