Open Fireplaces

in
Sheffield, United Kingdom
Level 9
720 Views

Hello all,

Very shortly I am moving house and buying a large 3 bed Victorian terrace. The house has 4 original Victorian open fireplaces (2 in bedrooms, 1 in kitchen, 1 in lounge) which I have had checked, they all work and are in good condition.

I plan on allowing Airbnb guests to have the option of a smokeless coal or wood fire in their room in the colder months as I feel this would be a nice feature to advertise in my listing and a friend of mine who has a wood burner in their bedrooms charge their guests £10 GBP (14 USD / 11 EUR) for a bucket of wood.

However, my parents (who grew up with old houses and open fireplaces) advised me against allowing guests to use the fireplace for the risk of someone getting burnt, injured and the possibility of me being sued for a lot of money and they think it's not worth it for the small amount of extra money I might make. I understand I have to take every precaution with this - provide a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, heat proof gloves, CO2 alarm, fire alarm, first aid kit and fire guards in the room plus probably public liability insurance. I also don't allow children (below the age of 12) in my Airbnb and don't have any children of my own yet.

 

I just feel a little unsure as I've had some guests who in the past have done particularly stupid things (stuck a spoon in a live toaster, boiled rice in a kettle and another guest who melted a plastic kettle on a gas hob) so I'm not sure I'd let them loose on an open fire! However I'm fortunate especially in the case of the spoon in the toaster I have a modern RCD fuseboard so the fuse blew before the guest got electrocuted...

 

What are people's general thoughts about having open fireplaces? Nice feature or bad idea? And if you have a fireplace (or wood burner) that you allow guests to use, how do you manage it and reduce the risk of people getting hurt? 

17 Replies

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Neil408  While a working fireplace is certainly a nice feature, I 've read so many posts that make it clear that guests and fire can be really problematic. 

There are so many people who think a fire is really romantic, but have never in their lives actually built a fire or understand fire safety. 

 

One host here had a guest who used the fireplace, ignored the clear instructions for using it, failed to open the flue, as instructed, filling the house with smoke, then in trying to solve the problem carried a burning log from the fireplace across the room, throwing it out on the terrace. Leaving ashes and burn marks on the floor and terrace.

 

 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Alberta, Canada
Level 10

@Sarah977 Yes, that was @Laura2592 I think she is still persevering with the fireplace.

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Orono, ME
Level 10

@Neil408 Congrats on your new house! I'm dying to know ... is your girlfriend moving with you?

 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Sheffield, United Kingdom
Level 9

Not at the moment! I'm free for now! haha

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Alberta, Canada
Level 10

@Neil408  "just feel a little unsure as I've had some guests who in the past have done particularly stupid things (stuck a spoon in a live toaster, boiled rice in a kettle and another guest who melted a plastic kettle on a gas hob) so I'm not sure I'd let them loose on an open fire!"

 

THAT. That right there is why you need to run far and fast from the idea! We offered (note past tense) our beautiful big living room fireplace for the first year or so of hosting. I had to purchase a small ozonator to mitigate the smoke damage I would invariably discover on checkout. I had guests try to cook in the fireplace. I would find half burned logs outside (!!). The final nail in the coffin was the remnant of burned clothing I discovered in the trash. 😱 It's now closed and covered up. Glad to be done with the hassle and mess. 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Jersey City, NJ
Level 10

@Neil408  It is a fantastic amenity, BUT, I would worry less about someone suing you and more about guests failing to follow directions on how to use the flue and creating a fire and smoke hazard.  You would need to be completely OCD in terms of educating guests on the dos and don'ts in messages and a house guide and even then, many will go ahead and do the totally wrong thing and create a dangerous situation. 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Alberta, Canada
Level 10

@Mark116 "even then, many will go ahead and do the totally wrong thing and create a dangerous situation." Yes, they will. 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Germany
Level 10

.

@Neil408 

 

I think offering 4 original Victorian open fireplaces to Your guests is just overkill.

 

If You want to have Your house burnt down, one will do the job easily.

 

 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Sheffield, United Kingdom
Level 9

Haha. Well the kitchen and lounge fireplaces will be for me only. Might just stick to having those and not etting my guests have a fire

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
United Kingdom
Level 10

@Neil408 I really think that is the way to go. And have a rule that they are not to light the fire in the kitchen or lounge. Once you get to know a guest, you may become comfortable that s/he can be trusted, I suppose.

Having said that, I stayed in a lovely little place in Scotland that really needed its wood burning stove, even in August, so it was good that the (remote) host did not take that attitude, supplied clear instructions and a full store of wood and let us get on with it. 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Frederick, MD
Level 10

@Neil408 I hate having an indoor fireplace when it comes to guests. We have learned some strategies over the last several years that have helped to mitigate the issues caused. 

 

- clear instructions with pictures on how to use it

-ONLY allowing a firelog (Duraflame or other brand) to be used inside. We provide one for guests and tell them the closest place to get more. We do tell guests they may be charged for fireplace cleaning if they use anything else. 

-make the indoor seasonal. We limit use for the autumn and winter. We state when we provide fireplace logs and stop giving them out in the late spring when the temperatures warm up. Though we may have guests who want a roaring fire on a 90 degree day we do not permit that. There are also burn bans in summer that help. 

 

We have a LOT of guests who book because we have a fireplace. We do state on the listing that only firelogs can be burned and I had one who was very upset when I reiterated this with the check-in.  So many people are very unsafe and uninformed on how to make a fire that catches and can be contained. It seems to be an ego thing that can be difficult to navigate as a host. My primary goal is to keep my house from burning down but some guests are sure they know how to do it without reading the instructions. 

 

@Colleen253 and @Sarah977 are right. I had a couple who did not open the flue and threw a burning firelog on the flagstone porch leaving a bunch of black stains that refuse to power wash off. We now have a cute outdoor rug to hide it. Super unsafe to carry a burning log through the house and just throw it outside. 

 

 

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Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Jersey City, NJ
Level 10

@Laura2592  Did you try a baking soda/vinegar combination?  It sometimes works miracles. 

 

Our last guests blackened, and I mean blackened one of the pots.  Usually oven cleaner gets these stains out, but not this time.  I googled around and figured, hey, what do I have to lose when I saw a hack of heating vinegar in the pot, and then adding baking soda and continuing to boil.  Did it a couple of times, boiling it down into a paste and left it over night, voila.  With the help of some steel wool the pot came clean again.  The heating step might be difficult on your flooring, but you could heat vinegar, then add the baking soda and pour over the burned parts while it is still fizzing, leave it for a bit and then wash off.  Just a thought. 

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Mark116 @Laura2592 Muriatic acid will also remove many stains from rocks and other masonry. It's easily removed stuff my powerwasher didn't make dent on.

 

Of course, vinegar and baking soda are non-toxic and you have to wear rubber gloves and a mask with the acid.

Re: Open Fireplaces

in
Frederick, MD
Level 10

@Mark116 yep.  It did absolutely nothing  unfortunately. The duraflame is some kind of chemical log so it doesn't seem to respond to any cleaner we used includingbaking soda and vinegar. Power washing and scrubbing made it a little less awful looking and hopefully it will wear off over time.  

 

So I guess that's the caveat to only allowing duraflame logs. If someone throws it on your porch you will have a permanent stain. 

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