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Fire Features & your Short Term Rental

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Winter is coming! …sort of.

We’re in that weird time of year where the temperatures are in a roller-coaster, but things are finally beginning to slowly cool down, and guests stop looking at pools in listings and start looking for fire features. 

The images of a family gathering around a roaring fire in the fireplace or roasting marshmallows over a fire pit might be a tempting nugget of short term rental marketing, but home heating fires accounted for roughly 14% of structure fires between 2014 and 2018, according to the NFPA. 

So…should you let your guests use the fire features on your property, and how do you keep guests safe? 


Is a wood-burning unit safe for guests? 

We don’t recommend guest use of wood-burning fire features, and we don’t permit it in the properties we manage, for a number of reasons:

  • Not everything is burnable, and guests may not know(or care). Throwing plastics and other non-burnables in the fireplace can cause a structure fire if the materials are combustible, and certain materials can release harmful chemicals into the air when burned. 
  • Sparks from unattended wood fires can cause injury, or start a second fire if they land on combustible materials. It’s cooler now, but it’s still very dry and fires spread quickly. 
  • Improperly-built fires or improper use of the damper can cause the smoke to go into the room you’re trying to heat instead of up the chimney, or into a neighbor’s yard. 
  • Wood-buring fireplaces build up harmful creosote and soot in the chimney faster than a gas-burning unit, and require more maintenance. The damper also needs to be checked between guests, and excess ash needs to be cleared out. 
  • Gas units can be completely enclosed, keeping pets and children safe from open flames. Fireplaces can have screens in front of them, but they must be moved in order to add more wood. 
  • Firewood is expensive, and difficult to store on most properties. 
  • Many homeowner insurance policies prohibit guest use of wood-burning features for one or more of the reasons stated above. It’s a massive liability for them.  


If guests aren’t allowed to use your fireplace, make sure it’s stated clearly in your listing and in-home guide or binder. Post appropriate signage next to the fireplace as well. 

Just because the fireplace can’t be used doesn’t mean it needs to sit empty! Place decor in the fireplace so that guests know not to use it. You can add candles, rocks or gemstones, or whatever matches the theme of the room. You can also make it seasonal. Have fun with it! 



If you have a gas fire feature, go for it! 

Gas fireplaces have a variety of advantages over their wood burning counterparts when it comes to short term rentals: 

  • They burn cleaner than wood-burning features, with much less smoke, soot, and creosote buildup.
  • This also makes them easier to maintain. There’s no ash to remove between guests, and no damper to worry about. 
  • Gas fireplaces are completely enclosed. This makes them much safer than wood-burning fireplaces, especially for parents and pet-owners. Guests(and you) also won’t need to worry about any stray sparks, smoke, or carbon monoxide. It all goes up the chimney. 
  • Gas fires are much easier to control than a wood-burning fire. Guests can turn the flames up or down as they wish to heat the area to their liking. 


Don’t forget safety!

Make sure any decor near the fire feature is non-combustible. Fire features generate a lot of heat, and sometimes that’s all it takes for something to catch fire. 

Keep a fire extinguisher on the property within easy access for guests in case of emergency, and let them know where it is in their check-in information. 

Make sure you have both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed in the appropriate areas. Check their batteries and test them regularly to make sure they are working properly. 

Post clear signage with easy-to-follow instructions for guests who wish to use your fire features. Also include this information in your property guide. If it requires a key, make sure it’s in a place that’s easy for guests to find, and keep a couple backup keys in the supply closet. 

Outdoor fire features are often open-flame, even gas ones. Have signage posted in your outdoor areas near the fire feature informing guests of proper use:

  • Do not leave an open fire unattended for any reason or any length of time.
  • Make sure your guests know not to throw any trash or other objects into the fire. 
  • Keep clear defensible space in your outdoor areas. Make sure your backyard landscaping is clear of any dead leaves, branches, and other flammable material at least 7 to 10 feet around your fire feature. 


Being smart and planning ahead will ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for your fall and winter guests and help get you five-star ratings and repeat business! 


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