In an effort to prepare everyone for the cool days ahead, it is important to know how to properly build a wood fire in a cold fireplace. Starting with an open damper and a clean chimney are only the first steps, but they are two of the most important. From there it’s a breeze, literally. To make it as painless as possible, we have a series of steps that will result in a beautiful fire in no time at all.
The problem that happens with an unused fireplace is that the air shifts within the flue, meaning that instead of the draft going up and out of the chimney, the cold air sinks. You will notice if you open the damper and feel a rush of cold air that the chimney’s draft has reversed. To light a fire with a reverse draft is to have a room full of smoke, as the smoke takes the path of least resistance right into your living space. This can be hazardous to your health and to your home as the excess smoke and byproducts from the wood are released into the air you breathe and can settle into the fabric of rugs, carpet, and furniture.
To get the air going in the right direction once again, it is a good idea to pre-heat the flue. Make sure that your damper is completely open. This is a major step that some people forget to do and will always force smoke into your home. Push the wood grate as far back in the firebox as possible. This will encourage smoke to go up the chimney instead of out into your room. After putting together your normal assortment of wood, kindling, and/or fire starter, light a rolled up newspaper and hold it under the flue. The intense heat will force a proper upward draft and you can then light the woodpile as you would normally. Having an established draft will also result in more heat for your room. Don’t close the damper at all until the firebox is warm and there is a good set of glowing embers.
Having an inch of ash in your hearth will produce hotter fires, which will keep your logs from smoldering too much. Keep your fire well stocked with dry, seasoned wood that produces minimal amount of pollutants. Not only will you be healthier, but your chimney also won’t be coated with creosote as quickly. This tar buildup is not only unsightly, but it can cause fires if not taken care of. After a long summer season of no use, there are critters and debris that could also affect the effectiveness of your chimney. This is why getting your chimney swept and inspected is so important! Call us today.