You would think the actual fire itself in a fireplace would be the most elementary part of using the appliance. Often, it’s the most problematic. Sometimes, just getting a good fire started is challenging. Burning the wood at max efficiency isn’t always easy. Preventing excess smoke can be difficult.
Well, there’s no need to worry. Here are some tips on fixing wood burning mistakes that will help you create perfect fires every time.
1. Wet wood
If you want to send smoke signals to your friends across the valley, just start your fire with a bunch of wet (green; unseasoned) wood. If you want a nice, efficient fire in your fireplace, stick with wood that’s fully dry. Wet wood creates excess smoke (see below) and won’t burn completely, meaning you’ve got volume in your firebox that’s doing you no good.
2. The wrong kind of wood for the kind of fire you want
Many people don’t give this fact much thought: hard wood burns longer; soft wood burns quicker. Hard wood such as oak, maple, beech and ash are ideal when you want a long-burning fire. These woods create less smoke than softwoods and leave hot coals which can start the next long fire. Soft wood like cedar, red pine and fir is ideal when you want a fast fire for a relatively short period of time. A soft wood fire is easier to get started than fire with hard wood, but you’ll get a little more smoke and no red-hot embers left over.
3. Getting a fire started
First, never use lighter fluid, charcoal lighter or any other accelerant to start a fire (see below.) For a fire to start and burn, oxygen is required. When setting your logs, start with kindling at the bottom, then, on a rack, some thin logs, and on top of that your main fire logs. Don’t over-pack this arrangement. With sufficient air, you’ll get a quality fire started in the shortest amount of time.
4. Excess smoke – drafting issues
If you’re getting backed-up smoke in your house, the problem could be unseasoned logs – or it could be an obstruction in the flue. Make sure the damper is fully open. If smoke is still present, you may have excess creosote buildup in the flue or some other type of air-flow obstruction such as leaves, twigs or other debris. If this is the case, have your chimney professionally cleaned.
5. Fire is too hot
An excessively hot fire with leaping flames can lead to a chimney fire. First don’t overload the firebox. Second, never use charcoal in a fireplace as it burns far hotter and produces much more carbon monoxide than wood logs. Third, never use accelerants like gasoline or lighter fluid, because they can cause large, unexpected flare-ups that may ignite creosote present in the chimney.
These tips will help you produce safe, robust fires that burn and last the way you want them to. Now that you’re on your way to becoming a fire expert, maybe it’s time to have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned to avoid chimney fires and poor performance.
Chimney Solutions of Indianapolis is here to help with all your chimney needs including inspections, cleaning, repair, component replacement and appliance installation. Schedule and appointment or get your questions answered at (317) 757-6979.