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How to Start a Fire with Less Smoke

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Sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold day can be one of life’s simplest pleasures. Even the most idyllic scenes in front of the fireplace can be interrupted by smoke blowing back into the room.

Start A Fire With Less Smoke - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MIMany homeowners are baffled by what causes excessive smoking in the fireplaces, choosing instead to avoid using their fireplaces altogether or switch to an alternative fuel source. However, there are a number of ways to reduce the amount of smoke starting a fire causes, most of which can be easily implemented the next time you build a fire.

Use seasoned firewood

Using seasoned firewood is one of the easiest ways homeowners can reduce the amount of smoke their fires produce. Fresh cut firewood can have a moisture content of as high as 45%. This water must be evaporated out of the wood before it can burn; fresh cut wood will often make loud popping sounds and smoke excessively. Seasoned firewood, on the other hand, has a moisture content of between 15-20%. The reduced moisture content allows the wood to ignite faster, burn hotter, and produce less smoke.

Build a top down fire

Most people grew up with or were taught the “log cabin” style of creating a fire, which involves stacking the wood with the smallest sticks and kindling at the bottom. While this method does end with a fire, it can be a frustrating process. Large logs shift and fall on the small fire, lots of smoke is produced, and homeowners are forced to tend and stoke the fire often to get it started.

In the top down method, the largest logs should be stacked at the bottom of the firebox with the ends at the front and back. Placing wood this way allows better air circulation through the fire. Next, continue stacking gradually smaller pieces until about half the firebox is filled, topping the stack with wood shavings, small sticks, or other kindling. As the kindling ignites, it will warm the flue and continue to ignite the wood underneath it. This means that homeowners no longer need to stoke or tend the fire and there is less smoke produced.

Open the damper

While this may seem obvious, some homeowners do not open the damper when they are trying to start a fire, falsely believing downdrafts from the chimney will extinguish their fledgling fire. Instead, keep the damper open the entire time your fireplace is in use, including while staring the fire and while waiting for it to completely extinguish. Closing the damper at any time may cause smoke to backup into the room.

Avoid fires on windy days

On an extremely windy day, there is often little you can do to avoid smoke blowing back into the room. If you can hear the wind “whistling” in or rattling the chimney, even the best technique may not prevent a smoky fire.

Call a chimney sweep

If you’ve tried the above techniques and are still having issues with smoky fires, you may need the assistance of a certified chimney sweep. At Clean Sweeps of Michigan, our highly trained expert staff can help identify the cause of your smoking issues and get you back to enjoying your fireplace again!