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Tips For Starting A Cold Fireplace

As outside temperatures get colder, it becomes more difficult to effectively start your fireplace. In addition to having trouble keeping kindling lit, many homeowners experience problems with smoke blow-back or poor drafting for several minutes after the fire is started. Caused by what is known as a “cold fireplace,” these performance issues can often be easily remedied. The following tips can help you better start a fire in your cold fireplace!

Tips For Starting A Cold Fireplace Image - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MichiganUse the right firewood.

Not all wood is created equal. The kind of firewood you use can have a major impact on fireplace performance. This includes how efficiently your fire burns, how much heat it gives off, or how much smoke is produced. To maximize fireplace performance, homeowners should try to only use seasoned hardwoods. These include ash, birch, and oak in their indoor fireplaces. Wood should be seasoned for at least six months. This is to remove the maximum amount of moisture. The lower the moisture content in the wood, the less smoke is produced and the more efficiently it burns. Freshly cut wood, as well as soft woods such as firs and pines, are slow to ignite. They also burn sluggishly and create more smoke. To start your fire quickly, intermix kindling with your stack of firewood. This helps all the wood ignite quickly instead of one log at a time.

Open the damper all the way.

Many homeowners have fallen prey to the old wives’ tale that a partially open damper is best when starting a fire. However, the opposite is true. Partially closing the damper can cause more smoke to blow back into your home. Opening the damper fully allows fresh air to be drawn down the chimney. This helps to draft the smoke and gas from the fire up and out. For effective fire safety, keep the damper completely open from when the first kindling is lit until the last coal has extinguished.

Warm the flue.

Warming the flue is one of the most effective ways to successfully start a cold fireplace. The air temperature outside is drastically different than the air temperature inside during the winter. Due to this, it can be difficult for a fireplace to properly draft between the warm and cold air. Without warming the flue, the cold air in the chimney will drop as the warm air from the fire begins to rise. This can push any smoke and gas back down the chimney and into your home. While this problem often corrects itself after several minutes, it can leave you coughing. It also creates a smoky odor in your home and even stain your furnishings or décor.

To warm the flue, place a small bundle of lit kindling or newspaper under the open damper for several minutes. Taking the time to complete this step can slowly warm the air in the flue, preventing the smoke blow-back when the main logs are lit.

Starting a cold fireplace in the winter doesn’t have to be a chore! By following these tips, you can get a great fire every time, no matter the temperature outside. For more information on starting a cold fireplace, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!

Chimney Terminology: Chimney or Flue or Vent?

Chimney Flue or Vent - Ann Arbor, MI - Clean Sweeps of MIDespite its simple appearance, your chimney is much more complicated than it might seem. While chimneys may decorate your roofline, they serve a much more important purpose than for mere aesthetics.

Because there are a variety of different kinds of chimneys, many homeowners do not know the correct chimney terminology to use when describing their fireplace system. Below is a discussion of three of the most commonly confused fireplace terms: chimney, flue, and vent.


The chimney is the vertical stack that extends from the top of your roofline, allowing smoke, gas, or other products of combustion to exit your home. A chimney may pass through other parts of the house before exiting your home; this is especially true in homes where the chimney is not on an exterior wall or is on the first floor.

Chimneys are typically constructed of bricks, mortar, or other masonry or are factory built and made of stainless steel. Some factory built chimneys are covered with a decorative chimney chase or siding or other roofing materials to match the rest of the house.

In a discussion of the parts of your fireplace system, the chimney tends to be the exterior portion that is exposed to the elements.


The term flue refers to the passage by which smoke, gas, or products of combustion are moved to the outdoors. Ducts, pipes, vents, and even chimneys can all be considered types of flues. The purpose of the flue is to protect the rest of the home from the heat of the byproducts of combustion caused by a fire.

Most homes with modern fireplaces have a lined flue. Many flues are lined with tiles, although they may need to be relined over time due to damage or decay. Chimneys with damaged flue liners are often repaired with cast in place or stainless steel liners to ensure the flue has no gaps or holes through with hot air, gas, embers, or sparks could escape.


Vents are similar to fireplaces and flues in that they may pass through other parts of the house and they do need temperature protection to prevent a transfer of heat from the vent to the surrounding building materials. However, vents are not designed to handle the high heat produced by wood burning fires. Because of this, vents are most commonly used with gas fireplaces.

Vents may exit vertically through the roof, but may also exit horizontally through a wall. Like chimneys and flues, vents allow the byproducts of combustion to exit the home while simultaneously drawing in outside air to fuel the fire. By drawing in air from the outside into a closed combustion system, fireplaces with vents are able to operate much more efficiently than their open hearth counterparts.

If you’re unsure as to whether your fireplace system has a chimney, flue, or vent, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today. Our highly trained staff can evaluate the health of your fireplace system while making sure you know the correct terminology to use for the future.

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