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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!

Burning the Proper Firewood

A blazing fire in the fireplace is made possible by selecting and burning the correct type of firewood. Well-seasoned firewood of the highest quality enables a fireplace or wood stove to burn cleaning and efficiently. Firewood that is wet or “green” may create odor, cause smoking, and contribute to rapid buildup of creosote. Burning improper firewood can even cause a chimney fire.

It's important to only burn seasoned firewood

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Well-seasoned firewood is 20 to 25 percent water, much less than the 45 percent water content of freshly cut wood. When seasoned wood is used, a fire will be easier to start, will burn cleaner, and more heat will be produced. Wood should sit for between six months and one year before burning so wind and sun can remove the water. It should be stored off the ground and protected from constant exposure to snow, rain, and other moisture.

Green wood is not as well-seasoned so the heat generated by combustion during a fire must dry the wood before the logs will burn. This consumes a large amount of energy, resulting in reduced heat distribution. The large amount of water released ends up as creosote, which deposits itself in the chimney and can create a hazardous condition.

Well-seasoned firewood is identified by darkened ends or visible splits or cracks. Each log is relatively lightweight and when two logs are hit together, a clunking sound emits. Firewood that is not well-seasoned has fresh-looking ends and is very heavy. When two green logs are struck together, a dull thud emits.

Investing in a wood shed featuring a roof and loose or open sides will allow air to circulate and dry the wood. If this is not feasible, store the wood in a sunny spot and cover the pile with a tarp during rainy or snowy weather. Wood can last for three to four years, providing plenty of fuel for many comfortable fires.

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