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Are You Starting A Fire Correctly?

Sitting in front of a roaring fire is one of the most comforting – and warm – places to be during cold winter weather. However, getting a fire started is often the most difficult part of the process.

Many their best efforts, many homeowners are incorrectly starting their fires. This not only causes frustration, but can also lead to fires that burn sluggishly, need constant stoking, or burn out prematurely.

The following tips will help you start a fire correctly. While it may be different from how you’ve started fires in the past, following these tips can help you spend less time building your fire and more time enjoying it with family and friends.

1. Get the right materials

Are You Starting A Fire Correctly - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps MILong before you think about lighting your fire, it is important to make sure you have the right materials. The type of firewood you use can not only affect how well your fires start, but can also create different amounts of smoke and heat. While different people may prefer different firewood varieties, seasoned firewood should be used whenever possible. Seasoned wood, which has been allowed to cure and dry for at least six months, has much lower moisture content than freshly cut wood. These allow it to burn hotter and produce less smoke and creosote.

In addition to finding the right firewood, homeowners also need kindling to help start the fire. Softwoods such as cedar, fir, or pine are able to ignite quickly and can burn until the larger logs catch fire. Small bundles of twigs and sticks can have the same effect. While newspaper can be used, it often burns too quickly to ignite larger logs; for this reason, using smaller pieces of wood is preferable.

2. Open the damper

When the fireplace is in use, the damper needs to be open – even when starting a fire or waiting for it to extinguish. Leaving the damper even partially closed can cause smoke and dangerous gasses such as carbon monoxide [] to back up into the home.

If you’re having problems with smoke backing up into your home even when the damper is open, your home may be too airtight. Cracking a window even a few inches near the fireplace can help the fireplace vent better and prevent this from happening. Likewise, opening a window can have another unexpected benefit; letting more oxygen into your home can provide more “fuel to the fire,” creating a hotter and more efficient burn.

3. Try a top down fire

Building a top down fire can greatly impact how your fires burn, as well as how much you’ll need to stoke it. Place the largest logs on the bottom of the grate with the ends to the front and back; doing this creates better oxygen flow to the fire and keeps the fire from smoldering or burning sluggishly. Fill the fireplace with gradually smaller and smaller logs, topping the pile with kindling. As the smaller logs burn they ignite the logs underneath them, keeping the fire going and minimizing the need for stoking or rearranging logs.

Following these three fireplace tips can help you better start – and enjoy – your fires. For more information on getting the most out of your fireplace, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan at 734-668-4780 today!

How to Start a Fire with Less Smoke

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!

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