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Tips for starting a fire in a cold fireplace

When you light a fire in your fireplace, are you greeted with a face — or even a room — full of smoke? Often, a backdraft of smoke into your home when you light a fire is a sign that your chimney is too cold. Cold, dense air fills the chimney, blocking the smoke from rising up and out of the chimney as it should. Once the chimney warms, the fireplace and chimney work together as they ought to keep smoke out of your home. This problem is especially when the chimney is located on an exterior wall of a home, where it doesn’t have the home’s structure to insulate the air with in.

If you suffer this problem regularly, you don’t have to deal with the smoke each time you light a fire. By following some simple tips, you can have your cold chimney drafting properly as soon as the fire begins to roar.

Tip 1: Open your damper in advance.

Your damper seals the warm air of your home from the cold air of your chimney. Opening your damper a half an hour or so before you light the fire can allow some of the warm air from your home to enter the chimney flue so that your fire isn’t combating the freezing cold air inside your chimney.

Tip 2: Preheat your flue.

If you don’t like to keep your damper open to lose warm air from your home, you also can preheat your flue manually. To do so, tightly roll newspapers into two or three batons. Light the end of one of the batons, and hold it up near your damper. Continue this process until you feel the warm air and see the smoke from the newspapers flowing upward into the chimney.

Tip 3: Build a hot, efficient fire.

A hot, efficient fire will warm your chimney faster, lowering your risk of having smoke flow backward. Start by leaving a bed of ashes — 1 to 2 inches will do — at the bottom of your firebox. This will insulate the fire and help it to burner hotter faster. Make sure you are using dry seasoned firewood to create the hot fire your fireplace needs to burn as efficiently as possible and warm the chimney quickly.

Tip 4: Build an upside down fire.

An upside down fire is an easy way to preheat your flue before your fire starts bellowing a lot of smoke. As the name suggest, an upside down fire is built in the reverse order one usually builds a fire: The largest logs are placed on the bottom in one direction, with another layer on top; slightly smaller logs go on the next layer; the kindling goes at the top, and your newspaper or fire starter tops the entire stack of wood. When you light the newspaper at the top, it will warm the chimney to correct the draft, and the larger pieces of wood below it will ignite in a full fire.

If you follow all of these tips and your fireplace continues to smoke, call Your Chimney Sweep. You may have something else affecting your draft, and our chimney experts will help you to diagnose and correct your drafting problem.

By Joe Sauter on February 10th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment