Have you been struggling to get a strong fire going in your fireplace? We’ve still got quite a few weeks of cold, winter weather ahead of us, so knowing the best way to approach the fire-building process is a must this time of year! Fortunately for folks throughout Grand Junction and its surrounding cities, the team at The Chimney Doctor can help with it all. Learn more about the best techniques for fire-building below, then reach out with any concerns, questions, or inquiries – we’re here for you!
Use Only Seasoned Wood
First things first, make certain the fuel you are using is well-seasoned. What does this mean? Well, it means it has been adequately dried out, thus reducing the moisture content and guaranteeing a better, more efficient burn. Fresh, wet, unseasoned wood is harder to light, and it uses up a lot of energy trying to burn through all of that extra moisture. In the end, you won’t gain near as much heat from your fire, and a lot of acidic water vapor will go through your chimney, wreaking havoc on your structure during the process.
How can you know if the fuel you are using is ready for use? Here are some things to keep in mind. First, try to pick out pieces that are shorter in length and split at the ends. Both of these features speed up the drying process, indicating there is likely less water inside. The logs you pick should also look and smell older. Don’t go for one that has a nice, fresh scent. If it is darker in color and smells musty, you’re a lot more likely to get the results you are hoping for!
Another good tip is to smack two logs together and listen for a hollow, clunking-type noise. If you hear this, as opposed to a heavier, duller thud, then you’re probably good to go. And while you’re at it, compare the weight of various pieces of wood! Ones with less moisture will be lightweight – these are the ones you want to stick with.
Seasoning your own fuel? Be sure to store it in an area that is well-protected from rain, snow, and sleet, yet has good ventilation, ensuring the wood still has access to winds and sunshine (both of which help in the seasoning process). A shed with a sturdy roof and open sides would be ideal! Along with this, be sure your pile stays off of the ground so that no rot or mold occurs throughout those bottom pieces. Wood should also be stored for at least six months before use. Anything less, and your structure will suffer.
And while we’re on the subject of fuel, make sure you are never burning trash in your fireplace! This also contributes to smokey living spaces and creosote accumulation, and it isn’t good for the health of your chimney, home, or loved ones.
Assembling Your Firewood
Now that you’ve got the right fuel in stock, the next step is to build your fire. There are a lot of techniques out there (e.g. the log cabin, the tee-pee, etc.), and each homeowner needs to find what works best for them. If you’ve got a strategy that works well every time, great! If not, though, why not give the top-down method a try?
Using this strategy, you’ll start with the biggest pieces of wood, laying them side by side on your firebox floor, with the ends facing the front and back of your fireplace. From there, you will stack around five or six more layers of wood on top, all decreasing in size the higher you go. After this, it’s time to add the kindling, then finally any small wood shavings that are easy to ignite.
Once this is complete, you should be able to light the top of the stack and let your fire burn! The flames will easily work their way down, and you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy a relaxing evening indoors.
Prime The Flue
Once your damper is open, but before you start building your fire, it’s a good idea to prime the flue, especially if it’s really cold outside. If the air inside of your chimney is too cold, it will push against the heat of your fire, causing smoke and other fumes to sink back into your home. Yet, if you warm up the flue for a bit, you won’t have to fight any airflow issues, and you’ll have a much more successful time getting your fire going.
How is this done? Well, most experts recommend simply rolling up a bunch of newspaper, lighting it, and then holding it inside of your flue a few minutes. It’s a simple step that could save you a lot of hassle and frustration down the line!
Now, when lighting fires, there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure your home and family stay as safe as possible. First of all, never leave a fire unattended! Accidents happen, and this is one appliance you never want to take any chances with. If you’re ready for bed or about to go out for the evening, all flames should be extinguished before leaving the area.
We also urge all of our customers to invest in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. CO2 is colorless and odorless, so these devices are usually the only thing to alert homeowners of trouble, and if a house fire occurs while everyone is sleeping, a smoke detector will offer a clear warning sign that danger is present. These are a necessary part of every household, so if you have yet to get one, make a trip to the store today!
Finally, invest in an annual inspection to ensure everyone is running appropriately. Our team of CSIA certified professionals is here to help! Call today, and we can get this process going.