Burning Wood in Your Fireplace
Nothing beats a roaring fireplace on a cold winter’s night. You can keep these positive experiences happening by making sure you’re burning your wood safely and correctly and allowing your fireplace to run at max efficiency. Here are some tips.
For fire to burn, fuel, heat and oxygen are required. You’ve got the fuel (logs) and heat (initial fire), but you may not have sufficient oxygen (air). Sluggish fires often are caused by a home that’s too air-tight. Solve this by cracking a window.
Annual Chimney Sweep
Annual chimney sweep services will keep your chimney free of excess creosote buildup and any obstructions such as leaves, twigs, excess dust, small-animal nests and anything else that could impede drafting. Chimney cleaning also greatly reduces the chances of a chimney fire. Built-up creosote and soot are responsible for the majority of these fires in the U.S. each year, so remember to schedule services from a CSIA-certified chimney sweep on an annual basis.
Use dry wood
You’ve probably seen campfires, fireplace fires or other fires that produce huge amounts of smoke. This is because the wood being used has yet to fully dry out. Don’t make this mistake in your home fireplace. Use only dry (seasoned) wood, which burns more thoroughly and creates less smoke and therefore adds less creosote to your flue.
The right type of wood
Maple, hickory, beech and other hardwoods burn longer and hotter than softer varieties like pine, redwood and cedar. If you’re burning all day during the dead of winter, hardwoods are best. For shorter fires during an evening of entertainment, go with softwoods.
Starting the fire
The optimal way to start a fire is this: stack your logs, add wood-based kindling (small scraps of wood) on top of the stack, then place tinder (crumpled-up newspaper is good) on top of the kindling. Light the tinder and let the fire progress downward for the most efficient fires.
How not to start a fire
Wood-based products are the only things that should burn in your fireplace – and not all wood-based products. Here is a list of things never to use in starting or maintaining a fire:
- Accelerant like lighter fluid and gasoline
- Rags, clothing or any fabric
- Painted or stained (treated) wood
- Cardboard products of any kind
- Household garbage
- Foam packing materials
- Christmas trees
Don’t worry about remembering all these – just remember: logs, pieces of logs and newspaper, and you’ll be okay.
Give the logs breathing room
Don’t jam-pack your firebox with logs. Fire needs air to start well and burn properly. When stacking logs, leave some breathing room for air to circulate.
Guard the opening of the fireplace
You don’t have to post a sentry in front of your fireplace, but you do need to be watchful of this area. Keep young children and pets away from the flames. Also keep furnishings, rugs and anything else that’s flammable at a reasonable distance.
Follow these tips, and you’ll go a long way toward responsible fireplace use and keeping your home and family safe.
Hudson Valley Chimney of Poughkeepsie, NY, is here to help with all your fireplace, stove and chimney needs from CSIA-certified chimney sweep service and appliance inspection to chimney repair and rebuilding work. You can reach us any time at (845) 471-1071.