Nothing beats a wood fire in the fireplace on a cold winter’s night. Or a cool autumn day. Or anytime, really. There’s something special and nostalgic about burning, crackling logs that you just can’t get any other way. If you love your wood fires, here are nine things to know when burning wood.
Dry vs. wet wood
Seasoned (dry) wood burns better and produces less smoke than wood that hasn’t had time to dry out. Excess smoke means excess creosote in your chimney, and sluggish burns mean an inefficient fire.
Fires need air
For a fire to burn at max capacity, air is needed. Reasons for not enough air getting to your log stack include:
• house is air-tight – crack a window
• damper is not fully open to generate a draft – open the damper
• logs are stacked too close together – remove a few logs so the pile can breathe
• flue has obstructions – have them removed
Keep the flue clean
Regular chimney sweep services by a CSIA-certified technician are important to keep excess flammable creosote from building up in the flue. Chimney cleaning also removes debris, animal nests and other unwanted items, which allows for more efficient drafting.
Hardwoods vs. softwoods
Hardwoods such as alder, beech, hickory and maple are denser and burn longer and hotter than softwoods like cedar, juniper, pine and redwood. If you want a shorter, less-intense fire, go with softwoods. For longer-lasting, heat-heavy fires, hardwoods are ideal.
Light from the top
The best way to build a fire in a fireplace or stove is to start the burn with tinder and kindling on top of the log stack. The wood will burn better this way and reach its optimal temperature faster.
The best tinder and kindling for wood fires
Crumpled-up newspaper (not colored print), small twigs and pine needles make excellent tinder. For kindling, you want to use heavier material like larger twigs, branch pieces and wood slivers up to about an inch thick.
What not to use when starting a wood fire
Aside from newspaper tinder, never use non-wood-based items to start a fire. This includes any type of accelerant (lighter fluid, charcoal starter, gasoline) as well as household trash, lacquered/painted wood, magazines, cardboard boxes and clothing.
Don’t overload the firebox
If you pack too many logs in the firebox, the fire will burn too intensely and may cause a chimney fire. Follow the recommendations of your fireplace manufacturer or the advice of a chimney services professional in determining how many logs to use for your fire.
Keep the hearth area clear
Don’t set furnishings or rugs too close to the firebox, and use a fire screen or glass doors to keep popping embers from jumping out of the fireplace. Small children should never be left unattended in a room where a fire is burning.
High’s Chimney Service of Gaithersburg, MD, wants everyone to enjoy their fireplaces in safety. We hope these wood-burning tips have helped. When it’s time for a thorough chimney cleaning to make your fireplace experience even safer, count on our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps to do the job right. Schedule an appointment or get your questions answered by an expert at (301) 519-3500.
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