Cold temperatures are here and you might be thinking about lighting your first fire in the fireplace. Before you grab a pile of wood and strike a match, we advise that you take time to prepare your chimney and even the wood. This can help prevent dangerous situations arising.
Step 1: Get Your Chimney Inspected
This is perhaps the most important step to preparing for the first fire this season. You want to opt for a professional chimney inspection, which includes the following:
- Looking for combustible deposits
- Signs of deteriorating brickwork
- Proper clearances to combustible materials
- Signs of water penetration
If any issues pop up during inspection, don’t delay on making repairs. With the relentless freeze and thaw cycle here in Boston, you might risk further damaging the structure of your chimney by pushing repairs to the backburner.
Now is also a wise time for your annual chimney sweep if you haven’t done it yet. A chimney sweep will remove any creosote buildup, which is a toxic by-product of burning fires. Creosote sticks to a chimney’s interior walls and can catch on fire.
Chimney sweeps also help ensure that there is no blockage from allowing smoke to escape through the chimney. Sticks, leaves, and other debris can block smoke which can send it right back inside your home. This typically happens when a critter such as a bird or even raccoons decide to nest inside your chimney.
Step 2: Be Wise About Wood
When it comes to lighting your first fire of the season, know that not all wood is created equal. While all wood will burn, it does not burn the same. Keep the following in mind when choosing your firewood for the fall and winter seasons:
These woods provide a longer and hotter burn. They are cleaner woods since they don’t contain as much sap, but note that they are more expensive. Hardwood firewoods include maple, ash, birch, oak, and most fruit trees.
The cheapest option available, softwoods burn fast and leave fine ash. We do not recommend using these types of wood regularly.
Types of wood to always avoid burning: pressure-treated lumber, driftwood, compressed paper products such as hardboard, plywood, particleboard, painted or varnished wood.
Step 3: Keep Your Wood Dry
When you’re ready to burn your wood of choice, make sure it’s dry before lighting the batch. Burning wet or sap infused wood will result in less heat, more smoke and more creosote build-up.
It’s also not a good idea to burn wood that is freshly cut or “green”. You should allow wood to dry out for at least 6 months. Dry “seasoned” wood if lighter in weight and will make a hollow sound when hitting two pieces together.
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