Welcome to the end of your frustration over not being able to light good fires in your fireplace! We have the answers–and you are certainly not alone if this situation applies to you. Here we are in a high-tech, instant-everything society and yet lighting a fire is quite literally a prehistoric activity. The actual same three principles cavemen had to use are still in effect today. In caveman terms, “Fire good! All fire need: Air, fuel, heat!” Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. Let’s get started. As caveman Fred Flintstone might say, the following is all you need to yaba-daba-DO to start a fire in your fireplace.
AIR / OXYGEN
Air is needed in the firebox. If there is a stingy supply of air, it is usually caused by negative air pressure. One of the most common causes of negative air pressure is that a home is tightly sealed and may also have an exhaust fan running in the house. Opening a window nearby can solve the problem of lack of oxygen.
The draft is another factor. The flow of warm air coming from a fire needs to go up the chimney, not into your home. If your attempts at fires have failed because the fire wouldn’t catch on or the combustion fumes went into your home, the following steps can help to ensure a draft:
- Open the damper.
- Light a match, blow it out, and hold it up to the damper. If the curl of smoke doesn’t go up the chimney, a good draft needs to be established.
- If you open the glass doors to your modern fireplace as well as the damper at least 30 minutes before you light a fire, it will help to change the temperature inside the appliance. The draft has to do with temperature differentials.
- Warm air will rise but if there is too much cold air in the firebox and/or chimney, the smoke from the beginnings of a fire can’t go up the chimney. What people usually do about this is create a newspaper torch and carefully light it and hold it up toward the damper. The fire from the torch will displace the cold air after one or more attempts.
- If there still isn’t a draft, after you’ve tried these things, there may be an obstruction in your chimney. It is likely necessary to stop using your fireplace until a chimney professional can come out and conduct a chimney inspection. Any blockage will be identified and can be removed. Once it’s fixed, you should be set for building fires. However, it’s not always that simple. A wide range of issues could be preventing a fireplace from having a good draft, all of which chimney experts are familiar with and can help with.
Use only seasoned wood for your fires. Seasoned wood is low in moisture. After logs are cut, they need to dry out for 6 to 12 months or longer before they’re dried out enough for a good fire. Logs filled with moisture create excessive smoke as the fire’s heat first goes to burn out moisture. Inexpensive moisture meters for firewood are widely available. If you are unsure about your firewood, test it and make sure there is less than 20% moisture before using it in your fireplace.
Getting a fire started usually requires tinder and kindling. Tinder is something like dried moss or wadded-up newspaper that will quickly burn to get things going. Kindling is basically small sticks of dry wood.
There are different approaches to building fires. Some people build a loose stack of medium logs over kindling and slowly add larger logs. Others put the kindling on top of the logs to get them started burning.
Make sure air can get between the logs, especially when you’re trying to get the fire going.
Ignition is all that’s needed once you have air and fuel. You can use a match or long lighter. The cavemen no doubt rubbed wood together, as Tom Hanks did in Cast Away. Please note: Never use flammable liquids in your fireplace. Doing so is highly dangerous.
When you’re ready for chimney sweep professionals to provide chimney services, contact the great team of chimney specialists at High’s Chimney Service. We’re based out of Gaithersburg, MD, and customer service is our chief priority. Call us today at (301) 519-3500, whether you need help getting a fire started in your fireplace like an experienced caveman or for any of our comprehensive chimney services.
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