Every homeowner with a fireplace can relate to the warm, comfort, and contentment that comes with sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold winter’s day. However, this idyllic scene can be ruined by the often frustrating experience of trying to get the fire started.
Starting a fire may seem simple, but starting a fire with a minimal amount of smoke that burns well can take time and practice to perfect. Below are a number of tips that can help you start a fire with less smoke every time.
1. Use the right firewood
Not all firewood is created equal. To start a fire quickly and with less smoke, homeowners should only use seasoned. Seasoned firewood is wood that has been cut, stacked, and exposed to the elements for a minimum of six months. This process removes the moisture from the wood, allowing it to ignite faster, burn hotter, and produce less smoke.
Green, or fresh cut, wood can have a moisture content of as much as 45%. This water has to be evaporated before the wood can burn, creating a tell-tale “popping” noise when burned. Likewise, green wood produces excessive amounts of smoke along with a strong odor. Green wood can be hard to ignite due to the moisture content, which can lead to a great deal of frustration when trying to start a fire.
2. Open the damper
While this may seem obvious, some homeowners keep their dampers closed when trying to start a fire due to the mistaken belief that the wind from an open damper will blow out the first sparks and embers. Instead, keep the damper open the entire time the fireplace is in use, from beginning to build the fire to after it has extinguished. Doing this prevents smoke – along with harmful gasses – from backing up into your home.
3. Avoid fires on windy days
The windier the conditions outside, the greater the chance smoke may blow back into your home. When strong winds are present, there is little than can be done to prevent downdrafts from pushing smoke back inside. If you have high winds or hear a whistling or rattling in your chimney avoid building a fire.
4. Build a top down fire
Primarily used in wood stoves, the top down technique can also be used in traditional fireplaces. To build a top down fire, place the largest logs at the bottom of the fireplace with the ends facing front to back. Stack progressively smaller and smaller logs until the firebox is about half full, topping the wood with kindling. Light the kindling; as the kindling burns, it will warm the flue as it burns down, igniting the wood underneath it.
Having the largest logs on the bottom of the fireplace prevents heavy, unlit logs from crashing down onto smaller pieces as the burn. Building a fire this way creates less smoke as it builds progressively. Top down fires also need less tending or stoking, allowing you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fire with your family.
5. Call a chimney sweep
If you continue to have smoky fires even after implementing these tips, you may need the assistance of a certified chimney sweep. At Magic Broom, our certified sweeps can help diagnose – and fix – the cause of your smoking issues, allowing you to finally enjoy your fireplace.