In my years working in the industry, I have come to find that a lot of people have problems first of all handling the terms surrounding lighting a good fire and secondly actually executing those steps. Smoking problems and poor draft issues are, sometimes, caused by a homeowner’s inability to start a fire in a manner which promotes good draft for the chimney for the entire
duration of the fire. This articles explains the terms that the professionals use and includes pointers from the pro’s on how to best start your fire this winter.
Commonly used tinder is newspaper, which should be crumpled up one page at a time. Pine needles and pine cones work also, but newspaper is more convenient.
This is where your larger twigs come into play. Cuts of wood that are generally thin, about 1/2″ in thickness, work as well as kindling wood. It is important to have adequate kindling to catch the actual fuel for the fire.
This is the wood you either cut, split, and seasoned yourself or purchased and had delivered is added into the equation. Dry is the keyword with the fuel you put on your fire. Some folks prefer hardwood while others prefer soft, but if the wood is not well seasoned it is not going to produce a desirable fire.
If you forget to open your damper when starting your fire, you’re going to have smoking issues, obviously, because none of the
byproducts of combustion, including smoke, are able to vent up the chimney. Similarly, wet wood or wood which has not been properly seasoned will also create a smoking problem. Just after you have lit your fire, light a piece of crumbled newspaper on the end of a fire poker and stick it up into the chimney for twenty seconds or so in order to heat up the chimney’s flue. This warms up your flue system for maximum drafting potential.
Building and Lighting the Fire
Warming up the flue is a step that not a lot of people want to take when starting a fire, but is sometimes the key between a fire in a chimney that drafts well and a problematic fire. Using a fireplace grate is recommended for the optimal fire. Place two or three logs on the grate, depending on how big the grate is, and place your tinder (pine cones, newspaper, etc.) in between the logs. On top of the logs and the tinder place a generous amount of kindling and then two more logs on top of that to create a “log cabin” shape. This is one of the easiest ways I have found for homeowners to properly construct a fire so that all of its important elements, tinder, kindling, and fuel, are able to burn to their maximum potential and prevent problems that folks can encounter when burning a fire, such as smoking issues.
Tips From Chimney Professionals
Keep your fire under control, you do not want the top of the flame to be out of your sight when looking at the firebox. This means adding less wood at more frequent intervals as opposed to trying to fit as much wood in as possible with each go to minimize your work. Burning hardwood minimizes creosote buildup, but softwood is easier for beginners to use.