The mild winter is turning cold despite a slow start. January is the year when most homeowners see a rise in the cost of utilities and experience the most dangerous fires caused by heating units. Be sure
that your fire is safe and warm by having it cleaned and inspected regularly. When it’s well-maintained it will have fewer lighting and burning problems, but there are still a few common issues to be aware of.
Problems Lighting Your Fire
The most frustrating problem for many homeowners is definitely when they have difficulty lighting the fire. Many homeowners even convert to gas fireplaces simply to alleviate the hassle of lighting a fire. The fact is that if you have difficulty lighting your fire, there is a good reason.
- Your fire is built improperly. For years we have known only one way to build a fire—with kindling on the bottom. Now top professionals are recommending a top-down fire in which the largest wood is on the bottom of the firebox. Each layer is made up of the next smallest wood, crossing each layer, ending with the smallest wood and kindling and tinder on top. This type of fire allows for easy lighting and ventilation as the ash and embers fall down, igniting the wood below, and smoke rises up unhindered by wood and ash.
- Your damper is working improperly. If the damper is stuck or unopened, air will not move through the fireplace and chimney system. The fire will not have enough oxygen to burn, so lighting will be difficult.
- Improper wood is used. Only properly seasoned firewood should be used in the fireplace. Wood that is cut too fresh, or “green” or wet wood will be difficult to light. It will also burn more slowly with less heat and create more pollution than necessary. Your firewood including kindling should be cut and stored for 3 to 6 months in order for best use. You can tell your wood is ready to burn when it is light in weight when it is dull in color, hollow-sounding when hit together with another piece of wood, and pulls away from the bark with cracks or “checks”.
Troubleshooting a Smoky Fire
The very same problems that can cause difficulty lighting your fire can also cause a smoky fireplace. When your fire is lit, and there is a smoke problem, however, this can be serious. As the smoke struggles to rise up the chimney, it will push into the home, causing respiratory issues, general dirtiness, and serious and life-threatening carbon monoxide exposure. It is important to discover the cause of the ventilation problem and correct it as quickly as possible.
- Open a window or door somewhere in the house. The ventilation problem may be simply due to a too-tight home. As air moves out the chimney there is no air to replace it in the house. Open a window or door to allow air into the house and maintain a steady draft for the chimney.
- Shut off other major appliances that may be interfering with the chimney system. Shut off ceilings fans and HVAC systems before lighting a fire in your fireplace.
- Install custom glass doors to improve the efficiency of the chimney system. Your draft will improve when a fire burns properly in the fireplace. Installing custom glass doors will improve the efficiency, allow for a hotter fire, and allow more heat for pushing the smoke and particulate pollution up the chimney.
- Schedule routine maintenance for your chimney. If your chimney is not venting properly and your fire is difficult to light and causing a smoky fire experience, schedule a chimney inspection as soon as possible. A chimney sweep and inspection are necessary for a long-lasting chimney, a safe and efficient fire, and exceptional savings over time.
Safe and Warm Fires in Seattle, Washington
Home and business owners in and around Seattle, Washington depend on Pristine Sweeps for comprehensive chimney care. Our team of certified chimney sweeps is experienced and trained to handle all chimney installations, maintenance, and repairs. We agree with the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—that the chimney systems that are cleaned regularly and inspected annually are the safest and most efficient systems. No matter how expensive the products or how well they are installed, the difference between a safe and lasting chimney and a dangerous one is simple. Safe and lasting chimney systems are properly maintained.
If you reside in the Seattle area and own a property with a chimney system or fire appliance, look no further than Pristine Sweeps for all your chimney and fireplace needs, and for the life of your chimney.
Schedule services with Pristine Sweeps today, online or by calling 206-574-8414.