After a long summer of disuse, many homeowners are unsure of how to start the first fireplace of the season in their fireplace. Learning how to start a cold fireplace can allow you to better enjoy your first fire – as well as the rest of the burning season. The following tips will help you better start your cold fireplace this fall.


1. Have the chimney swept

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that chimneys should be swept at least once per year. Having a chimney swept removes creosote, a flammable buildup created by burning wood that can lead to chimney fires; likewise, it also ensures that there is no debris or other flammable material in the chimney. By having the chimney swept before you begin to use your fireplace for the season you can ensure it is clean and safe to use all winter long.

2. Check your smoke detectors

Having a fireplace means it is necessary to have certain safety equipment – namely, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These need to be placed on every level of the home as well as outside of sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be tested every month to prevent the batteries in them from dying. Likewise, detectors should be replaced at least once every 10 years to ensure they meet current safety standards.

3. Fully open the damper

Opening the damper before you start a fire allows the chimney to begin drawing air in. This drafting process is what prevents ash, soot, and smoke from blowing back into the room when the fire is lit. Dampers should be fully opened during the entire burning process, from lighting kindling to waiting for the ashes to extinguish.

4. Warm the flue

A traditional throat damper seals off the firebox from flue, but leaves the rest of the chimney open to outside air. Because of this, the temperature in the chimney may be significantly colder than the temperature inside your home. Too much cold air in the flue can sink when a fire is lit; this can cause smoke, ash, and soot to blow back into your home. However, this can be prevented by warming the flue. To warm the flue, simply hold a bundle of lit kindling or newspaper under the open damper for several minutes before lighting the fire; this small amount of heat can help warm the air temperature in the flue and prevent a major blowback of cold air.

5. Choose the right firewood

The kind of firewood you use can have a major impact on how well your fireplace functions. Homeowners should do their best to only burn seasoned hardwoods in indoor fireplaces; well-seasoned wood has a significantly lower moisture content then fresh cut or green wood. This lower moisture content allows it to ignite quickly and burn more efficiently with minimal creosote creation. Likewise, hardwoods like oak or maple are preferred because they burn hotter and create less smoke than softwoods such as fir or pine.