Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lee's Tuppence! Fireplace Tips - 2 Simple Problems and 2 Simple Solutions... Plus!

When you build a fire in your fireplace, and you notice your house getting a bit smokey, you may have one of two problems.

1. You are reloading too early.

That's right! It's best to wait until the wood burns down to coals before opening the doors and reloading your firewood.

2. You have a screen instead of glass doors for your fireplace opening.

The simple solution is to install or have installed glass doors for your fireplace opening. It also comes with the added bonuses of beauty and increased warmth due to more radiant heat filling your home instead of going up the chimney!

Just remember to keep those fireplace doors clean, because you lose heating efficiency with the more soot build up that you allow.

Sometimes smokiness from your fireplace can be caused by back puffing and in that case you would want to call in a reputable professional to help you assess the reason for your fireplace's back puffing problems. Most of the time it will probably be a simple solution, such as decreasing the size of your fireplace interior in correlation to the size of your flue. Metal inserts can be purchased to deal with this problem. However, the best solution of all is probably to install or have installed a special exhaust fan for the top of your chimney. It will make sure that no smoke escapes into your home. Unfortunately, this is the most costly solution to a fireplace's back puffing problem.

There is also the possibility that between you and your neighbors, who also have fireplaces, that you may be experiencing a problem with poor window and door seals. If your home is not well sealed, smoke will get into your house from the outside, and that can cause various problems, none the least of which is the discomfort factor.

A fireplace with a back puffing problem can be very dangerous because it can allow deadly (scentless) carbon monoxide to build up in your home. So make sure you deal with this problem before it deals with you!

Also, remember to have your chimney and fireplace inspected, cleaned and otherwise maintained at least once a year if you don't use your fireplace that often and twice a year or more if you use your fireplace a great deal of the time or it is the main source of your household heating.

When I was a kid, my dad would simply replace the pipes for our wood-burning stoves and that was a fairly simple solution to any smokiness we experienced. Although, I do remember a time when the whole house filled up with smoke (must have been just before the first time he changed out our pipes) and I went to school the next day smelling of bar-b-que. Yes, there were a few hungry guys with bottles of bar-b-que sauce following me around that day. ;-)

Just remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when dealing with something as potentially dangerous as fire and smoke.

Keep your fires well contained and well maintained for the safety of all in your home and you can expect to enjoy your fireplace or other wood-burning units for years to come.

Lee's Tuppence!

Have any tips you'd like to add? I'd love to read all about it in the comments!


Anne Marie said...

A temporary solution to the back puffing problem is to tape aluminum foil along the top of the fireplace opening, letting it extend several inches below the opening, like a flat hood of sorts. Odd as it seems, this prevents the smoke from entering the room.

My last apartment had this problem, my dad said the chimney needed a different type of flue cap, and he came up with the temporary solution. Since the landlord did not provide the new cap, the aluminum hood, while not very attractive, did let me use the fireplace.

I have a question, though. If I wait until my fire burns down to coals, the new wood does not catch fire. How do you manage to get them to light?

Lesa Kay said...

That is a really great tip, Anne Marie. I like the economical side of things whenever available. Thank you for sharing that. Very helpful!

As for your wood not catching up, the only thing I can imagine that might be a problem is if you're letting the coals get too cool. I reload when I have a nice bed of coals that are red-orange with white hot overtones in coloration.

Because I don't always split my logs, I have often put quite a sizable (thick) log on top of a bed of hot coals with great success.

Also, in case you aren't already doing this, keep some of the wood that you're going to be using near the fire (not right up on it, of course), because that allows it to dry out in the case of snow or rain soaked wood. Green wood can be a bit difficult to get going, also.

You could always keep some pine cones dipped in wax in a basket, then just throw a few of those on just before you reload or just throw down a bit more kindling just before reloading.

I hope something in there helps. lol

Anne Marie said...

I think I see ---- do you use a grate? I do. That makes a difference --- logs directly on hot coals versus logs above coals. One works, the other doesn't. I'll keep the tip in mind for times when a grate isn't available.

I have a log holder inside, in which I rotate the wood from outside (at the bottom) and the wood that's been inside (at the top) to keep a supply of dry wood handy. Plain pine cones, though, work very well as fire starters.

Lesa Kay said...

You're so right! It didn't even occur to me what a difference that would make, because I don't use a grate.

D'oh! lol

I agree with you, any type of pine cone, whether dipped in wax or not makes a great fire starter. I have used them plain for building fires when camping. But I like the different colors of wax. It's so pretty! And they're fun to make, too. Some people fill something like a tuna can with hot wax, then place the pine cone in to set up and use later for the added fire starter fuel the wax provides.

And, scents can be added to the wax, as well.

Speaking of scents, ever burn a cedar log and go outside while its burning? It smells heavenly!

Anne Marie said...

No scented wax for me LOL The thought is enough to make me shiver.

Never burned a cedar log. It must indeed smell heavenly. I love the smell of wood smoke, period. Outside. Not that fond of it inside ;) And I still miss the smell of burning leaves in the fall.