How To Use A Fireplace
How to use a fireplace in your home is easier than you think. I figured I’d write a guide on how I do things here with our fireplace in the house. The biggest thing is to not be scared of lighting it. You be surprised how many people are scared of burning their home down by doing something stupid.
I supposed it is a rational fear, but it will be the last thing on your mind when you get used to it. And you’ll realize how silly of a fear it is/was when you use common sense. Hopefully, I can help you out with that or your just looking for the best way to go about it.
And again, hopefully, I can help you in that aspect too. So, let’s get into the proper ways of how to use a fireplace so the Mrs don’t go running out of the house with her head on fire!
Of course, you want to be on the safe side if something does go wrong. I make it sound like it’s easy not to screw up, but with anything in life, stuff happens! And with fire, it can get out of control fast. So, always have a fire extinguisher nearby.
Next thing you might want to have is a smoke detector installed. Especially if you plan on filling up the fireplace before you head off to bed. That way if anything was to go array while your sleeping, the beeping of the fire detector should wake you up. Basically, they can be a lifesaver.
A few other things you can do are, make sure there’s nothing within 4 foot of the fire when it’s going. Fireplaces throw a lot of heat and anything within 4 foot could melt or singe or even catch fire. We don’t want that!
Wood while burning can throw sparks. That would be another concern. Try and use wood that doesn’t spark or pop a lot. I have written an article about the types of firewood that don’t pop or spark a lot. You might want to check that out. here is the link to it. Why does firewood pop?
One last thing yet before we talk about lighting up the fireplace. Make sure your chimney isn’t “blocked off” with, for example, a bird nest. I had that happen once. They made a nest in the chimney and I had smoke everywhere in the house! My ears are still ringing from the smoke detector haha.
Needless to say, I got my rear end up on that roof and got rid of the nest as fast as possible. Lesson learned! That goes for the first time you use it. You should be fine after that.
[Related Article: How To Put Out A Fireplace Fire]
Open The Damper
Before you light your fire. You want to make sure your damper is open so smoke can go up your chimney and not in your house. If you forget to do this, it won’t take but a minute after you lig your kindling to notice. You’ll smell and see the smoke coming into your home instead of where it is supposed to go, up the chimney.
Once you have that in check, it is time to throw in the kindling.
In order to get a good fire going, your going to need kindling. Kindling is smaller and skinnier pieces of dry wood that will catch fire quickly and easily. For this, I’d recommend using a softwood. It ignites easier than hardwood. So, for example, I’d use pine wood or the best kindling known to man, cedar. Never use any kind of trash. That’ll fill your chimney pipe with creosote and put you at high risk for a chimney fire.
As far as how to set up your kindling prior to lighting it. You’ll want to build, what is called, an upside-down fire (What a name!) I’m going to embed a video on how to make an upside fire. It’s the easiest and safest way I know of. So, here check it out.
How To Keep A Fire Going In A Fireplace
Ok, your kindling is lit and your starting to get a hot coal bed. Now is the time you start putting your bigger pieces in. A few things to know is, the bigger the size of the wood you put in, the more it’ll smoke. And the opposite is true, the smaller the piece of wood is, the faster it’ll burn. Keep that in mind while burning. Always split your wood to the size that works for you.
If your fireplace is more for decor, you might want to go with smaller pieces. They’ll have bigger flames and put out more heat. Also, at this point, it would be good to start feeding the fire hardwoods, like maple or oak. That way it’ll burn longer and you won’t be feeding the fire every 5 minutes.
Now, this part can be tricky but at the same time a very straight forward task. The reason it can be tricky is you don’t really ever take out of your ashes from the fireplace. Unless you are cleaning it because your not gonna use it for a while, like in spring and summer.
You want to leave some ash in to help hold heat for the next time you light your fire. It’ll start easier. But you don’t want to leave to much in and have a mess and have a fire hazard. For starters, just leave a thin layer in and you’ll learn as you use it more what works best for you.
Wood ash has a lot of cool uses. I wrote an article about it and I hope you check it out. Some uses might surprise you! Here is a link to it. How to dispose of wood ash.
Will A Chimney Fire Burn Itself Out
It is entirely possible for a chimney fire to burn itself out, but it can take an immense amount of time. Of course, this will depend on the size of the original fire and the fuel that is being used. This is why it is best to either put the fire out before leaving the home or closing off the hearth so debris can’t escape.
Summer is just right around the corner, but there is still plenty of cold weather to battle through. Now is not the time to take that spare firewood back out to the shed. Whether you are an avid fire builder or you just purchased a home with a first-place there is a good chance that you are always discovering something new.
Fireplaces might be considered one of the oldest means of heat, but there is always something interesting to learn about them. Different types of wood burn at different rates produce higher levels of BTUs, and some firewood even produces different smells.
This probably brings you to the inevitable question of will a chimney burn itself out? It is safe to leave the fireplace burning before you head to work? Will the fire eventually go out? These are all normal questions and will be addressed throughout this article.
Learning To Spot A Chimney Fire
The best possible way to prevent chimney fires is by learning to spot when they might take place. They are fairly easy to spot due to their explosively burning properties. Chimney fires that are about to get out of hand will be noisy. You will probably also notice cracking and popping noises in conjunction with dense amounts of smoke.
What Causes A Chimney Fire
At the end of the day, you need several things for a fire to effectively burn. You need a burning material, fuel, and air. You remove one of these things and you are going to alter the combustion process. When combustion takes place it creates a number of unburned carbon particles, water vapor, gases, hydrocarbons, tar fog, and minerals.
Of course, all of these substances travel upwards as they exit the chimney. When they reach the top part of the chimney where the temperatures are cooler condensation will occur. When this happens it will create a residue that is known as creosote. Creosote can stick to the walls of the chimney and thrive there for a number of years or until removed.
This is a highly combustible substance so you can imagine when a lot of it accumulates on the walls of the chimney, you are looking at a potentially volatile situation. Chimneys that burn too hot not only could cause structural damage to the chimney, but they can cause damage to nearby objects and walls.
Extinguishing Chimney Fires
No one wants to climb on top of their chimney in the middle of winter and clean out this creosote. This might be something that you can do during the summer, but during the winter it would just be too dangerous.
This is why you should take advantage of the extinguishing products that are available for ground-level use. There are a number of these products available and they can help you make sure that your chimney fire is extinguished before you leave the home.
These chimney fire extinguisher can be a lifesaver, they last 3 years. All you have to do is “strike them” and place in the chimney and will suffocate the chimney fire. You can check them out on Amazon here, Chimney Fire Extinguisher.
Now you know the basics of how to use a fireplace. From here you can learn your own ways of using your fireplace. But use everything I said earlier as a starting point before adding your own personal touches to it. And you’ll be fine and have many warm nights ahead during the fall and winter.
Just keep in mind safety first and exercise common sense and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Also, remember to have your chimney cleaned every year or at least every other year. That will go a long way to help you with peace of mind. Stay warm and good luck!