When it gets really cold out, nothing feels quite as nice as a cozy fire. However, cold weather sometimes makes it more difficult to build a good fire. This is especially true if the chimney is on an outside wall. The cold air that comes down your chimney acts as a back-draft. Thus it pushes cold air down your chimney and into your home. If you start a fire under those conditions, you might get a room full of smoke. This is an easy fix. If you feel cold air coming into your home when you open the damper, you’ll know you need to prime your chimney before lighting a fire.

Starting a Fire in a Cold Fireplace Image - Fairfield CT - Michael's Chimney Service Priming Your Chimney

According to Chimneys.com, priming your chimney is an easy process. All it takes is some newspaper and a match. Just roll up the newspaper, light the end, and hold it high up into the damper opening. After a minute or two, you should feel the cold air start to warm up as it moves up the chimney and the draft is reversed. After this, you can go ahead and light your fire. If this doesn’t work, maybe because it’s an extremely cold chimney situation. If this is the case, you can leave the damper open for a half hour or so. This lets warm air from the room slowly work its way up the chimney. Obviously, this isn’t the most energy efficient way of priming your chimney. As, consequently, you’ll lose a lot of warm air out of your home.

Once It’s Primed

Once your chimney is primed, you’ll want to make sure that you get a good fire started. The first thing you need is the right kind of wood. The important thing to remember here is to only use wood that has been properly seasoned. According to This Old House, you’ll want to use a denser wood that’s been drying for at least six months. This will also help keep your fire from smoking too much. You may be tempted to pile on the logs to get a roaring blaze going, but that’s a temptation you’ll want to fight. Big fires can cause a thicker creosote build-up, and they could also cause your chimney to crack.

Building A Fire

Now, to build a fire. The Art of Manliness suggests using an ash bed that is an inch or two thick to insulate your fire. For a fire that lasts several hours without much effort to keep it going, try the upside-down method. Put the larger logs on the bottom, then add a layer of smaller logs. Put your kindling material on top. As a final layer, add some newspaper balls or other tinder, and light the tinder. This approach makes a nice clean fire that doesn’t require lots of attention.

Make Sure Your Fireplace is Clean

Another reason for a smoky fireplace could be that you have an obstruction or a thick creosote build-up. If this is the reason for your smoky fire, the only fix is to call in the professionals. Remember to hire only CSIA certified inspectors and chimney sweeps, like the experts at Michael’s Chimney Service. Give them a call for advice on how to handle chimney problems, and remember to set up an appointment for your annual chimney inspection and cleaning.