How to Build a Fire Chimneys and Carbon Monoxide

Many years ago, the art of fire building was as common as bicycle riding. Our modern lifestyle continues to move us away from this valuable skill. A nice warm fire is a pleasure that many of us have forgotten, not to mention the cost savings in electricity or heating oil. Being able to skillfully start your fire only adds to the experience.

Chimney Fires and Carbon Monoxide:

Creosote builds up slowly – a resulting chimney fire is a dangerous surprise. Burning green or wet wood accelerates the build up of this creosote. Before using your fireplace or woodstove, make sure you have a clean and unobstructed chimney. A working carbon monoxide detector is also a worthwhile safety device. Many people die each year because of this odorless gas.

Cleaning the creosote from your chimney is not rocket science, but it’s messy and of course requires getting onto the roof. The tools (brush and extension poles) can be rented or purchased. An advantage to hiring a chimney sweep is they will be experienced at discovering problems with your chimney, such as loose mortar and cracks.

Common Reasons for Failure:

Lack of airflow between the wood and lack of airflow through the chimney are common sources of problems. Regardless of which type of damper you have, it will need to be opened all the way to begin with. Inadequate kindling and wood that is wet, green, or not split small enough is also trouble. Using kindling that is too large or not dry enough is prone to failure. On the other hand, kindling which is so small it all burns away before the fire gets established will not work either.

Gather and Arrange Your Materials:

To avoid fighting a losing battle, gather plenty of good kindling, both very small and larger. Small dry twigs are excellent if you have access to them. If they bend without snapping crisply they are probably not dry enough. Gather more than you need in case of difficulty. Many a fire has gone out for lack of a few extra twigs. Split kindling is of course the other option, starting with pieces smaller than a pencil and up to an inch and larger. Nice dry cedar is best but really anything will do if it’s dry and split small enough. Remember to save that extra handful of the smallest stuff.

The newspaper you will use should be crumpled up into fairly tight balls. Make a few of them. Also twist a few pieces and set them aside. Strips of thin (cereal box) cardboard with a twist are also excellent.

Now arrange your materials in the fireplace. Set a couple of your smaller pieces of firewood on either side of the crumpled paper. Take a handful of the smallest kindling and spread them on top of the paper, pressing it down a bit. Then place progressively larger kindling on top of this. Make sure to leave a bit of breathing room between the pieces. By “nesting” this material between the first 2 pieces of firewood, support and breathing space will be maintained. You can now take those pieces of twisted paper and fit them in between a few of the gaps in your pile. A couple of paraffin fire starting cubes or a bit of candle wax might be added but are certainly not required.

Light Your Fire:

If you have an open fireplace, the damper will be closed to prevent vast amounts of heat from going up the chimney when it’s not in use. So be SURE it’s opened before you light that match. Smoke will rise with hot air up the chimney, but only if that’s the easiest path. If it tries coming out into the room you will have to “guide” it towards the chimney with a piece of burning paper (similar to priming a siphon hose with liquid).

Light the paper in a few places and watch your carefully prepared pile of kindling begin to burn. Those long wooden matches are actually pretty handy. Once the paper is starting to burn down, you might want to fit in a couple more of those twisted pieces and a bit more of the very small kindling you saved. If it needs a bit of help, take in a full breath of air and blow in nice long, gentle puffs. NEVER inhale before pulling your face way back from the fire. I’m almost certain human lungs don’t cope well with super heated air and flames. Hand operated or electric bellows are available but if you’ve prepared your materials properly there really shouldn’t be a need for one.

The kindling will now be burning nicely on it’s own. Add progressively larger pieces, being sure to maintain the air spaces like you did earlier. If each layer is stacked at angles to each other, this breathing room will be maintained as the wood burns down.

Finally, arrange your firewood pieces and logs in the same manner. Once the fire has reached the maximum intensity that you want, close the damper a bit. You will find each fireplace has it’s own “personality”, and this will vary with the types of firewood you encounter. The creation of the chimneys through new home builder pa can be expensive for the person so, they should opt for self-creation without any failure. The cost involved in it will be less for the person. 

A nice bed of coals will soon develop and there isn’t much that can go wrong from there.