It seems like common sense that you would start a fire in a cold fireplace. The cold is the reason you need the fire in the first place. However, you have to take care to preheat your fireplace properly, or you risk filling your home with smoke.
Why preheating your flue matters
The basic principal that warm air rises keeps the smoke from your fires flowing upward out of your chimney instead of making its way into your home. When your fireplace hasn’t been used and cold air fills your chimney flue — which happens quickly especially if your chimney is on an exterior wall of your home — the dense, cold air can prevent the warm air and smoke from rising out of your fireplace. Gently preheating your flue can keep the smoke flowing in the right direction.
How to preheat your flue
The easiest and most popular method to preheat your flue is the torch method. Tightly roll newspaper into four or five “torches.” Open your damper and light the torches, one by one, holding them in your fireplace at the bottom of your chimneys flue. By the time the last torch has burned, your flue should be warm enough for your fire. You’ll be able to tell because the smoke from the torch will be drafting properly up the chimney. If you don’t have newspaper on hand, you also can use a blow dryer or fan to direct warm air up your chimney; the air doesn’t have to be hot, just warmer than the freezing air filling your chimney.
Other chimney drafting tips
In addition to preheating your flue, there are other methods to help you chimney draft properly. Opening a window in the same room as your fireplace by an inch can help draw in cold air to feed your fire and keep the smoke flowing up the chimney. Fires should be built in a metal grate off the floor of your fireplace, and the fire should be built all the way in the back in the firebox. And of course, always use dry, seasoned firewood to make sure that the fire burns hot enough to direct smoke up the chimney. Never close fireplace doors, even partially, as the doors interfere with drafting, and glass doors can crack from the pressure of the fire.
If you follow all of our chimney prep tips and still have problems with smoke flowing backward into your home from your fireplace, give us a call. Improper drafting can indicate a more serious problem, such as a blocked chimney, a dirty chimney or an improperly sized flue. Our chimney experts can inspect your chimney, help you solve any problems and have your chimney drafting properly so you can enjoy your fireplace without the unpleasant smoke.