The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder as Autumn inches closer to Winter. To ward off the chill of these cold damp November nights in Columbus, you’ll be feeling the urge to build a roaring fire in your fireplace while the family is gathered around.
You don’t have to be a certified Eagle Scout™ to just throw a few logs into the fireplace and light ‘er up. However, if you’d like to build a longer-lasting, low maintenance, heat producing fire (and not burn the house down in the process) consider this checklist of fireplace best practices.
Just like having your furnace serviced before you use it for the first time each heating season, you should have your chimney cleaned by a professional. It’s a real safety issue: squirrels or birds can build nests, you can have debris enter from the top, and if you actually use your fireplace, there could be a buildup of creosote.
Creosote is a tar-like substance that accumulates on the inner walls of a home’s chimney. If it’s allowed to accumulate excessively, it can cause fires. Dangerous house fires. Call that chimney sweep first!
Assuming the chimney cleaning is out of the way (you did call a chimney service, right?), let’s gather everything we’ll need before we start to build the perfect fire.
Unless you wish to fill your house with smoke, open the damper first. Hopefully your chimney inspection included getting it cleaned so it’s easy to open.
Start with a teepee style stack of kindling, followed by progressively larger pieces of log. For a good, even burn, you need dry wood with plenty of space to allow oxygen between, so don’t pack it in tightly. Build about 2-3 layers, with each layer perpendicular to the previous layer. It’s a good idea to add a few pieces of smaller wood/kindling between each layer to help the fire accelerate and add spacing. Don’t put logs that are very large onto the pile, unless you intend for the fire to burn for a long time. Finish off the top with a few more pieces of kindling.
Be sure the stack is stable and no logs will roll out of the fireplace once it’s lit! Also, if you leave a bit of a gap in the center of the pile all the way to the top, that gap will act like a chimney and funnel oxygen to burn the flame.
Tear the newspaper into long ½ to 1 inch wide strips, wad them up, then build a generous pile beneath the grate directly under the kindling. If you’re using shredded office paper, you can skip this step, the shredder’s already done the hard work for you!
Now it’s time to light the newspaper beneath the kindling. If you’ve followed the previous steps, you won’t have to resort to “blowing” air to get the fire started! (We don’t really recommend that). Sit back and watch as the lit newspaper/shredded paper does its magic and catches the kindling, and eventually the logs, on fire.
If you build the stack correctly, the logs act as sort of a self-burning chimney by funneling oxygen up the center of the fire, causing it to burn more consistently.
Follow these guidelines to have a nice roaring fire the entire family can enjoy. A fireplace can supplement or temporarily replace your home’s heating system on a cold night (in case we can’t get out there quickly).
If you do need emergency furnace service and don’t want to rely on your fireplace as the only source of heat on a cold night, don’t hesitate to call Pickerington Heating & Cooling at (614) 837-4026. We are on call 24/7 to serve your every HVAC need!