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Reasons You Can’t Get a Fire Burning in Your Fireplace Pt 1

Problems Starting FireYou came home from work looking forward to the comfort of a glowing hearth or maybe you woke up expecting to have a nice cozy glow beside you while sipping your morning coffee. Now you are filled with frustration. For some reason, a fire just won’t burn in your fireplace! Maybe you have a top rated gas fireplace that isn’t lighting. Maybe your wood burning fireplace is creating more smoke than flames. Understanding the problem can help you find a solution. This is the first installment on the top reasons you can’t get a fire burning in your fireplace. Below are the first five reasons you may be having trouble.

1.  Your Firewood is too Green or Waterlogged

Wood that is too green or waterlogged from being stored in a damp location outside is challenging to ignite and, when it catches fire, produces more smoke than heat. For a fireplace to function properly your fire needs to create enough heat to push the smoke up the chimney. Seek out some dry, seasoned wood to get a good blaze going.

2.  Your Pilot Light is Out

If you have a gas fireplace that isn’t working, it may be that the pilot light is out. A wind or a sudden downdraft can blow out a pilot light. If your gas fireplace won’t turn on because the pilot light is out you can turn it back on. In most cases, you can light it by holding the red button on your fireplace for about a minute and then turning the control knob in a counter-clockwise direction toward the Pilot position. For specific instructions about relighting the pilot for your model, you can also check your owner’s manual.

3.  Your Damper is Closed

When a fireplace damper is closed it keeps heat from escaping but it also keeps smoke from escaping. Be sure to check that it is open before lighting a fire. If you have opened it but it does not seem to be functioning properly, call a professional  chimney sweep. Water damage and soot buildup can prevent a damper from opening properly. A chimney sweep can fix these problems so you are able to enjoy a nice fire without your home filling with smoke.

4.  Your Chimney is Clogged or Blocked

CreosoteOvertime, chimneys accumulate soot and creosote (a flammable crust or liquid that is a by-product of burning wood). Thick layers can prevent your chimney from venting properly. Even a ¼ to ½ inch of buildup along the walls of your chimney can dramatically affect the function of your chimney. In a masonry chimney a ½ inch of buildup will reduce the airflow of your chimney by approximately 17% and in prefabricated chimney it will constrict airflow by approximately 30%.

Chimney blockages can also be caused by leaves, twigs, animal nests and collapsing brickwork. In many cases, a clogged or blogged chimney is the cause of a smoking fire. Bringing in a professional chimney sweep to clean out your chimney will restore the functionality of your flue. In some cases, you may need to invest in a chimney cap to prevent your flue from becoming clogged by leaves, twigs and animal nests in the future.

5.  Your Chimney is Too Cold

A fire will not light well if a chimney is too cold. If you chimney is on the outside of your house instead of in the middle, it will likely have a column of cold air in it when you first open the damper. You will be able to tell if you feel a good deal of cold air coming into your house through the fireplace. To successfully start a fire, you will need to prime the flue. The best way to do this is to light a roll of black and white print newspaper and hold it up in the fireplace until you can feel that the draft has reversed. You may have to do this twice. Take care that you do not burn yourself in the process.

If your quality wood fireplace is supplemented with gas, you can use that to warm up the chimney. Be sure that there are no logs in the fireplace then turn on the gas and light the pilot. It should only take a matter of minutes for the flue to warm up enough to get a fire easily started.

To find out more reasons why you can’t get a good fire going in your fireplace, check out more fireplace tips in our next article, Top Reasons You Can’t Get a Fire Burning in Your Fireplace, Part 2. You can also contact one of our experienced chimney sweeps if you would like immediate answers or want to setup an appointment to clean out your chimney.

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