Building a fire is far more involved than the cartoon dream of rubbing two sticks together. To have the best fire possible you need several elements. A fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat in order to burn. This is called the fire triangle, and is important to remember when lighting your most efficient fire this winter. However, there are other things to consider as well.
Mastering the Top-Down Burn
To build an efficient fire you should first forget what you think you know about fire-building. You may light a fire easily, but that doesn’t mean it’s an efficient fire. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends the top-down burn, which is the opposite of what you’ve been taught your whole life. The top-down burn is an upside-down fire, with the large wood on the bottom, moving up to small kindling, and finally wood shavings on top. This method means an easier light with less smoke. It also burns more completely and efficiently. This is because the flame, cinders, and ash fall onto more fuel as they burn.
Choose Proper Wood
In order to build an efficient fire you should first choose the best fuel for your fire. This means properly seasoned wood. Wood is not naturally dry. When a tree is cut it begins to lose moisture immediately, but this process takes time. You should cut the wood to length and set aside to dry for a minimum of six months, longer for harder woods. Once the wood is dry it is easier to split. Some signs to look for while waiting for your wood to be ready are: gray in color, lighter in weight, cracking, pulling away from the bark, and a weakening smell. You can look for these signs in wood that you’re looking at buying as well. Not everyone has access to wood to cut and split themselves, but you should still be aware of where your wood comes from.
Your Chimney Matters
No matter how good you are at a top-down burn, or even a traditional fire, your fire may not be at it’s best. Even choosing the right wood and waiting until it’s properly seasoned won’t produce an efficient fire if the chimney isn’t in working order. The best way to insure your chimney is ready is to schedule routine maintenance. This also includes your regular chimney sweep and annual inspection. A dirty or damaged chimney is the best way to have the worst fire!
Chimney obstructions can mess with your draft, which messes with your fire. A damaged chimney can mess with your draft. It can even allow water into your chimney, which messes with your fire. A less efficient fire essentially means a less safe chimney, and that concerns us at Mr. Smokestack Chimney Service. We strive to put our customer’s safety and comfort above all else, and your fire’s efficiency is at the heart of both safety and comfort.