November 6, 2019

Wood-Burning Fireplace Tips

With cooler weather in the forecast and snow waiting to fall, it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy the warmth & ambiance of your wood-burning fireplace! Here are some helpful tips for taking proper care of your fireplace so you can enjoy it for years to come:

Burning the Right Wood

Not only can the type of wood you burn affect your fireplace’s performance, but it can also create an abundance of creosote in your flue which can result in a chimney fire if not properly cared for. Our Fireplace Experts recommend using a dry, hard wood with 18%-22% moisture for optimal burn and performance. (Check your wood’s moisture level with a handy moisture meter like this one)

If you’re looking to maximize the heat value of your fireplace we recommend choosing a dense, dry wood like: white ash, sugar maple, white or red oak, yellow birch, mesquite, hickory or ironwood.

If you’d prefer a medium heat output & ambiance we recommend using: elm, Douglas fir, red or silver maple, tamarack or white birch.

Or, if you’re looking for minimal heat and want to enjoy the traditional hiss & crackle without the heat output, choose a wood like: cottonwood, pine, redwood, spruce, or cedar. No matter the type of wood, you always want to ensure you’re burning dry, seasoned wood with a low moisture content.

If you’re chopping & storing your own wood we recommend the following parameters:

  • Split your firewood to less than 6″ in diameter and about 3″ shorter than the width or length of your firebox
  • Once your wood is split we recommend storing it for at least 12 months, or until it reaches a 18%-22% moisture level. Freshly cut wood typically contains up to 50% moisture and needs to be seasoned before burning. Wood containing more than 25% moisture or is wet or green should never be burned in a fireplace.
  • If you’re storing your wood outdoors make sure to store it in a shed or under a tarp (the tarp can be removed in warmer months to help remove moisture)

If you’re burning wood in your fireplace and notice steam bubbling and hissing out of the ends, this means the wood has not been well-seasoned and should not be used. Another tip for identifying if your wood is properly seasoned is to look at the ends of the wood; seasoned wood typically has darker ends with visible crack or splits and has a lighter weight.

freshly chopped wood
Freshly split wood has a high moisture content which is reflected in the rich color and weight of the split wood
Dry Seasoned Wood has a much lighter weight , a dark appearance and cracks or splits of the end grain
Dry Seasoned Wood has a much lighter weight , a dark appearance and cracks or splits of the end grain

Use Ash When Building Your Fire

Ash is important! If you want to build a fire that has a longer burn time we recommend maintaining a 1″ layer of ash at the bottom of your firebox and placing the logs directly on the firebrick instead of using a grate. The ash will help slow the burn rate of your fire and provides elevation needed for the logs to breathe while still insulated your coals. We recommend occasionally cleaning the ash from your fireplace, while still leaving ash behind as an insulator.

Air Flow & Combustion Controls

Did you know that the temperature of the air outside can affect your wood-burning fire and chimney drafting? When outside air is over 45°F your fireplace may struggle to draft properly. We recommend having your combustion air control 100% open when the temperature outside is over 45°F, and setting your combustion air control to 50% in colder months when the temperature dips below 45°F. These modifications will help provide the proper amount of airflow to your fireplace and can even help keep your fireplace glass doors cleaner!

Outdoor air temperature affects chimney drafting. Open your combustion air controls more during warmer weather and close to about 50% during cold weather.

Wood-Burning Fireplace Maintenance & Care

Maintaining and caring for your classic wood fireplace will ensure your fireplace provides you with a lifetime of enjoyment. Although our wood-burning fireplaces are designed to keep themselves relatively clean, we do recommend annual maintenance. The most important inspection you should conduct on an annual basis is having a flue inspection and chimney cleaning done by a professional to ensure safety and creosote build-up removal. If your chimney is not inspected regularly it can cause a build-up of creosote leading to a chimney fire.

What causes creosote build-up?

Creosote can build if you’re burning soft, green or wet wood or using newspaper or garbage as a fire starter. We strongly recommend using a wax or sawdust fire starter and dry kindling. If you’re using your fireplace on a fairly regular basis, we suggest using a creosote spray periodically.

(Click Here to learn more about the importance of a chimney inspection)

It is extremely important to ensure your fireplace is as safe as it can be by having your chimney inspected yearly.

By taking care of your fireplace you’ll enjoy a lifetime of happy burning!

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