Q: Jason – I have a heck of a time getting my fire started without getting smoke into the house. How can I get the fireplace fire burning without smoking the living room up? – PR
A: PR – So you start a romantic evening with your lovely wife, a bottle of wine, a comfy blanket by the hearth and then you set the smoke alarm off while trying to start the fire and the kids wake up and blow the whole evening. I only know this because I have done it myself.
Houses can be very tight nowadays, and it can be hard to get that initial air movement started to get the fireplace to draw well. Once the fire is blazing the natural lift of heated air helps to keep the smoke going out the chimney instead of into the living area. Starting a fire that is smoke free from the beginning is a bit of an art. Here are a few tips to start it off right.
Glass doors are invaluable especially if you have a vent on them that is low to the floor. Open the lower vent, start the fire, then close the glass doors and they will keep 99% of the smoke going where it is suppose to go.
If you have no glass doors, then you have to get the fire as hot as possible as quick as possible. My favorite way to do this is to use paper shopping bags. You can fill the bag with cardboard (not glossy print cardboard is preferable) or more bags. I usually fill two bags with dried twigs from the ash tree in the back yard. These twigs are excellent kindling and the tree drops them all year long. Light the bag in three spots on the bottom and you will have a roaring start to a fire in no time. Some people swear by newspaper, but I have read quite a bit on how the ink can create an undesirable sticky property to soot in your chimney.
As a last resort you can crack a nearby window or door to allow a better draft for the fire. But who the heck wants to do this in the winter?! It is bad enough that the fireplace is going to suck your expensive home heat out the chimney. Like you really want to open up a window and let the cold winds blow! As I said, this is an absolute last resort.
Once the fire is going strong you will get less smoke if you keep it burning hot. When you get down to coals it will not be producing much smoke as long as you have well seasoned wood. – Jason