January is the coldest month of the year for our customers and for much of the US. Many homeowners buy a home with a fireplace or have a fire unit installed for the ambiance. Others buy them specifically for supplemental heat, depending on fires throughout winter for zone heating and to lower the cost of utilities. You can too, but it’s important to use your fire properly for best results.
Burn Proper Fuel
Your wood-burning fireplace or unit should only burn properly-seasoned firewood. That means the wood has been cut to length and stored for 3-6 months before being burned. This time allows for the water in the living tree to dry and burn more completely. Burning wet, fresh, or “green” wood will make it difficult to light a fire. The wood will burn incompletely and produce more creosote and soot which will drop efficiency, cause dangerous buildup, and cause odors. When you burn green firewood you will burn more than twice the amount of wood to reach a desired temperature, and you will spend more time and money on chimney maintenance to boot!
Signs Your Wood is Ready
Your wood is not ready to burn when cut, but you can store it until it’s seasoned. Many homeowners don’t have their own accessible wood supply to cut from, but you can still buy seasoned firewood. All you have to do is find a local supplier who sells seasoned firewood at a reasonable price. Check the wood before you burn it, and make sure you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for.
Signs your firewood is seasoned:
The wood flesh is dull in color.
The bark pulls away from the wood.
Cracks form along the edges of the wood.
Wood is light in weight compared to freshly cut.
Two pieces produce a hollow sound when hit together.
Correct Use and Maintenance
Part of keeping your chimney and fireplace working properly and lasting a lifetime is using it correctly and maintaining it properly. You should schedule regular chimney sweeps and annual inspections to help determine needs and repairs for your system. Your professional can also notify you of too much residue in the system which may be caused by what type of wood you’re burning, how you’re using your damper, and your burning practices.
Never let your fire smolder.
Never light a fire in a cold chimney without priming first
Never close your damper while a fire is burning.
Never burn clothing, trash, or leaves in your fireplace.
Follow all the instructions of your trusted chimney professionals, and schedule all necessary appointments and services.
Schedule with us.
Our technicians are certified, our business is licensed, and our craft is exceptional. It’s our priority to bring safety and warmth to our neighbors and customers, starting with you. Call 617-469-4528 or schedule online.
To say creosote is a minor problem would be an understatement. Creosote is neither rare nor harmless. Every wood-burning fire that you burn in your fireplace and chimney system produces smoke that rises up the chimney. The smoke is filled with hot gases, particles, soot, and creosote that covers the chimney interior. Though soot can be corrosive to the chimney liner and masonry, creosote presents a whole different set of problems.
Soot is made up of carbon, but creosote is made up mostly of tar–a sticky substance that is also flammable. Because of the sticky nature of creosote, it collects easily in a chimney, covering parts, clogging the clean out area, and creating a fire hazard. As the creosote builds up, it can become a serious obstruction–and when it reaches stage 3 buildup it is also difficult to remove.
Stage 3 Creosote
Stage 3 creosote, also called glazed creosote becomes a problem only when the chimney isn’t cleaned regularly. When the creosote isn’t removed on a regular basis, it builds up. When it becomes heated, the creosote boils, causing all the moisture in it to evaporate, and leaves a hardened mass of condensed fuel in the flue. Once it reaches this stage, the creosote can’t be brushed away during a standard chimney sweep. It decreases the chimney’s efficiency, increases the amount of creosote produced by the inefficient fire, and raises the risk of flue fire.
Creosote will not damage the chimney when it is cleaned regularly and properly. Once creosote reaches stage 3 buildup it can be difficult to remove without damaging the liner. You cannot remove it with brushes and a homeowner or handyman attempting to do so with tools will cause damage. Additionally, if it isn’t removed, the glazed creosote can cause a creosote fire that damages the masonry, the liner, and even the structure of the chimney. If you suspect a flue fire, you should call a chimney professional for an assessment right away.
Prevent Creosote Buildup
You cannot stop creosote altogether, but you can prevent dangerous buildups. Schedule Regular Chimney Sweeps – Your chimney sweep appointments will keep your chimney working properly and the chimney professional will assess it with each appointment. Burn Properly Seasoned Wood – Burning wet or “green” wood that is freshly cut will drop the efficiency of your fireplace. Green wood is harder to light and burns with less heat, often burning incompletely. This leads to more creosote. Burn only properly seasoned firewood in your fireplace to keep your chimney system working properly.
When you do have a creosote buildup in your chimney, it’s important to call the professionals for proper and safe removal. Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep technicians use an industrial product to remove the creosote without damaging the liner and then we clean the entire flue.
Give us a call before you try to remove creosote yourself. It’s harmful to breathe, may irritate your skin, and can destroy your flue if it results in a fire.
Winter is coming. The leaves and temperatures fall, and hopefully you have already been thinking about your fire this winter. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, insert, or stove, you need to have firewood readily available for burn season. It should be properly seasoned for safety and best results.
Why Your Wood Matters
Firewood is not created equal. The species of wood you choose to burn will determine how hot your fire is, how efficient your chimney system is, and how much wood you have to burn this winter. Check out this cool list that breaks it down by energy content per air dried cord, in BTUs. Drying your wood will mean a better fire.
Like every living plant, trees use water to grow and thrive, and this water is stored in their massive trunks, in microscopic tubes, like the arteries of a human. When a living tree is cut, it can contain up to 50 percent moisture by weight. This moisture should be dried before the wood is burned, otherwise it burns slowly, incompletely, and results in a less efficient fire. Firewood burns best when it has less than 20 percent moisture by volume.
How to Season Firewood
When firewood is cut from a tree, it should be cut and split, then stored in a loose stack so that air can circulate around the wood, and help the wood dry. This process can take as little as three months for soft woods, and up to six months for hard woods. You can tell when your wood is properly seasoned by it’s appearance.
Your split wood should dull in color as it dries, it’s yellow meat turning a grayish hue.
The wood should begin to crack around the sides where it was split, and around the outside where it meets the bark, called checks.
The bark will pull away from the wood as it dries.
Two pieces should sound hollow when hit together.
If the wood is dry and gray or dull in color when split, it is dry throughout.
For best results when you store your wood, stack it loosely, in the sun, in a single row. Additionally, stacking the wood on a bed of gravel will allow for water runoff. Some like to store their wood in a wood shed, but a fully enclosed shed is not the best option, since it doesn’t allow for air circulation.
If you aren’t able to cut your own firewood, you can probably find a local source. If you buy locally, make sure your supplier is selling seasoned wood, or buy in the spring and store it for the coming winter. You should never pay for your wood before you see it, and be sure you are getting correct amount. Make sure that you get what you pay for when spending your hard-earned money for firewood.
For more information about firewood, and what you can and cannot burn in your fireplace, you can talk to a fire expert at Billy Sweep Chimney Sweep by calling 800-248-4900.
Not sure if your fireplace is ready for burn season? Maybe you have been burning green wood and need to check for creosote and soot in your chimney system. Schedule your chimney sweep online today.
Much of our service area is experiencing an uncharacteristically dry winter, and even in the city fire is a hazard. Debris on roofs, near chimneys, and even in the chimney and firebox can become a fire hazard during burning season. The average homeowner won’t be aware of a fire hazard in the chimney system without an expert to discover it. You can reduce fire hazards, however, and prevent catastrophic damage by taking certain measures this winter.
Schedule Routine Maintenance
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) together recommend routine professional maintenance. An annual inspection of the entire chimney system can reveal insufficiency and hazards that might go unnoticed until it decreases the chimney’s efficiency or causes a fire.
Having the chimney swept regularly can prevent a buildup of creosote and soot that becomes a fire hazard. When a fire is burning, these natural byproducts are constantly entering and often settling on the chimney walls. A chimney sweep is the only way to remove it.
Burn Only Seasoned Wood
It’s important to burn only properly seasoned wood to insure that your fire burns completely and safely. Burning wood that is too wet will cause excess creosote and soot in the chimney. Leaves and trash are too light and will rise up the chimney ignited, raising fire risk.
Keep the Roof and Gutters Clean
Your fireplace, though inside your home, can affect the outside. Sparks can sometimes fly out of an extremely hot chimney and ignite debris on the roof. If gutters are filled with dry leaves and the roof is covered in leaves and debris, it can easily ignite, causing a dangerous fire. It’s a good idea to clean the gutters during regular monthly home maintenance, especially if you burn fires often.
Use the Damper to Control an Unruly Fire
The chimney has many parts that keep it working safely and properly. You can use the damper to control a large fire as well as glass doors if your fireplace is equipped.
Install a Screen or Glass Door
A custom glass door or a screen can prevent sparks from flying out of the fireplace and igniting decorations or furniture near the hearth. It’s best to keep furniture and home decorations, wall hangings, and curtains a safe distance from the fireplace opening.
Our top priority at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep is the safety and comfort of all of our customers in Boston, North Shore, and Portland. We offer preventative services to help reduce fire hazards through the winter, and to keep your chimney system working efficiently all season.