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cinnaman

Priming a wood burning fireplace chimney

cinnaman
19 years ago

I have to prime (warm) my fireplace chimney before lighting a fire due to cold downdrafts. The problem is when I prime it with lit cardboard the room fills with smoke until I can get the airflow reversed. Once the chimney is warmed and the flow is reversed, the chimney draws great.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to prime this chimney without the smoke?

Thanks,

Dave

Comments (19)

  • cinnaman
    Original Author
    19 years ago

    Gary g,

    Thanks! I will try both suggestions. Someone also mentioned cotton balls covered with Vaseline as a fire starter....not sure if that would smoke though.

    Dave

  • kframe19
    19 years ago

    One thing I've done in the past with a friend's fireplace that is really problematic is fill an old bowl or saucer with denatured alcohol, and set it alight.

    After a few minutes enough heat is generated that the chimney starts to draw. At that point, I use the fireplace glove to pull the bowl out and pour any remaining alcohol on the logs, then start the fire.

    You have to be VERY careful, though.

  • steve_l
    19 years ago

    I have one of those small 7" high square black electric heaters that are pretty much useless. But, it works great for priming the fireplace insert and may work for a regular fireplace. I run it facing into the insert for about 4 or 5 minutes, then start a small fire which drafts correctly from the start.

  • abcdefg123
    19 years ago

    Anything you burn will have an odor.

    Just a fan will do. It doesn't even need to be heated. Point it directly into the unlit stove for 5 minutes. Take it away and check the draft - your warm air is going right up the chimney. The warm air in your room is enough to draw up the smoke stack.

    Now light your fire with a perfect smokeless draw.

  • RIchH
    19 years ago

    If you have a top damper on your chiminey it allows room temperature air inside the chiminey & keeps it warmer & usually solves this problem.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Lock Top Dampers

  • jabush
    18 years ago

    If your chimney is inside the house "envelope" then you should not have any problems with the draft. I'm assuming that your chimney is on an exterior wall and outside the house, making it difficult to get a draft going. On my setup (outside chimney) there is a cleanout door below where the stove pipe meets the chimney. This is outside the house. What I do is go out and open the cleanout door and put a rolled up piece of newspaper in the opening. I then light the paper and close the cleanout door tightly. That little bit of burning paper seems to get the draft going and warms the chimney enough so that when I touch off my fire in the stove the draft is already there. Haven't had a problem yet.
    hth,

    joel

  • catherinet
    18 years ago

    Do you hold your lit cardboard high up? You can even set it on the edge of your flue. Perhaps you start with too big a piece of cardboard and it creates too much smoke before the chimney is warmed? We just use a little bit of newspaper.

  • rudysmallfry
    18 years ago

    I use what they call fat wood or fat sticks. About 4 times as fat as a long match stick. Stays lit for about 5 minutes, no smoke. I got them at my local fireplace store. I think it was $20 for a sack of about 100 of them.

  • davidandkasie
    18 years ago

    seeing all this talk about priming the chimney, i feel lucky. neither my fireplace nor my parents ever needs priming. just light the fire and let it go. mine is on an exterior wall and my parents is in the middle of the house. theirs has a metal flue, while mine is all brick and mortar.

    the only time i have had smoke backdraft was when my wife yanked open the door before the fire got going good. i keep it open about an inch, but she wanted it all the way open so she could warm up faster. that cleared out in less than a minute.

  • hobes1
    18 years ago

    Try rolling a sheet or two of newspaper and just holding it up into the fireplace as close to the damper toward the flue as you can.. should work ..Think it burns hotter then cardboard... quicker heat...

  • edsacre
    18 years ago

    lighting crumpled newspaper at the back of the fireplace after the wood is layed has always worked for me, but mine always drafted fairly well excect when it's real cold.
    Newspaper burns faster & hotter than cardboard. 2 or 3 sheets crumpled works for me.
    Use crumpled paper as a tinder under the wood too.

  • cinnaman
    Original Author
    18 years ago

    A follow up to my original problem:

    I use gel starter in disposable aluminum muffin/mini bread trays. I let it burn itself out in 3-5 minutes, the chimney is heated, the up-draft is established, cheap, safe, clean, smokeless, and odorless.

    Dave

  • Eliza George
    8 years ago

    Hi Thank you for all these ideas. I have a log burner with a double skinned metal flue that travels up the outside of the house ... What a nightmare. I also have the worst back draft ever encountered, so I have tried all the above. There is no access point from the outside to stuff burning paper up as someone has suggested but not long ago I bought a victorian oil lamp and discovered that they used to light metholated spirits to heat it up before lighting the oil. So I decided to try this method in my logburner . I poured a little meths into a fondue burner and allowed to burn for a few minutes before setting up my fire. Then I read about ethanol above and wondered if i was missing a trick. This is what I discovered http://classroom.synonym.com/burns-hotter-ethanol-methanol-7848.html. So I have now been to a catering firm to buy ethanol gel fuel as my starter http://www.bertiesdirect.co.uk/ethanol-chafing-fuel-gel-4kg-tub. Hopefully this will be hotter and cheaper than metholated spirits. Wish me luck !!!

  • beardedcolass
    7 years ago

    After reading your comment i have a question for you all. I just moved in my new house and I have a fireplace but I don`t have a direct access to the flue because have a baffle. So I'm not able to roll newspaper and put it in the flue to warm it up. What can I do to prevent having smoke in me house? I do have a lot of cold air coming in when trying to start a fire. Thanks!


  • Steve Mallinson
    7 years ago

    Maybe too late for Eliza but meths IS ethanol, with small percentage of methanol added. You won't notice much difference, except in your pocket. I have the same problem as beardedcolass, and am experimenting with using a miniature camping gas stove to drive warm air up the chimney without smoke. This should work but will require careful attention.

  • Steve Mallinson
    7 years ago

    Other ideas include using a hairdryer, blowtorch, gasfired soldering iron and small fan heater... This is way more fun than having a boring functional fireplace.

  • User
    7 years ago

    beardedcolas

    From what I see from your illustration your fireplace is an airtight woodstove.

    I say this because this is what the new EPA rated stoves are like. They have a secondary burn chamber that recirculates smoke (which is unburned gas) back into the fire.

    Open a window a little bit and open your draft all the way. Then start a small fire using kindling or those waxed fire starter bricks you can get at the store.

  • armoured
    7 years ago

    I can't tell anything from that picture but some newer woodstoves/inserts have an 'open' position that bypasses the secondary burn/recirculation path. It's put to open (really, bypass) and then in normal position once it's hot and airflow up the chimney is established.

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