1.08.2014

Starting A Fire


With all the freezing temps it's very hard to stay warm even indoors these days.  My house is an old farmhouse that is pretty drafty and sometimes even with the heat on it's hard to get the house warm enough.  Our home was built in the late 50's and when we moved into the house there was only radiant heating in the ceilings.  With the renovations, restorations and additions we have cut and removed most of the original heating and added central air and heat upstairs but downstairs the heat and air come from the kitchen sunroom and therefore it takes a long time to heat up the entire downstairs floor especially when it's this cold. Today I made a fire and it definitely helped me finally get warm.
Many of my friends (that shall remain nameless) don't know how to make a fire by themselves.  When i've asked either they don't use their fireplace and it's only for decoration or they rely solely on their husbands to start it.  
I can't do that since my husband works two hours away from home.  So when I built this fire I decided to post about it and give a quick lesson so that if your feeling cold and your hubby is away you will be able to make one yourself.  There is nothing better in my opinion than the smell of burning wood in your home.  
Okay so things you need are: cut wood, newspaper, kindling or thin pieces of wood, andirons (fireplace tool - I use the poker) A long lighter, flashlight (if you want) I usually have a small bucket in my mudroom for necessity but it will help if you need to throw water on your fire if smoke is coming in to the house and your damper were to accidentally close.  

So first of all make sure that your chimney is prepared for a fire.  Usually if you don't use it enough you should have it checked or cleaned once a year to make sure there are no nests, or debris blocking the flu.
So let's pretend your chimney is in perfect condition.
Open the damper so that the flu is clear and open.  You usually pull up and hook so that it won't close by accident.  You can use the flashlight to look up and make sure that it's open and pull down on it a few times and make sure it's securely opened.  
(Above is the damper, the iron lever with the circle at the end.  To open you push up and move to lock and to close you pull up to loosen the position and then slide and pull down.

I first put a layer of crumbled newspaper then some kindling down and then about three or four pieces of wood on top criss cross to expose a little ventilation in between pieces, area so that the air can flow through.

Then I do this two ways, I use my long igniter (hand held) and light it and then lift it up towards the flu.  You will see if your fireplace is cold the flame will go off.  I do this a few times and then take a roll of newspaper light the tip and do the same thing moving it around up in the flu going up the chimney extending my arm.  This will take several attempts since your chimneys is cold.  The flame will turn blue and turn off and that will tell you that your fireplace is not ready to light.  If your using the roll of newspaper lift it up into the hole and pull it down a few times.  You will see the flame will get larger as you come away from the flu and it will turn blue and get smaller and eventually turn off.  When it no longer turns off that means your fireplace is warm and ready to light.  This will allow the fire fumes and smoke to go up the flu and not into your house.  
So if it is ready, with your lighter light the bottom corners or layers that have newspaper and let the fire heat up from below.  You can blow a few times so that the heat will stay close to the wood, but if your fireplace was warm it will light well.  Once it's going just add a piece one at a time as it grows dimmer and fire begins to go out.  
Don't be afraid of it, when done properly it will bring you much comfort.  (IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY AND THE DAMPER CLOSES ACCIDENTALLY AND YOU HAVE SMOKE COMING IN THROW A GLASS OR TWO OF WATER ON IT.  I KNOW THAT'S NOT THE IDEAL THING TO DO BUT IT WILL WORK.)  ALWAYS MAKE SURE THE DAMPER IS SECURED IN AN OPEN POSITION.  USE THE FLASHLIGHT TO SEE IT PROPERLY.

I hope you try it and get to love your fireplace as much as I do.  The sounds and smell that come from it truly are comforting and give any house a feeling of home.  

2 comments :

Brenda said...

Thanks for the fire tutorial. I did not know about warming the flue; I don't think my husband, the main fire starter in our house, knew about it either.

THANKS!

must love junk said...

Guilty! We've pretty much lived around our fireplace the last couple of weeks, but my hubby always builds the fires. Thanks for the info-maybe I'll get brave and go for it sometime when he's not home :)
Susan

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