After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and the start to a new year, one of the only things that makes a cold winter in Charlottesville tolerable is a nice cozy fire. But, when it’s particularly chilly and the snow is piling high outside your windows, you might find it a bit of a challenge to get a fire burning properly. You see, just like we’re not at our best when we’re too cold, neither are our chimneys!

Fortunately, even when temperatures are below freezing and your chimney has taken the brunt of the cold weather, there are things you can do to improve your fireplace’s performance and efficiency. Keep reading to find out the best tips and tricks to optimize your fireside enjoyment this winter.

Have questions, comments, or concerns about something else regarding your fireplace, stove, or chimney? The exceptional team of experts here at The Chimney Guys are here to help in any way we can. To schedule your appointment, call 434-481-3796 or get in touch through our website.

Tips for Using Your Fireplace In Cold Weather

original infographic featuring tips for ideal winter chimney use

You can’t wait for warmer weather to ensure that your system will operate properly, and you don’t want to feel like you’re at a campfire every time you light a fire, either. So, what do you do? You take some steps to ensure that your appliance is properly prepared for operation, of course!

Similar to the way we warm up an oven before popping our meal in, when you prepare or “preheat” your flue for a fire – and set the rest of your system up for success – you’ll enjoy a much smoother fireside experience. But, how do you do that, exactly? We’re glad you asked. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your hearth appliance this season:

  • Use newspaper “torches” to prime your flue. As silly as this may sound, it makes all the difference in the world. Using a few pieces of tightly rolled newspaper, light one end on fire to create a small torch and hold it just above the opened damper. After two to three minutes, your flue should be warm enough to adequately carry the hot exhaust from a real fire.
  • Ensure you are burning the right firewood. Despite all wood looking more or less the same, there is actually a big difference between the different kinds. And when it comes to firewood, knowing which kind to burn is important. Hardwoods are universally preferred over softwoods because of their generally lower moisture content, but that’s only after they’ve been properly dried (or “seasoned”) for at least six months.
  • Create a top-down burn. Did you know there is an art to wood-stacking? Depending on the way timber is arranged in your firebox, the result of the burn is different. To achieve what is called a “top-down” burn, you start with the largest pieces on the bottom with the smaller logs on the top. When you burn this way, the flue receives additional priming as the smaller kindling burns fast and prepares your chimney for the rest.

Is It Ever Too Cold To Start a Fire in a Fireplace?

That’s a great question – and because of the precarious design and location of your fireplace and chimney, this one’s a bit difficult to answer.

  1. First, it’s tough to accurately measure or gauge the temperature inside your flue.
  2. And second, in many instances when a fire won’t catch, there could be a handful of reasons why – only one of which might actually be related to the weather. 

However, while there are a lot of different stakes at play and reasons for potential fireplace issues, it is true that your system will have a hard time operating in instances of extreme temperature difference between your home and the outdoors.

Chimneys operate based on the principle that hot air will rise to replace the cool air coming into fuel combustion. This creates a cycle that not only keeps your fire burning, but also provides a safe exit way for the dangerous gases and exhaust fumes to leave your home. But, when a chimney is already filled with cold air, it makes it significantly harder for the fire smoke to rise, causing issues with backdrafting and smoke-filled living spaces – as well as the potential for creosote buildup.

Questions About Your Chimney? You Can Count on The Chimney Guys!

Tried all of these and still having issues with proper airflow, backdrafting, or something else entirely? Chimneys and fireplaces can be deceptively convoluted when it comes to diagnosing an issue. But luckily for homeowners in and around Charlottesville, VA, that’s where we come in.

No matter if you’re looking to schedule some preventative maintenance, like a chimney sweep, or are worried something might not be working how it should and needs repair, The Chimney Guys have got it covered. To learn more or schedule an appointment, you can reach us by phone at 434-481-3796 or online by filling out this appointment request form