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Fireplace FAQ

How do I build a good fire in my fireplace?

  • First be sure your fire extinguisher is nearby.
  • Next, open the damper and be sure that it is open all of the way (if there are 2 fireplaces be sure the damper of the fireplace not in use it closed). If you’ve never used the fireplace, first test the draft with one piece of newspaper at a time until you have successfully lit 10 pieces.
  • Now, roll up 7-10 pieces of newspaper and stuff them below the grate.
  • Take 3 more pieces of rolled up newspaper and lay them on top of the kindling. The kindling should be no more than 1″ in diameter, and no large pieces should be on the grate at the start.
  • Now, let’s start the fire. Hold 2 or 3 burning pieces of newspaper up to the damper, drop them on the grate, and light the newspaper below the grate.
  • Our #1 tip is to crack a window on the same level (or below) as the fireplace — basement windows work best. When you open the window, make sure that you feel the cold air blowing in.

What do I do if my chimney is smoking or smells?

Smelly fireplaces are a common occurrence when the weather is damp and humid, a low pressure system has moved into your region, or when weather is coming from an easterly direction. These problems tend to occur in the late fall and early spring because the temperature difference between the outside air and inside air is not as great as it is in the winter and summer months. Moderate use of your fireplace adds to this problem.

Some solutions to this problem are:

  • Making sure that your chimney is clean.
  • Try to use your home’s windows to reverse the pressure coming down the chimney. The best windows to use are the ones on the side of the house that the wind is hitting (usually the east side). Basement windows are also good to try because they are always loaded with pressure. You should crack the window a quarter of an inch, and then give it several hours to see if it successfully makes a difference. Continue to try windows until you find the one that works best. Basically, you are relieving the pressure in your home, while bringing in fresh air, and getting rid of indoor air pollution – which is at its highest level during low pressure systems.
  • For a guaranteed solution to these problems you can have an Exhausto Chimney Fan installed on your chimney. The approximate costs of these chimney exhaust fans do vary, depending on the electrical requirements, but they usually cost in the range of $2,000-$2,500.

What do I do if my basement fireplace is smoking?

Basement fireplaces often get smoky when the upstairs fireplace is being used. This problem is most common for homes built with exterior chimneys after the 1960s – especially in raised ranch, cape and colonial style homes.

This smokiness occurs when the fireplace flue in the basement is vacuuming smoke from on top of the chimney and bringing it down to the basement.

To alleviate this problem, make sure that your basement fireplace damper is closed. The best solution is to crack a window in the basement (about a quarter of an inch) when you use your upstairs fireplace. Basically, the upstairs fireplace starts searching for ‘make up air’ as soon as you open the damper. If the basement window is cracked, the upstairs fireplace will hopefully get its ‘make up air’ through that window, rather than the leaky damper in the basement. If you are not not planning on using the fireplace in the basement, you can put a temporary seal on the top to stop the smoke from coming down the chimney and into the room.

Keep in mind that sealing dampers work about 50% of the time, but are not guaranteed to solve this problem. Chimney caps can often make this problem worse. Another good option is to extend the upstairs fireplace flue tile on the top of the chimney another 12-24″.

Ash pits: To clean or not to clean?

We do not recommend the use of ash pits – there is a simpler way to deal with the ash.

Each year, at the end of the burning season, clear out the ash from your fireplace. To do so:

  1. Open the damper for the dust to rise out of the chimney.
  2. Make sure that there are no hot embers.
  3. Using several paper bags, shovel the ash into the bags and roll them closed.
  4. Deposit these bags into your trash.
  5. Leave a small amount of ash under the grate to act as an ash bed for your fire next season.

Please note: this should not be done on windy days. You can also leave this job to us. Each year, during your annual spring cleaning, we reduce our prices by 33%.

If you choose to use your ash pit you will be creating a more difficult removal process. Most often, people do not have their ash pits cleaned out until it is full, and in most cases the ash pit is the size of a telephone booth. Removing that amount of ash is time consuming, and expensive. If you can live without an ash pit there really isn’t a reason to clean it out – and a full ash pit does not create a safety issue.

If you do call for a cleaning of the ash pit we cannot give an accurate price until we come out to your home and determine how full your ash pit is