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Priming a Chimney Flue When You Have a Cold Fireplace or Stove

Starting a fireplace fire doesn’t have to be a struggle. Is air coming into your home through the firebox? Does your house smell of smoke days after you burned a fire in your fireplace? Do you have a hard time either starting a fire or keeping the fire going once you’ve gotten it started? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you could definitely have a problem with your chimney system’s draft.


Do You Have the Drafty Chimney Blues?

Chimney sweeps can determine which, if any, of the afore-mentioned issues are impacting your home. There are numerous possible remedies depending on which problem (or combination of problems) is the culprit. Oftentimes, sweeping the chimney can take care of the issue, as even the slightest buildup inside your chimney can restrict airflow. Sealing leaks in the chimney is another possible remedy, depending on what is found during your inspection. Another quick fix would be installing or replacing your chimney cap; back-puffing problems during windy conditions point directly to this.


The Benefits of Pre-Heating Your Flue

If you noticed that your fireplace is smoking, the first thing to do is make sure you’ve established a good draft. Pre-heating the flue before lighting the fire is a common practice to ensure things are cycling properly. When the fireplace isn’t in operation, the chimney flue is full of cold air (relative to the temperature outside). The initial smoke (heat) from the fire isn’t very hot and has a difficult time pushing the cold air out, sometimes causing a backdraft into the room at startup (after all, smoke is lazy…it takes the path of least resistance). Once the draft has been established, the smoke will still continue to work upward but will have issues in doing so.


Pre-heating the flue will eliminate that issue altogether. To properly pre-heat your flue, you should build your fire stack inside the fireplace or wood stove as usual with paper, fire starters, kindling, or whatever your particular startup procedure is. Before lighting the stack, keep a couple pieces of newspaper nearby to roll up to act as torches. Light the torches and hold them in the flue area. The heat from the newspapers is very hot and will work hard to push the cold air out of the flue to establish a good draft. Once the heat from the torches is carried up the flue, light the fire stack and sit back and enjoy the difference. Doing this will also lead to quicker heat into the room since the unit doesn’t have to waste any heat establishing the draft itself.


It is extremely important to deal with drafting problems as soon as you notice them, as ignoring it can have adverse affects on your health. These problems can cause combustion products to back up and enter your home leaving behind unpleasant and unsafe living conditions. Fixing your drafting problem will enable the harmful gases and smoke from the fire to properly exit your home through the chimney flue. Even though you may be able to alleviate most of the excess smoke in your home on your own, the health affects associated with a backdraft implore you to consult with professionals to ensure that your home is safe for you and everyone in it. You can never be too careful!