Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flue Warming

Who knew you had to warm the flue when you start a fire in your home's fireplace?  It was certainly news to me.

Our winter has been especially cold this year, so when the children asked me to build a fire it sounded like a brilliant idea.  I gathered the kindling, secured the larger split logs and set about building a fire.  HoneyBunny and LoveBug cheered when the kindling lit and then coughed as the room rapidly filled with smoke.  My first thought was that I didn't open the flue, so I checked.  It was open.  Hmmm...  After several attempts at building a successful fire in our fireplace and instead turning our den into a smokehouse it was definitely time to get more information.

The good news is that I can build a fire and I have also learned that I can put one out too.  As I watched our den fill with smoke that refused to go up the chimney I raced to get water and put the source of the smoke out.  I sent the children upstairs while I dealt with the problem.  With negative temperatures outside I was forced to open the windows and bring in a fan to help the smoke find its way out of our home.  I gathered the now soaked wood out of the firebox and put it out on the porch, closed the windows, turned off the fan and walked out of the den feeling a cloud of defeat settle around me as all 4 children looked at me with sad faces.

I immediately sat down to search the internet for the answer.  After reading and reading the misadventures of others and their smoke issue I still didn't have an answer.  I had already read that houses were built too air tight now causing them to fill with smoke because it couldn't draw up the chimney.  That wasn't our problem because our home is over 40 years old.  I knew the flue had been opened.  I knew the fire was set back far enough in the firebox.  I was just about to give up and then I saw it ... the post that answered our needs.

As I read I learned how to take newsprint (or cardboard), light it and hold it up near the flue opening to warm the duct.  I had already put the children to bed, so I decided to try it again.  I gathered my supplies adding a piece of newsprint this time and set about my task.

I lit the newsprint, held it up to the flue opening (not close enough to risk the chimney catching) and listened as it popped and moaned.  At one point I did become concerned about the noise, but held fast to the plan.  Now to test it.  I built a small fire with the new kindling and stood back watching it.  I expected  the smoke to come billowing out again, but to my great surprise it went up the chimney.  As I added more wood to the fire I kept expecting the smoke to start to fill the room, but it never did.

I've now taught my darling about warming the flue and the children watch me do it every time we build a fire.  At least I can rest assured that they will always know to warm the flue before starting a fire in a wood burning fireplace.

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