Unfortunately, the summer is over, but Autumn brings a frisson of excitement when it gets cold enough to bring up the question “shall we light the fire?”. If you have a fire or stove you will be well aware of this wonderful consolation for the summer going. Already people are chatting about it at the school gates “have you had yours on yet?”.
Tis the season that allows us to curl up on the sofa each evening, watching the newest episode of your favourite series with the fire heating up your frost-bitten toes and embracing all things hygee.
However, before lighting the fire for the first time this autumn here are a few important tips that might make things run a little smoother and allowing you to receive the maximum benefit from your crackling fireplace. A room full of smoke is not uncommon for people lighting their fire for the first time in the autumn so follow these tips and avoid the pitfalls!
Before lighting the wood burner, refresh yourself and your family upon basic fire safety, informing each person of the steps to take when the fire is alight or, in the worst-case scenario, in case of a fire within your home.
Do I Need My Chimney Swept Every Year?
The basic answer here is yes. It is always best practice to have it swept once a year before you start using it. It is not ideal to have it swept in the spring and not checked again because birds can nest in chimneys over the summer, debris can find its way in there among other things. You may also wish to take assistance from a chimney sweep to ensure that it is properly cleared, allowing room for the safe lighting of your wood burner. Remember, book early, chimney sweeps get very busy in the autumn and you may find you can’t get an appointment until well into the winter.
Now that safety has been recapped, your chimney has been cleared and your fireplace is fresh, your home is ready for the annual re-lighting of your wood burner. As always, make sure you have some high quality well seasoned or kiln dried wood to burn as well as some good kindling and newspaper.
It is common for homes to experience rooms filled with smoke when completing this action each year, but there is a way to work around this, allowing for a smoother and more satisfying process to be carried out. It is all to do with the flue. By warming this up before lighting the fire fully, you can create the perfect environment for a wood burner to operate. This is essential and will help get the fire working well the first time. There are a few ways to do this but the main aim here is to get the flue warm so the warm air can travel up properly creating a draw at the bottom and feeding the fire properly. A cold flue will not work as well and can cause smoke to come back into the room. You can use a fire lighter out or a small pile of kindling. Ideally, let something small burn for a good 30 mins to really get that flue warm.
Normally you may set a fire in a certain way but because you have been warming the flue you must take additional care when setting the full fire. Dry newspaper is always good as are firelighters. Place them where the initially small fire was and light, you may not need to do this as there may be enough heat to get it going. Step back for a moment to ensure that if it does re-light, you are a safe distance away. Ideally, the newspaper balled up or twisted into tight lengths can sit in the grate without catching straight away. Place some kindling in a cone or pyramid shape over them and light with a long match to begin your wood burner’s successful first burn with minimal smoke. Make sure there is plenty of room for air to come through to get to the fuel.
Keeping the Fire Healthy in the Autumn and Beyond
After the first successful and no doubt very satisfying fire it is well worth clearing out the ash and giving the fire a good check over. It is important to keep the ash pans clear but it is even more so at this stage as you will be able to see any issues or areas they may need attention.
Remember – don’t burn rubbish on your fire, don’t burn green/unseasoned wood and treat your fire with respect! The summer may have seen a few new ornaments being placed near the fire, make sure you check the surrounding area and remove anything that should not be close to the heat.
If you find any issues with the fire burning or smoke coming back into the room call your chimney sweep. If there are any issues with the fire or stove itself then give us a call, and we can help.
…and remember, don’t be sad about the end of summer, look forward to all those cosy nights by the fire.