Helpful Tips: Burning Firewood Safely & Efficiently
Getting the most out of your wood fireplace instert or wood stove in your Southern California home requires knowing a little about firewood. Oliver Twist Chimney & Fireplace of Huntington Beach, CA, would like to share some helpful information about:
- Wood composition
- The effects of burning wood on your chimney
- How to create safe and efficient fires
Not all “firewood” is the same
Just because a tree was cut up into logs that are called “firewood,” it doesn’t mean this wood should necessarily be burned in your fireplace or stove.
Freshly cut logs can contain up to 50 percent moisture. When damp logs burn in a fireplace, they create excess smoke that can back up into the home. Smoke also creates flammable creosote in your chimney flue. The more smoke, the more creosote.
The ideal firewood has a moisture content of 20 percent or less. This is the type of wood that gives you those crackling, robust, low-smoke fires you love so much.
Testing for seasoned, or dry, wood
A rule of thumb is to let fresh-cut logs season, or dry, for six months before using them. The bark of a sufficiently dry log will chip easily, and two dry logs will make a hollow sound (rather than a thump) when whacked together.
When placed on an active fire, damp logs will hiss loudly, turn black and take longer than three minutes to start burning. Dry logs will ignite quickly and fully.
When the weather outside is cold, the first step to a proper fire is warming your chimney flue. Start your fire with dry kindling to send warmth up the chimney. A warm flue allows for better drafting than a flue that’s ice cold. A better draft means better wood combustion.
As your logs catch fire, there will be a period where whatever moisture is in them evaporates. This is the smoky stage, during which the damper should be fully open.
After the moisture is gone, the flames will become bright orange and move gently. There will be little or no hissing at this point, and the logs will be well on their way to full combustion.
Schedule Annual Chimney & Fireplace Inspections
Your fireplace or stove should be inspected annually, ideally during the time it is swept.
Inspections alert you to early signs of damage or malfunction so you can get problems fixed before they become serious and destructive.
Key points for burning wood in a fireplace or stove
Follow these guidelines for safe, efficient fires:
Limit creosote buildup
Creosote is the #1 cause of chimney fires throughout California each year. Excess smoke causes excess creosote. Good burning practices as described above, along with yearly chimney sweeping by a certified chimney professional, will keep creosote at a minimum.
Use dry wood
Give freshly cut wood at least six months to dry out. Test logs before throwing them into the fireplace or stove. Make sure your damper is in proper shape in order to allow a full draft and complete log combustion.
Burn only logs and kindling
Never use lighter fluid or other accelerants that aren’t approved for fireplaces. Don’t add plastics, cardboard, Styrofoam, metals or painted wood to a fireplace, as these materials create excess smoke and dangerous gases.
Chimney services from expert technicians
Oliver Twist provides a full menu of chimney services, including chimney sweeping, inspections and repairs. We serve Huntington Beach CA, Long Beach CA, Torrance CA, Anaheim CA, Santa Ana CA, Fullerton CA, Buena Park CA, Laguna Beach CA, Dana Point CA, and many more SoCal communities.
Speak with a chimney professional today at (714) 843-9944 or reach out with our handy contact form.