Priming a wood burning fireplace chimney

cinnamanJanuary 20, 2005

I have to prime (warm) my fireplace chimney before lighting a fire due to cold downdrafts. The problem is when I prime it with lit cardboard the room fills with smoke until I can get the airflow reversed. Once the chimney is warmed and the flow is reversed, the chimney draws great.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to prime this chimney without the smoke?



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If you have a window or door (that opens to the outside), you can open it slightly while you start the fire. This way the air that enters from the outside will draft thru the room and up the chimney. I do this all the time when it is real cold and I know what you are talking about. You can also use a piece of Duraflame log instead of newspaper or cardboard to start the fire. The Duraflame log burns clean (no smoke). I cut a 5 pound log in half or thirds and use it to start the fire.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 2:43PM
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Gary g,

Thanks! I will try both suggestions. Someone also mentioned cotton balls covered with Vaseline as a fire starter....not sure if that would smoke though.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 2:59PM
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One thing I've done in the past with a friend's fireplace that is really problematic is fill an old bowl or saucer with denatured alcohol, and set it alight.

After a few minutes enough heat is generated that the chimney starts to draw. At that point, I use the fireplace glove to pull the bowl out and pour any remaining alcohol on the logs, then start the fire.

You have to be VERY careful, though.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 4:20PM
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I have one of those small 7" high square black electric heaters that are pretty much useless. But, it works great for priming the fireplace insert and may work for a regular fireplace. I run it facing into the insert for about 4 or 5 minutes, then start a small fire which drafts correctly from the start.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2005 at 9:59AM
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Anything you burn will have an odor.

Just a fan will do. It doesn't even need to be heated. Point it directly into the unlit stove for 5 minutes. Take it away and check the draft - your warm air is going right up the chimney. The warm air in your room is enough to draw up the smoke stack.

Now light your fire with a perfect smokeless draw.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 11:23AM
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If you have a top damper on your chiminey it allows room temperature air inside the chiminey & keeps it warmer & usually solves this problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lock Top Dampers

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 12:15AM
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If your chimney is inside the house "envelope" then you should not have any problems with the draft. I'm assuming that your chimney is on an exterior wall and outside the house, making it difficult to get a draft going. On my setup (outside chimney) there is a cleanout door below where the stove pipe meets the chimney. This is outside the house. What I do is go out and open the cleanout door and put a rolled up piece of newspaper in the opening. I then light the paper and close the cleanout door tightly. That little bit of burning paper seems to get the draft going and warms the chimney enough so that when I touch off my fire in the stove the draft is already there. Haven't had a problem yet.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2006 at 1:47PM
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Do you hold your lit cardboard high up? You can even set it on the edge of your flue. Perhaps you start with too big a piece of cardboard and it creates too much smoke before the chimney is warmed? We just use a little bit of newspaper.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 6:35AM
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I use what they call fat wood or fat sticks. About 4 times as fat as a long match stick. Stays lit for about 5 minutes, no smoke. I got them at my local fireplace store. I think it was $20 for a sack of about 100 of them.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 12:53PM
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seeing all this talk about priming the chimney, i feel lucky. neither my fireplace nor my parents ever needs priming. just light the fire and let it go. mine is on an exterior wall and my parents is in the middle of the house. theirs has a metal flue, while mine is all brick and mortar.

the only time i have had smoke backdraft was when my wife yanked open the door before the fire got going good. i keep it open about an inch, but she wanted it all the way open so she could warm up faster. that cleared out in less than a minute.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 5:40PM
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Try rolling a sheet or two of newspaper and just holding it up into the fireplace as close to the damper toward the flue as you can.. should work ..Think it burns hotter then cardboard... quicker heat...

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 8:40PM
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lighting crumpled newspaper at the back of the fireplace after the wood is layed has always worked for me, but mine always drafted fairly well excect when it's real cold.
Newspaper burns faster & hotter than cardboard. 2 or 3 sheets crumpled works for me.
Use crumpled paper as a tinder under the wood too.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 12:03PM
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A follow up to my original problem:

I use gel starter in disposable aluminum muffin/mini bread trays. I let it burn itself out in 3-5 minutes, the chimney is heated, the up-draft is established, cheap, safe, clean, smokeless, and odorless.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 3:42PM
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