Trouble with real wood

brianrzq1November 28, 2011

When we use "envirologs," etc, they burn fine. If we put other wood in while the envirologs are burning, the regular wood gets charred but doesn't actually burn like fuel. When the envirolog burns down, any other wood in the fireplace goes out as well. We've tried wood from the grocery store as well as other places. Other people have used the same wood in their fireplaces and it burns fine. Any ideas?

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If you haven't built many "real wood" fires you may not be building them correctly - this is often the case with people used to burning wax pressed fireplace logs. Real wood needs many other pieces to reflect the heat between themselves and allow combustion to continue. Don't be afraid of placing more pieces of wood in the firebox, real wood doesn't produce as much fire as a pressed wax log. Start by placing a firelog in the center/slightly to the rear of the grate. Next, take one large split and place it in front of the firelog. then place two small splits across the top of both the firelog and the large split in front of the firelog at an angle like: // Now place two more small splits across the top of those splits the other direction \\ Keep the splits a maximum of three inches apart from each other, they need to be relatively close. Be ready for a good long-lasting fire.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 2:16PM
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Hi Berlin,
I've never had trouble lighting fires outside, campfires, etc. I will give your method a try, though I've set things up similar to this before. The mystery to me is that while the wax pressed firelogs are burning for four hours, "real wood only chars on this. Wouldn't you think that the "real wood would eventually catch and burn by itself? Thanks for your tips.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 3:09PM
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Chances are there's nothing wrong with your fire starting technique at all - it's the wood. An awful lot of firewood sold as "dry" or "seasoned" is not. This wood holds too much water to burn at all well.

The envirlog type products are usually a mixture of sawdust, paper, parafin. They're designed to light easily and produce a pretty flame but they simply do not burn hot enough or long enough to dry out, char and finally ignite green wood.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2011 at 5:44AM
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Maingrower, I would have agreed with you except that she said it does the same thing with grocery store kiln dried wood bundles. It's the technique.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2011 at 1:17PM
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It is one of two things- improper fire building or wet wood.

Building an indoor fire is very different than an outdoor one. On an indoor fire combustion air and draft are the two most important elements (beyond seasoned wood). I have seen indoor first timers load up wood horizontally piece after piece. That allows no air to get between pieces to allow for combustion. A good fire in a fireplace with limited height usually involves alternating course front to back and side to side if space permits or offsetting in an "X" pattern. If you are using these methods then it is either unseasoned wood, the wrong variety or old wood. Try going to HD or wherever you get lumber and buy a 2x4. Cut it into 16" pieces and leave it in the boiler room for a month or more (space it out). If that burns well after storage then it is the wood. Do not use pine long term though!!!!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 2:35PM
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I tried your technique Berlin. It looked good for a little while, but gradually it just died down more and more until it went out. As I said, I've never had problems building fires outside. Friends have mentioned what mainegrower said. My father-in-law has given me wood that he burns in his fireplace no problem. Just not sure why that won't catch fire off of one of the envirologs.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 4:11PM
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Then there is a setup issue. How much space to do you have under the rack? Make sure the fireplace is cleaned out and possibly raise the log holder on a set of bricks. I had a smokey fireplace once and that fixed it. It gives more air under the fire and raises the fire closer to the flue. Don't use one of those log holders that have webbing that keeps ashes up by the fire. I find they do not work well, they keep too much material up in the fire.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 5:51PM
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Thanks all,
I will try raising the rack. It is about four inches from the floor, and it does not have webbing. Is it possible that having a pro come to clean it might solve the problem? I understand why the wax-pressed wood burns more easily; just not sure why this other wood burns in my father-in-law's fireplace, but not in mine.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 8:23PM
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If the chimney has not been cleaned for a while, by all means have it checked.

The other question is how large in diameter/cross section is the wood that won't light? Starting with small split pieces before adding the larger ones may solve the problem. The envirologs do not produce a bed of coals, nor do they burn very hot. They should, however, be able to ignite small splits of wood which will then allow the bigger ones to burn.You might also try using dry kindling and small splits and see if that works better than the fake logs.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 6:07AM
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You may have the chimney checked if you would like, but a fireplace that sees no wood burning and only an occasional wax log won't need to be cleaned and will probably result in a "liner salesman" wasting your time and money. The chimney isn't the problem. the fuel is. If the wax log won't ignite wood placed as I mentioned, close together in a criss-cross pattern, you are burning some very wet wood regardless of the size. four inches is far enough from the bottom. When you tried building a fire as I mentioned, did you use wood that you had bought from a wood dealer or did you try using store-bought wood bundles? with store bought wood-bundles you are burning kiln dried wood that WILL burn if the fire is built properly - even using a wax log to start it. If you tried starting the fire using wood a wood-dealer sold you, he may not have sold you "seasoned" dry wood.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 5:38PM
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