Fire starts, then goes out

kjbgu04December 8, 2008

Alright, I feel like a total idiot in posting this. I grew up in a house that had a wood-burning fireplace. If we wanted a fire, we opened the glass doors, prepped the kindling with lighter fluid, and voila! The kindling caught and after it was burning well, we added larger logs.

A marriage, a new city, and a baby on the way later, we just moved into a new house and had our chimney cleaned. This firebox does not have a glass door, just a standing screen we bought to keep the cat from getting in the ashes. Tried to start a fire as before - lighter fluid on small sticks and branches. The kindling catches right away and I put on wood about 1" in diameter. At first there is almost no smoke and the fire seems to be burning well. But slowly the house fills with smoke and the fire goes out. This time the house filled with smoke so badly that we had to open a window - I've heard that can help increase airflow. But the house just fills with smoke and the fire goes out.

House was built in 1971, though windows seem the newer kind, maybe mid-90s or so. Furnace is the high-efficiency kind, installed new in February 2008. The flue is open, of course. I feel like a total idiot that I can't keep a fire going in my house without it smoking the whole place up. Any ideas?

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start a small fire up in the damper to create a draft, open a window. you got a bad drafting fireplace. you got to get all that cold air outta the flue

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 8:49PM
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Thanks, I'll give that a try tomorrow. I'm fed up with it tonight so I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 9:05PM
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Make sure that damper is open! Seems obvious, but we've all forgotten it sometime.
Another obvious one: is your wood well seasoned and dry?

Could the chimney be obstructed? Birds, squirrels, etc can cause lots of problems. Hopefully, the chimney has been swept recently.

Lastly, if the fireplace is not drawing, look outside at the chimney, is it taller than the rooftop? Should be for proper drafting. Extensions can be purchased for this. Make sure it has some type of screen cap.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2008 at 11:27AM
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Read my comments under post titled 'Fireplace smoke'.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 7:29AM
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Thanks for all your suggestions. They did the trick. I think what helped the most was lighting a newspaper and holding it up the chimney to start the draft. Then I gradually lowered the burning newspaper until I touched the kindling with lighter fluid on it. I had a window open during this time but as soon as the fire burned well, I closed the window and the wife and I enjoyed a nice fire.

Thanks again for your help!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 6:02AM
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I couldn't figure out why I was getting smoke in the house after 2 hours of fire burning nicely.

Found out 2 things ironically.

  1. The wife was putting on the stove hood fan and 2. The logs would be to close to the front of the fireplace.

That on top of having a 9 x 13" flue with a 4 foot x 2 foot fireplace opening. Its choking for air.

But After getting a wood stove installed, fireplaces are pointless to me.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 10:16PM
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