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Ten Top Reasons a Fire Won’t Ignite in a Fireplace – Pt 2

Fire Won't StartThere are many different components to a fireplace and chimney, and many different issues can potentially go wrong.  When a fire won’t start or stay lit in your fireplace, it’s an indication that there’s a problem.  Be sure to read Part 1 of this two-part series to learn five more of the ten common reasons you might be having problems igniting a fire.


6 –  The Chimney Needs Cleaning


A chimney flue can become so layered with soot and creosote that the draft is obstructed, which denies a fire needed oxygen.  It’s recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that chimneys be cleaned and inspected every year, but that doesn’t always happen.  It could be that you’ve just moved into your home and were unaware that the chimney has not been adequately cleaned and inspected.  It’s essential to your safety to make sure that using the fireplace doesn’t put you or your family at risk.


7 – The Chimney Provides an Inadequate Draft


The chimney could be obstructed or it could be too short, and either problem will restrict the draft in the chimney that’s necessary for lighting a fire.


The chimney could be obstructed because the netting on the chimney cap has debris on it.  Or, if you don’t have a cap, an animal could have built a nest in the chimney, which will block the flow of air.


Another cause of an inadequate draft is that the chimney is too short.  The chimney needs to be at least 2 feet higher than all objects within 10 feet of it.  Otherwise, wind can more easily blow into the chimney and smoke will likely billow into your home instead of up and out-of-doors.
It’s sometimes necessary to add on to a chimney so that it’s tall enough.  Another available option is to install a motorized draft inducer which fits at the top of the chimney and sucks out the smoke, but it’s very costly.


8– The Flue is Too Large or Small


When connecting a wood-burning appliance to a chimney, it’s important to be sure that the flue isn’t too large for the appliance.  Among the things that can go wrong with a flue that doesn’t fit manufacturer’s guidelines is that it can become difficult to light the fire.  The safest way to go when installing a new wood-burning appliance is to get the help of a chimney professional.


9 – A Column of Cold Air Fills the Chimney


Sometimes cold air fills the chimney and acts like a column of air pushing downward toward the fireplace.  This situation is most likely to occur in homes where the chimney is built along the outside of the home, since the elements have a greater impact on the temperatures in the chimney.  In order to get a fire lit, some of the cold needs to be dispelled so that the flow of the smoke is up the chimney instead of into your home.


One way to deal with a cold chimney is to light a rolled up newspaper and hold it up near the damper, so that heat from the makeshift torch dispels the cold air.  Use extreme caution, if it ever becomes necessary to try and warm your chimney in order to light a fire.


10 – Your Home is Sealed Too Tightly


For a fire to burn in a fireplace, a lot of air is required.  There is already a large volume of air flowing up your chimney, and there must be a sufficient air supply in the home to provide oxygen for the fire.  If you have a modern, energy-efficient home, it could be insulated and weather-stripped so well that it causes the fireplace to become sluggish and smoky.  This problem can also make your home more susceptible to carbon monoxide, which is highly dangerous.  Opening a window can temporarily relieve the problem, but a permanent solution is urgently needed if you plan to continue using your fireplace.


Besides the top ten most common reasons a fire won’t start in your fireplace, there are many more possible causes.  The help of a chimney professional is sometimes required to identify the problem.  Contact our chimney professionals for assistance with the problem-solving as well as cleaning and maintenance of your chimney and venting system.


Read the Pt 1 of this series if you missed the first five reasons a fire may not ignite in your fireplace.

Northeastern Chimney, Inc
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110
Phone: 860-233-5770

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