For some, the autumn means and end to warm evenings, and an end to holiday fun and so much more…but these people clearly don’t have a lovely real fire or log burner because for those of us that do there is always a frisson of excitement when it gets cold enough to bring up the question “shall we light the fire?”. If you have a fire or stove you will be well aware of this wonderful consolation for the summer going. Already people are chatting about it at the school gates or in the pub “have you had yours on yet?”.
However, before lighting the fire for the first time this autumn here are a few important tips that might make things run a little smoother. A room full of smoke is not uncommon for people lighting their fire for the first time in the autumn so follow these tips and avoid the pitfalls!
Do I Need My Chimney Swept Every Year?
The basic answer here is yes. It is always best practice to have it swept once a year before you start using it. It is not ideal to have it swept in the spring and not checked again because birds can nest in chimneys over the summer, debris can find its way in there among other things. Speak to your local chimney sweep about your fire and how you use it, and they will advise you on the best course of action. Remember, book early, chimney sweeps get very busy in the autumn and you may find you can’t get an appointment until well into the winter.
Lighting the Fire for the First Time
Now you know your chimney is clear it is time to light your fire or stove. As always, make sure you have some high quality well seasoned or kiln dried wood to burn as well as some good kindling and newspaper.
Warming the flue
This is really important and will help get the fire working well the first time. There are a few ways to do this but the main aim here is to get the flue warm so the warm air can travel up properly creating a draw at the bottom and feeding the fire properly. A cold flue will not work as well and can cause smoke to come back into the room. You can use a fire lighter just left to burn out or a small pile of kindling. ideally, let something small burn for a good 10-30 mins to really get that flue warm.
Setting the Fire
Normally you may set a fire in a certain way but because you have been warming the flue you must be careful when setting the full fire. Newspaper is always good as are firelighters. Place them where the initially small fire was and light, you may not need to do this as there may be enough heat to get it going. Ideally, the newspaper balled up or twisted into tight lengths can sit in the grate without catching straight away. Place some kindling in a cone or pyramid shape over them and light with a long match. Make sure there is plenty of room for air to come through to get to the fuel.
Stepping it up a gear
As is always the case, add more wood or coal carefully and slowly. There is no reason why the fire should burn any slower than usual but as it is the first time since the Winter it is important to take it easy. Consider the weather conditions too, if there is little or no wind it may make things a bit harder and you might be a bit out of practice too! If the fire doesn’t take you can leave it to cool then start again or try adding some more kindling that will burn easier. Sometimes people use left over wood from the previous season and it may have got wet so check before using.
Keeping the Fire Healthy in the Autumn and Beyond
After the first successful and no doubt very satisfying fire it is well worth clearing out the ash and giving the fire a good check over. It is important to keep the ask pans clear but it is even more so at this stage as you will be able to see any issues or areas they may need attention.
Remember – don’t burn rubbish on your fire, don’t burn green/unseasoned wood and treat your fire with respect! The summer may have seen a few new ornaments being placed near the fire, make sure you check the surrounding area and remove anything that should not be close to the heat.
If you find any issues with the fire burning or smoke coming back into the room call your chimney sweep. If there are any issues with the fire or stove itself then give us a call, and we can help.
…and remember, don’t be sad about the end of summer, look forward to all those cosy nights by the fire other people miss out on.