Rolled up newspaper used in priming the flue

Priming the fireplace flue

Rolled-up newspaperWhat does a rolled-up newspaper have to do with preventing a smoking problem in a wood-burning, open fireplace?

One of the most common causes for smoking problems in open hearth fireplaces is due to homeowners not priming the fireplace flue before starting the fire, especially during cold weather.  An indication that this is the cause of a smoking problem is if you notice smoke in the room at the beginning of a fire, so it’s a good habit to prime your flue every time you use your fireplace.

Explanation

When it’s cold outside, it’s also cold inside the flue pipe and this cold air is very “heavy air,” especially if it’s cold and/or damp outside. If you light a fire, the smoke rises, but it can’t because the cold air acts like a plug. Instead of the smoke trying to rise up the pipe, the smoke can come into the room where you’re sitting. If you don’t prime the flue, eventually the air inside the pipe will warm up enough on its own but not before filling the room with smoke. Priming the flue is essentially pro-actively starting the draw.  Doing this is especially necessary in chimneys that are on an exterior wall of the house.

Steps to Priming the Flue

1) Open up the damperPriming the flue
2) Place the wood or fire log on the grate3) Tightly roll up a piece of newspaper like a wand or torch and hold it up near the open damper
4) Hold it there for a minute or two until you see the smoke being drawn up the flue
5) Start the wood or fire log on fire

This will heat up the air inside the flue and will get the draw started.

What NOT to do!

It’s potentially unsafe to use the log lighter (the gas pipe under the grate) to prime the flue.  Using the log lighter for this will eventually warm up the air in the flue, but in the meantime, the gases can enter the room where you’re sitting.

In summary….

There is nothing better than a cozy fire on a cold, winter night but that joy can be totally cancelled out by a house full of smoke. Smoking problems can be caused by many reasons but priming the flue is an easy solution for smoking issues. Getting into the habit of priming the flue will go a long way in enjoying that cozy fire in the fireplace.  Bottom line: Don’t throw away those newspapers anymore; they’re good for more than just reading!

For more information about our chimney and dryer vent services, please visit our website at www.SwedeSweep.com

Written by Terri Pocock

Terri and her husband, Rick, are the owners of Swede Chimney Sweep & Dryer Vent Cleaning in San Diego, California since 1994. Terri is just one of a small handful of women in California who is a F.I.R.E. Certified Technician as well as only one of three women Certified Dryer Exhaust Technicians in California. Swede Chimney Sweep & Dryer Vent Cleaning - 858/573-1672

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3 thoughts on “Priming the fireplace flue

  1. I roll up the newspaper and stick it up the flue however when I do that smoke still rolls out of the newspaper and fills the room. What am I doing wrong?

    1. There’s one of two possibilities why priming the flue isn’t working: 1) You’re not doing it for a long enough period of time; or 2) There is another cause to your smoking problem, perhaps even a blockage. Here’s a blog post about the top 10 smoking problems and their respective solutions: https://blog.swedesweep.com/fireplace/ten-fireplace-smoking-problems/

      Without seeing the chimney, it would be impossible to know what exactly is causing the smoking problem. I would recommend contacting a local CSIA chimney sweep at https://www.csia.org/

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