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Another SMOKY start this evening :(

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Boozie, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    I'm tired of eating smoke. I need help. Someone mentioned something about placing a big fat candle in there .... to warm up the pipe?? I'm afraid to let my fire die out now for fear of having to start it from cold again. :(

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Are there any competing appliances in the house? Check to see if the problem is being compounded by a kitchen or bathroom fan running, dryer, or furnace. Even an open window on the top floor can cause a problem. If so, try waiting until they are off to start the fire. Also, try opening a nearby window on the same floor about an inch until the fire is going well to see if that helps.
  3. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, try cracking a window for a few minutes before firing up, I have to do this sometimes because my basement stove competes with water heater and bathroom fan creating a neg pressure in the basement.
  4. tlingit

    tlingit Member

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    Have you tried building top down fires? That helped me, when it would get really cold out, we'd get a lot of smokey backdraft. It helped to crack a downstairs door, but it has not happened since I started to build top down fires. I think the newspaper knots on top warm up the flue. Here's a link to a page that shows really well how to do it. (I used that link to show my husband how to do them, now he's a convert). And of course, what everyone said about dry wood...http://www.nifty-stuff.com/upside-down-top-down-fire.php

    Good luck! This has happened a couple of times or more to us, and it is just awful.
  5. Beetle-Kill

    Beetle-Kill Minister of Fire

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    Barb, what is your weather doing? Winds and outside temps? They sorta factor in, like it or not. I get the smoke on almost every full re-load, (1-2 minutes) of the door being open, just my funky weather. What's your floor-plan, I forgot- sorry. JB
  6. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    SW IN
    No competing appliances. No windows open on the top floor. The furnace was on. There was no chance to "open a nearby window until the fire is going well" as I couldn't get the fire going .... only smoke filled firebox. I then HAD to open the patio door and turned on fans. After several smoke in the face attempts I stuck some rolled up newspaper inside the end of a paper towel holder (for extension) and stuck it in there. It's hard to figure out where exactly is the prime spot since the ceiling is so low (with that cat converter hanging in there). With the old fireplace you could just stick your newspaper up in the chimney and it would "take off".

    I have learned to put on my mask and goggles when "attempting" to start a fire. I eat less smoke this way. :sick:
  7. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    THANK YOU MUCH for all your suggestions. I really appreciate it. It's buzzing along at about 800 degrees now.
  8. Beetle-Kill

    Beetle-Kill Minister of Fire

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    Barb, do you know anyone connected to a roofing company? Just think- old cedar shake shingles.
  9. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    May want to get the chimney checked out too.
    Has it been cleaned lately?
  10. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    Just installed it December 17.
  11. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    I'll have to do some checking. You are talking "kindling" here, right?
  12. Beetle-Kill

    Beetle-Kill Minister of Fire

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    Kindling- Oh Yeah! I re-roofed summer before last, kept all the cedar-shake. A dirty look, much less a match will set it off. A small pile in the stove, leave it until it starts smoking, then the long match. Poof and presto- fire. it will pre-heat the stove and flue before you know it. When it burns down a bit, add bigger stuff. Smoke, you'll only catch a whiff, then gone. Try it.
  13. Beetle-Kill

    Beetle-Kill Minister of Fire

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    Sorry, forgot to add- keep your by-pass open until you know you have a clean burn. No need to contaminate your CAT. Just in case, my cedar shake is over 35 yrs. old.
  14. ansehnlich1

    ansehnlich1 Minister of Fire

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    Anytime I start a fire from scratch I always put 8 or 10 or pieces of rolled newspaper in, put hand split 2x4 pieces on top, north/south if possible, then small splits of good dry stuff on top that, leaving plenty of air space, and then a bigger piece or two on top if there's room for it.

    HOWEVER, I ALWAYS leave room right on top for another 4 or 5 pieces of rolled newspaper. When I light it off, I use one of those long grill starter lighters, and light the newspaper on top first, then light the stuff on the bottom, and leave the side door cracked open.

    I think my split 2x4's are the key. I always go into burnin season with a couple trash cans full of 'em, but the most important part is the loose rolled newspaper right on top, I like to light that and hear it rumble good, burns like crazy, and forces that chimney to start to draw.
  15. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    A hair dryer blowing up the flue has worked for others....
  16. mesuno

    mesuno Member

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    The hair drier would probably work to warm the stack, but seems fair amount of faff.

    I've heard that you can get the same effect by lighting a few balls of newspaper in the stove before you load it up. It pre warms the flue a little and gets the column of air moving.

    Just knock the ashes from the newspaper down before you load up so they don't clog the stove. Egg boxes are better still if you ahve plenty of them (burn longer and less ash).

    Mike
  17. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    Hi Boozie,
    Considering that you reported that your only problem is only when you're lighting a cold stove, you may have the same problem I do. My chimney is on the north side of the house, and if it has not been running for a couple days I will get a very strong downdraft in the chimney. Early on when I first got my stove (~14 years ago), I went through many smokey start-ups. My downdraft can be so strong that even with a big pile of loose newspaper, the downdraft will still push the smoke out into the room. I've heard of some people using a propane torch to blow hot air up the chimney. I've tried that with decent success. I've tried using a candle and that's no good. What works for me every time is to put a handful of sawdust into a ziplock baggy and then pour in about a 1/3 cup of Coleman lantern fuel. It lights rapidly, cleanly, and is not explosive like gasoline would be. Place that within your pile of kindling in your COLD stove and light the bottom corner of the ziploc. You get a quick, clean fire that has enough heat to push the cold air up the chimney within a second or two. There are other solvents that can be used, but I've found that they are either dangerous to use, or start up too slow. The Coleman fuel is safe but effective. That's why they use it in the lanterns.

    Most people say I'm crazy for doing this, but then they have never tried it. I expect to get flamed every time I mention this, I'm accustomed to that, so bring it on. If you find this approach too radical, then try the propane torch for about 2 minutes.
    Dan
  18. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    Maybe you need a good firestarter. I like to think I am pretty good at starting a fire cleanly, and I am pretty good at campfires, but without a good firestarter I tend to get smoky starts in the stove about half the time. I now use Supercedars and a top down start and get clean starts every time. I start with a few medium diameter splits loaded north/south in the bottom of the stove, then a couple more medium splits on top, then a generous amount of kindling on top of that. I wedge a small piece of firestarter the size of a walnut near the top of the kindling pile, making sure that some kindling is beside and/or above the firestarter for quick start up. I try to include enough wood to burn 30 minutes or more, and try to place the kindling over a gap in the splits below, because the kindling is going to burn in half and I want the two ends of each piece to drop into the pile, not on the sides where they are less effective at igniting the wood below. There are tricks to making it start better, but most any stack of splits will work.

    I have tried newspaper, candles, twigs from spruce trees, etc., ad they can all be made to work, but a firestarter is a whole lot easier. I haven't tried other brands of fire starter because those clever devils at supercedar sent me frnee samples and now I am hooked. I have seen fire starters for sale at Home Depot.

    A couple of days ago I emptied most of the ash from the stove, leaving a small pile of coals for a restart. Thinking the coals were hotter than they actually were, I placed a stack of large splits in the stove and sat back to watch the wood ignite. It didn't ignite, but just smoked. Now I had a stove full of smoke and a few red coals at the front. I cracked the door and tried to wedge a couple of pieces of dry kindling into the red coals hoping the kindling would ignite. This caused the kindling to smoulder, but not ignite, and after a few rounds of this I had even more smoke (if that was possible). If I open the door with a smoky stove, I'll get a ton of smoke in the house, so I was left with options that would be accomplished by barely cracking open the door. I decided to try a firestarter. I broke a piece of firestarter the size of my thumb from a supercedar, cracked the door, and managed to place the firestarter on the smoking pile without too much smoke escaping. I thought it might ignite spontaneously, but I waited five minutes and it didn't. I next i took a long BBQ style lighter and reached in to light the firestarter. It lit as usual, then about 3 seconds later, WHOOSH! the whole fire box was a mass of flame and the fire was off and running. I guess the point is that when you have smoke it may not take much to have fire.
  19. Loco Gringo

    Loco Gringo Feeling the Heat

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    I simply "smoke" my chimney by crumpling up a piece of newspaper length wise, light it on one end and stick that end up to the opening untill I see the flame being drawn up. Then I know that my chimney has hot air in it and heat will be drawn up into it. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I dont, esp if I still have heat in the hearth.
  20. jtb51b

    jtb51b Feeling the Heat

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    Do yourself a favor and order some super cedar firestarters. Light one under your kindling and forgo the newspaper.. The super cedars don't smoke and until they get the wood lit there will be no smoke, just heat.. They are cheap and very effective. You could even light a small piece of one with no kindling to "preheat" you chimney if need be..

    Jason
  21. Loco Gringo

    Loco Gringo Feeling the Heat

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    I get free newspaper though. One of the reasons I heat with wood is the cost savings.
  22. jtb51b

    jtb51b Feeling the Heat

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    I was referring to the OP, seems she is having more than $.50 worth of trouble.. I think they will even send you a free one to try?

    Jason
  23. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    I wouldn't have to hold something up to the chimney first before I lit the super cedar?
  24. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    OK, now ..... I point the hair dryer UP the flue .... not AT the kindling/paper/dryer lint/newspapers?
  25. Boozie

    Boozie Feeling the Heat

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    Being a newbie, I'm a little leary of using the lantern fuel (don't have any anyway) and I don't own a propane torch (and I'd be afraid to use one).

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