Wood burning in a fireplace

Perhaps you have recently had a visit from the chimney sweep or fire safety inspector and you feel reassured that your fireplace is both clean and inspected for any cracks and the like? However, safe wood burning is also dependent on how you go about it. There are a few things you need to give a little extra thought. One common risk, especially on cold, dark winter nights, is making your fire burn too intensely. Too much wood and a fire that is too intense can cause the fireplace or flue to overheat, with the radiated heat igniting nearby materials. A good starting point is to read the instructions for use for your fireplace. Every fireplace has a recommended limit, usually a maximum of 3 kg of wood an hour. Another rule of thumb is to let the fireplace rest for as long as it was used. Burn for two hours, rest for two hours.

To keep in mind when burning wood in a fireplace:

  • Use dry wood of a suitable size.
  • Light the fire at the top to avoid unnecessary emissions.
  • A maximum of 3 kg of wood an hour (unless the manual states otherwise).
  • Let the fireplace rest for as long as it was burning!
  • The right amount of combustion air results in a fire with clear, flickering flames.
  • Check the smoke. It should be clear and transparent, not black.
  • Check the flue gas temperature over time. It should not exceed 350°C, other than for short periods such as when the fire has just been lit or when it is fed oxygen in different ways. A flue gas thermometer is a wise investment!
  • Collect soot and ash in a metal bucket with a lid. Keep it on a non-flammable surface.
  • Do not allow the fire to smoulder.

Have you got the right wood?
The wood should be dry (about 18% moisture content). It should be stored dry and airy for at least one year (not under a tarpaulin). It should also be of a reasonable size, chopped into suitable lengths and split. Lighting a fire often requires kindling, that is, small sticks and twigs.

Get to know your fireplace – and be sure to have the right amount of combustion air
When burning wood, you must keep an eye on the oxygen supply to ensure there is a reasonable amount. The combustion air is regulated in different ways in different fireplaces. Get to know your fireplace. If you have the instructions for use on hand, you should read them. In addition to the above, feel free to follow the video links to the side here for a step-by-step guide to lighting the perfect fire – and keeping it burning.

In the event of a chimney fire:

  • Close all hatches to the fireplace.
  • Call 112 for the fire service.
  • Continually check the entire length of the chimney – especially where it penetrates floors, in the attic and on the roof, where sparks from the chimney can blow in under broken roof tiles.
  • Contact your municipal chimney sweeping district and arrange a chimney inspection. A chimney fire can breach the integrity of the chimney. The chimney’s insulation can also be damaged, which in future can result in overheating and the ignition of adjacent materials.

Further reading: