As you groggily open your eyes one morning, you notice an unwelcome chill in the air. A quick glance at your thermostat confirms your suspicions – your home is a brisk 61 degrees. It’s not snowing, thankfully, but the weather forecast is promising little relief from the icy temperatures.

Knowing it’s only going to continue to get colder, you peel yourself away from the cozy cocoon of your bed, pour yourself a cup of hot coffee to warm your frozen fingers, and get started building a fire in your fireplace.

But after gathering all the materials, meticulously stacking the firewood, and lighting it ablaze, you quickly realize that your kindling, despite your best efforts, is not up to the challenge. The flames struggle to gain momentum and you feel like you’re about to pass out from what feels like performing CPR on this fire. All of this effort and the only thing to show for it is a smoky living room.

Before you throw your hands up in defeat, we want you to know that this could all have been avoided had you primed your chimney before attempting to start a fire in a cold fireplace.

original infographic on importance of priming your flue

What Is Priming a Chimney?

When your chimney and fireplace haven’t been used for a while, it creates stagnant, cold pockets of air within the chimney. The cold air acts as a gatekeeper, refusing the upward movement of smoke and making it difficult for the fireplace to establish a strong draft. Without proper flow of smoke and warm air, it creates a challenging environment for initiating a fire. 

Priming a chimney is important for more than just removing cold air and establishing a proper draft. It also helps with the following:

  • Preventing Smoke & Toxic Gas Entry: Without proper airflow, smoke may initially struggle to rise. Smoke and toxic gases, like carbon monoxide, that are produced when burning wood will have only one place left to go – your living space. This isn’t just an inconvenience…it poses serious health hazards. 
  • Enhancing Combustion: Combustion is the chemical process that occurs when wood is burned to create heat, light, and various byproducts like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and ash. In order to achieve better combustion (i.e. more heat while wasting minimal fuel), we have to optimize the conditions in which the wood burns. Efficient and adequate airflow is essential for wood to burn more completely.
  • Improving Fireplace Performance: Nobody wants a fireplace that’s bad at its job. A lackluster performance from your fireplace means you aren’t getting the warmth and ambiance you expected. To elevate your fireplace experience, try priming your chimney next time to see if its performance improves.
  • Minimize Fire Hazards: When you combine incomplete combustion, improper airflow, and a poor performing fireplace, creosote deposits can form on the inner walls of the chimney more quickly. Over time, creosote can reach dangerous levels, increasing the risk of ignition.

How Do You Prime a Chimney?

So how exactly do you prime a chimney? It’s simpler than it sounds.

To prime a chimney, you need to warm the air that has settled within the chimney. This can be achieved by lighting a small, controlled torch using kindling or newspaper. By placing this directly beneath the damper, the rising heat initiates an upward draft, gradually displacing the stagnant, cold air trapped in the chimney.

Patience is key during the priming process. Allow the torch to burn until you sense a noticeable change in the air movement within the chimney. Once the priming process is complete, you can proceed with building your fire. This small investment of time and effort in priming your chimney not only enhances the performance of your fireplace, but also contributes to a safer and more enjoyable experience. 

Still Having Problems With Your Fireplace?

If you’ve tried priming your chimney and are still experiencing problems with proper draft, smoke in your home, or poor performance from your fireplace, this could be an indication of underlying issues that require a more thorough inspection. It’s possible that factors such as blockages in the chimney, damaged flue liners, or a rusty damper might be contributing to the persistent challenges you are experiencing. 

If that’s the case, give The Chimney Doctors a call today. Our certified chimney technicians can conduct a thorough inspection, identify and address any issues that are interfering with your ability to light a fire, and get you back to enjoying your fireplace all winter long. 

Call The Chimney Doctors today at 901-388-8097 or request an appointment on our website.