Total Chimney Care's Blog

Choose Local Firewood for the Upcoming Season

Buying Local Firewood - New Haven Fairfield CT - Total Chimney CareFall has officially arrived, and it is here in full force. Many leaves have already fallen to the ground, and those that have not still cling to the trees, creating a beautifully colored landscape. The winds now have a crisp edge that has everyone searching for a cozy jacket to bundle up in. In addition to enjoying the cool weather and sipping hot apple cider, many people – particularly homeowners – are starting to think about heating their homes, if they have not already switched the heat on. Many Connecticut homes still utilize wood-burning stoves or fireplaces as at least a partial source of heat. That means now is the time to stock up on fuel, meaning bundles and cords of wood.

For some homeowners, choosing and purchasing firewood can be a hassle. There are the questions of where to buy the firewood, whether the purchase is a good deal, and estimating how much you will need to get you through the winter. The amount of wood you need depends on your fireplace, the weather conditions, and how often you plan to use your stove or fireplace. Whether or not the wood you buy is worth the price you pay depends on the individual wood dealer you choose. However, you can know ahead of time where to buy your firewood because where you buy depends on where the dealer gets the firewood from.

You should always inquire about the origins of the firewood before deciding to purchase it. Choose to buy from firewood dealers who only sell firewood from local forests. The reason for this is that every forest contains native species of insects and fungi, all of which cohabitate together with few problems. However, when the firewood from these forests travel to different areas, even a mere few counties away, the native organisms on them travel along too. When you store your firewood outside, these species start to inter mingle. Then, these once native species are introduced to new habitats where they become nonnative species. This could result in devastating consequences for the ecosystem.

One nonnative species that has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem is the Emerald Ash Beetle that originated in Asia. It first appeared in Michigan, where it began terrorizing the ash tree population. Now, ash trees all over the country are being eaten alive and thousands have already died.

In order to avoid devastations like this in the future, firewood must not leave the area it was cut down in. Therefore, avoid traveling long distances to purchase firewood, and avoid traveling long distances to use your firewood. Even transporting just a few bundles of wood can start a nonnative species epidemic in the habitat you visit.

So make sure you are buying locally grown firewood that is well seasoned and ready to burn. Always make sure the firewood is not green and well dried out to burn cleanly in your fireplace.

To speak more about this topic with an expert, contact Total Chimney Care for professional input.

By Steve Sobczak on October 30th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Help! My Fireplace is Too Smoky!

There’s nothing that’s quite as relaxing in the dead of winter as a nice roaring fire in your fireplace; a nice sense of calm floods your body.  You start to forget about the unkind words you received from your co-worker.  Finding out that little Timmy is failing three classes suddenly becomes a little less stressful.  Now, imagine how quickly that sense of calm would vacate the premises if you suddenly realized that the time you just spent to get that roaring fire going in your fireplace was a waste because your room was beginning to fill with smoke.

Blockages in your chimney can contribute to improper draft which results in a smoky fireplace.

Blockages in your chimney can contribute to improper draft which results in a smoky fireplace.

Fireplaces that smoke are simply, for whatever reason, not pulling the smoke up the chimney as they should.  There are a lot of possibilities when this happens.  Sometimes there is a blockage; perhaps a bird has decided to build a nest and make your chimney home.  Sometimes a large tree in your yard can grow over your chimney and impede the airflow.  Perhaps the opening of your fireplace is simply too large for the size of your flue, which results in smoke taking the path of least resistance and overflowing back into your home.

The issue could also be that there is a downdraft caused by air movement off of your roof.  If you’re making home improvements and add storm windows on your house to make it more air tight, this could result in your fireplace being unable to get enough combustion air; this would result in the smoke spilling back into your house.  Needless to say, the causes of the smoke are more numerous than you may have originally thought.

Cold air is far denser than warm air; hence the reason warm air typically rises.  Based on this little science factoid, one would assume that the warm air should always rise out of your chimney, taking the smoke produced right along with it.  Creating a warm air siphon will allow the fire to burn properly and draw correctly.  The quick and easy fix for this would be to crack a window in the same room as your fireplace to increase the pressure in the room, thereby causing the warm air to be drawn up the chimney and taking the smoke out of the house.  If this isn’t successful, you might also want to consider preheating your flue system by rolling up a few newspapers and lighting them in the fireplace.  Making sure your damper is propped open is another easy way to make sure the smoke has a way of escaping.

Unless you’re hanging out backstage at a Willie Nelson concert, being in a room full of smoke probably isn’t your idea of a good time.  The good news is that there are steps you can take to remedy these situations.  You can get a tutor for little Timmy, and you can take the steps listed above to hopefully get the smoke to vacate your home.  If all else fails, call the professionals!

By Steve Sobczak on October 17th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

Burning the Right Kind of Wood

A burning question for many homeowners with fireplaces is which types of wood are okay to burn and which are not.  There is no simple answer to this question, as the options available to you are quite numerous.  Nevertheless, they type of wood you burn has a direct effect on how quickly your chimney will need a cleaning.

Make sure that once you have the right firewood, you are storing it in a way that keeps in dry.

Make sure that once you have the right firewood, you are storing it in a way that keeps in dry.

There are two basic types of firewood, softwood and hardwood.  Softwoods—pines, spruces and firs—start burning easily.  Typically, these woods have less potential BTU [British Thermal Unit] energy than hardwoods.  Softwoods also smoke much more than their hardwood counterparts.  The one true advantage softwood has is that it lights very quickly because it’s less dense; this quality makes it an excellent choice for kindling for any fire.  Hardwoods—oaks, maples and cedars—on the other hand, don’t start burning quite as easily but burn for a long time.  Per square inch, when compared to softwoods, they have much more BTU potential than other types of wood and, therefore, burn hotter and more steadily.

The easiest and best fire is built by using a mixture of both softwoods and hardwoods.  A bed of ashes underneath the grate produces steady heat and aids in igniting new fuel as it‘s added.  This will ensure that the fire will continue burning as long as small amounts of wood are added at regular intervals.  As a matter of fact, more efficient wood burning results from burning small loads of wood with sufficient air than from burning large loads of wood with minimal air.

It’s also important to season your firewood, whether it’s hard or soft, as all of it contains moisture.  Seasoning takes place when the moisture content in the wood reaches equilibrium with that of the surrounding air.  A common method of seasoning wood is simply stacking it outdoors in a spot that allows for good air circulation and is dry, sunny and open for approximately six months out of the year.  Seasoning in this manner will produce wood that is dry enough to support efficient combustion and has a higher heating value than unseasoned wood.

It is far more important that your firewood be dry and seasoned as compared to what type of wood you’re burning.  Having both soft and hardwood on hand is a good idea.  You can use the softer woods for kindling and for fires during cooler months when only a small amount of heat output is desired and save the harder woods for the coldest months.  Keeping these things in mind will make you a much happier homeowner and will make the cold months of the year much more enjoyable for you and your family.

By Steve Sobczak on September 29th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment