Congratulations, you have a brand new fireplace! Before you start using it for real, you need to do a few things to break it in. A Wood-burning fireplace needs to be “burned off” to get rid of unpleasant oils and odors and avoid damage.
Burning off a wood fireplace is a fairly simple process. We’ll walk you through the steps below.
Why You Need to Do a Burn-Off With a New Wood Fireplace
Fireplaces are manufactured with oils, paints, and other moisture that needs to be baked off before you can use them without unpleasant odors. Just like with a new oven or grill, you need to run through a burnout process after your fireplace is installed.
How to Burn Off Your New Wood-Burning Fireplace
To burn off the manufacturing moisture in your new fireplace, you will need to do several short fires with kindling only. These quick fires let your fireplace off-gas most of the manufacturing solvents and cure the high-temperature paints. Some fireplaces only need an hour to get rid of most of the odors, but others may need several 30-60 minutes burns.
Ideally, you should do the burn-off process on a mild day in the fall or spring or an unusually cool summer day. You will want the windows to be open to get rid of odors, and you don’t want to freeze.
- Set up your home for cross-ventilation. You can do this by opening all the windows in the room with the fireplace, plus maybe some other windows on the same floor. If you have a ceiling fan or handheld fan, turn it on to keep any future smoke away from the fire alarms.
- Consult your fireplace manual. Each fireplace model has a different break-in period depending on the materials used in manufacturing. Your manual should tell you how many burn-off or “break-in” fires you need to do to get rid of unpleasant-smelling odors.
- Start a small fire in your fireplace with kindling. It will be harder to start a fire and keep it burning the first few times because of the moisture still in the firebrick. You should expect these first fires to emit a lot of odors and smoke. Depending on your fireplace unit, it may take 30 minutes to several hours’ worth of fires for the equipment to fully off-gas.
- Keep the fire going for 30-60 minutes. Your initial “break-in” fires should be short-lasting to help the firebrick cure.
- Let the fire burn out completely and cool to room temperature. This usually takes about an hour.
- Repeat steps 3-5 at least twice or as many times as your fireplace manual tells you to do.
Now your fireplace is ready to go! You’ll be ready to stay warm and enjoy crackling flames when the cold weather hits.
What If I Have a New Wood-Burning Stove or Fireplace Insert?
Wood-burning stoves and inserts also have a break-in period. You can follow the same process we outlined above, although you may only need two break-in fires to cure the moisture depending on the unit.
Before you burn off your wood-burning stove or insert, make sure the glass is clean. The high temperatures of a fire can permanently bake smudges and fingerprints into the glass.
Getting the Most Out of Your Wood-Burning Fireplace
After the initial break-in fires, use 2-3 pieces of seasoned cordwood that are spaced 1-2 inches apart. Try crisscrossing the fuel or arranging it to help air get underneath. This will help the fire burn better.
More Wood-Burning Fireplace Safety Tips
Keep Children and Pets Away
Accidents happen, even when kids know not to play near the fire. Pets can also be at risk if they’re playing in the room with the fireplace or just curious.
We often recommend that families put up safety screens over their fireplaces to keep kids from getting burned on the hot glass. If you have very young children around, you can also set up a modified gate or fireplace guard to keep them away from the fire.
Keep Flammables Away
Many people like to place knickknacks and other decor on their fireplace mantels and the surrounding area. We understand the desire to make your home beautiful, but some decorations are flammable and can pose safety risks.
Make sure any flammable decorations near your fireplace are secure so they won’t fall too close to the heat. You may want to move them away when you are using the fireplace.
Don’t Burn Moist Wood
Firewood needs to be very dry. In most cases, it takes 6-12 months to season firewood before it’s dry enough to use in your fireplace. While you can absolutely chop up your own wood to use for your fireplace, you shouldn’t plan on using it before that time period has passed.
Firewood that isn’t properly seasoned usually doesn’t burn well. In some cases, it can be a hazard and cause soot, smoke, and creosote to build up.
Don’t Burn Cardboard or Colored Paper
Cardboard, wrapping paper, and colored paper often have additives that are dangerous to burn. The chemicals in these products can make your fire much hotter and may even cause a chimney fire.
Make Sure the Flue Is Open
Your fireplace flue or damper needs to be open when you have a fire burning. The flue helps draw harmful combustion byproducts and smoke out through the chimney. If the flue is closed, the fire won’t burn as well. You’ll get a lot of smoke in your home.
Before you start a fire, check whether the flue is open by sticking your head in the fireplace and looking up. If you have a throat damper, it will be just above the firebox, and you’ll be able to reach up and touch it when it’s closed. If you have a top-mount damper, you will know the flue is closed when you can’t see daylight at the top. You can also feel for a draft inside your fireplace — if there is a draft, the flue is definitely open.
You can usually open and close the flue with either a knob on the front of the fireplace or a rod above the firebox inside the fireplace.
Got More Wood-Burning Fireplace Safety Questions?
If you have questions about fireplace safety or plan to remodel your fireplace, contact the Four Day Fireplace team. Our experienced technicians can help you keep your home and family safe and find the best fireplace design options. You can also check out our blog for more fireplace safety and remodeling tips.