Fireplace won't work in new home.

by Jennifer
(NY)

Hi Matt - My name is Jennifer. My husband and I just bought our first house and it has a fireplace!!! We just got a cord of wood delivered and we are having such a hard time burning it. The first night was fine but the next few nights it just wont burn. I don't know if it's damp. It looks seasoned and we were told it was when we bought it.

We have it stored away from the house on plastic pallets with a tarp over it that we bought from Home Depot. I read somewhere that you shouldn't use a tarp cause it can cause moisture. Is this true? What else can we use to cover the wood? And I don't understand those sheds. Doesn't the wood get wet when it's rainy & windy? These maybe stupid questions, but help please!!!

It is so frustrating trying to start a fire when it won't start!!! Your help and knowledge is much appreciated.

Best regards,
Jennifer

Answer

Jennifer,

Congrats on your new home! I'll see if I can shed some light on your situation.

First, it is possible that you have some wet firewood but there could be some other problems at work here.

To determine the moisture of you firewood, the most accurate method is to use a moisture meter. If the meter reads under 20% moisture, you'll know that your firewood is optimal for burning. Without a moisture meter, the best test is to watch the wood while it is burning. If you see water coming out of the end of the wood, it is probably too wet to burn well.

Another possible problem would be that you are trying to burn pieces that are too large. Larger pieces of firewood (4" + diameter) often won't ignite unless you have a roaring fire or good bed of coals already built up. It's best to start your fire with kindling and smaller firewood pieces before you start adding larger ones.

Another possible problem could be that you aren't getting a good draft from your chimney/fireplace. Do you have any smoke that is getting into the house rather than up the chimney? If so, you may want to have your chimney inspected to see if you have any problems.


In regard to using tarps, it's best to only use on when dealing with fully seasoned firewood that is elevated off of the ground. A tarp can be useful in wet climates when firewood is already fully seasoned, but other than that, I don't really recommend using them.

Firewood sheds work well, although some rain does reach the wood, the amount is usually not significant enough to offset the drying the wood is getting from being exposed to the sun and wind.

Your best bet for seasoning the firewood is to keep it stacked the way that you have it, but cover only the top of the stack to protect it from rain. You can do this with plywood or even a tarp that only covers the top of the pile. This will reduce the amount of rain that penetrates the stack, and still allow for the sun and wind to reach the firewood.

Since you are new to woodburning, I suggest that you watch the Heating with Wood DVD. It literally covers every topic of firewood and wood heat that you'll need to know.

Also, if you are thinking about the going the moisture meter route, you can pick one up at amazon.com, like the one pictured below:




I hope this helps answer your questions. I'm sure that you'll sort it out soon enough. Then you'll be able to enjoy the NY winter in the comforts of your new home in front of a roaring fire!

-Firewood Matt

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask a Firewood Expert!.