Fireplace operation

Hi all! First time user, long time fan.....
I have a fireplace here in my apartment - it's an older carriage house and the fireplace was likely used for heat, not aesthetics. The opening is about 2x2', there is a damper of course and there is also a hole in the floor that is typically covered by a brick that allows the ashes to drain down the chimney into my garage for easy removal. I am difficulty in getting a decent fire of any sort ( I'm not building the fire for heating, btw ). I can get the fire going easily but within several minutes, it always is reduced to coals without a flame. Adjusting the damper seems to have not effect except to fill the apartment with smoke if I close it too much. Opening one or more windows also does not change how the fire burns nor does the furnace fan have any effect. Funny thing is, if I do not touch the fire for a couple of hours, it will flame up, albeit not very aggresively. Here's where is gets interesting, if I cover up the opening 2/3s the area or more with a piece of plywood, it flames up almost instantly and stays buring like you would expect a fire to. It appears to me that there is an airflow problem - is it possible to get too much air? I am pretty sure this has nothing to do with the wood or the way it is cut. Although, if I throw a handeful of kindling on one of the burning logs, it will flame up and hold a flame for perhaps 20 min before once again returning to a slow flamesless burn. It just strikes me as odd that the wood will burn exactly the way I want it to when I retrict the air going into the fireplace. ANy suggestions would be greatly apreciated! MajBach
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

How old is the wood? How long has it dried? It has the symptoms of trying to burn green wood. It smolders rather than flames. The moisture has to be driven from the wood before it can burn very well, thus the long time burn and then afterwards a fire.
Blocking the air creates a venturi effect and blow air right on the wood enhancing the burn. This is the way incinerators work because if you just piled a bunch of stuff and lit it, you get a flame across the top section whereas the forced air gives it much more oxygen and rapid burning.
Bang two logs together. What is the sound it makes? Dull thud = green. Nice crisp twang = dry.
Next is log placement and log size. You have to start with small kindling, then a few small fags, then the larger wood. Too large and it will not burn properly. Too far apart and it will not burn. Note that it is next to impossible to burn just one log, much easier to burn two. They feed off of each other as the heated gasses escape the log the other ignites them.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
A fire can't have too much air, but certainly too strong of a draft. In this case though, it sounds more like your logs haven't been fully seasoned. I used to buy mine at the supermarket. It was supposedly kiln dried, but half the time it would behave just like you're describing. Just ruined what could have been a nice evening by the fire. If you've bought a cord from a local dealer, ask for an exchange or your money back. When you cover the opening with plywood you create a stronger draft as you would get with a woodstove. But if this is what it takes to keep a flame going then I still say the wood is slightly damp.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for your replies. I was convinced that it was not wood because I used to use a woodburning stove to heat my former house and I have used wood that seemed much less dry that the wood I used in this open fireplace but still it burned very well. Plus, some of the wood I used recently was cedar which I figured would burn a little better than hardwood if it was a little moist. Yes, I did by this wood in an orange net from a variety store. Perhaps I will try one of those store bought fireplace logs next time seeing as it is only a ambience flame I need. Thanks again to you both.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 19 Dec 2005 08:43:04 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@sympatico.ca wrote:

They know a lot more than I do, but based only on what you say about covering the opening, if what they say doesn't help enough, instead of using plywood, cover the opening with a glass fireplace screen. That will look a lot better than plywood.
If your fireplace doesn't fit any of them, there have been threads here recently about how to buy the right glass and build your own.
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let me know if you have posted also.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.