Hello all, I've been researching this for many years but you always hear the issue come up from time to time. Many folks start their fires with paper, leaves, cardboard, cereal boxes, fire starters, egg cartons, wrapping paper, magazines and so on.
My reasons for putting this out is because we just had a chimney fire locally due to getting cold and the folks are now renting a house because their home is "ashes" from the result of burning improperly.
Please read below:
- Cardboard – this is often treated with or contains man-made chemicals. When these chemicals are burned, it can release hazardous fumes into the air that are harmful to breathe in. It is also possible for the cardboard to actually float into the air as it is burning and leave the fireplace if a screen is not in place. If you do have a screen, it may travel up the flue and out of the chimney, causing an outside fire.
- Pressure Treated Lumber, Plywood, Particle Board, and Press Board- this should not be burned for the same reason as cardboard, as it often contains man-made chemicals that are harmful when burned and the vapors are breathed in.
- Unseasoned Wood – proper firewood is dried out (seasoned) for at least one year. Green wood, or wood that has not been dried out, will not burn properly and will create significant smoke and creosote buildup in the chimney. Properly dried wood is characterized by a graying color, cracking, and bark that easily falls off in some cases.
- Trash – can produce emissions that are very dangerous to breathe in.
- Plastics – will create hazardous fumes, made of petroleum mostly, can burn rapidly.
- Paper – just as with cardboard, it can easily go airborne once it catches on fire. For outside fires related to chimneys, stray embers are the leading cause.
- "Nothing" with any type of glue, "nothing"!!! Remember, most boxes of plain cardboard are glued together.
- Colored paper such as magazines, circulars, paper inserts have highly toxic chemicals in the ink.
- That dura-flame log you've been looking at... "Don't", they are great for ambiance in a fire place but they have small amounts of "paraffin" wax in them, it will ignite your chimney if creosote build up is in there.
- Dry pine cones make excellent fire starters and frequently are used as such in wood stoves and fireplaces. Although they do release some creosote, pine cones can be burned as tinder in a wood stove when properly used.
- A basic rule of thumb here is "Natural"! Start your fires with as minimal paper as you can, use very dry wood.
- Lastly, if you don't know, "Ask here on the forum"!!! You will get the answer. "Please note" These are suggestions and recommendations, everyones burning situation is different. This may not apply to the folks with OWB's, this is just a guide for "residential" wood stove or fireplace burning. Happy burning and stay warm, but mostly be safe!