It’s important for a fire in a fireplace to get going as quickly as possible so that the there’s less chance of the fire going out, but a fast burning fire for the whole duration of the fire can mean a quickly diminishing supply of logs.
Once a fire has got going it’s more ideal to have a slower and hotter burning fire, where the most amount of heat is produced from every piece of wood burnt. It can also be nice not having to add further logs to the fire so often.
So why does my fireplace burn wood so fast and how can I slow down a fire in a fireplace?
Reasons for your fireplace burning wood so fast include:
- Burning wood that is too dry.
- Burning softwood logs rather than hardwood.
- The supply of air to the fire is too great.
To help slow down a fire in a fireplace:
- Build fires using the top-down method to slow down a fire right from the start.
- Burn wood that is between the recommended 15% and 20% moisture content for firewood rather than really dry wood.
- Try to use hardwood logs in your fire instead of using softwood logs as they can burn for longer periods of time.
- Reduce the air supply to your fireplace by closing any doors to the room, or any windows or external air vents within the room.
We’ve discussed the main reasons why your fireplace is burning wood so fast and explained how to slow down a fire in a fireplace in more detail below.
Why Does My Fireplace Burn Wood So Fast?
During the early stages of a fire a fast burning fire is important. To help reduce the chances that the fire will go out, the aim at the start of any fire is to get it going as quickly as possible.
A fire can smoke more than usual if there isn’t sufficient air supply to the fire, or if the wood that it’s burning isn’t good enough to be used as firewood. To help overcome these issues a fire is built in such a way that maximizes how fast and how well a fire burns through the initial bits of wood.
Once it’s time to add further logs to the fire it’s not efficient or cost effective to want the fire to burn through the wood so fast.
The main reasons why a fire would continue to burn so fast in your fireplace can be that:
- The wood is too dry;
- Softwood logs are being burnt, or;
- There is too much air supply to the fire.
Once of the reasons why your fireplace can be burning wood so fast is that the wood is too dry.
The recommended moisture content for wood is between 15% and 20%. As the moisture content decreases below 15% the wood gets progressively easier to burn in a fire. When using very dry wood in a fireplace, the little or no moisture content in the wood can mean that it burns through very quickly without any moisture inside of it to help slow down the rate at which it’s burnt.
Another reason why a fireplace would burn wood so fast is that softwood logs are being used.
Softwoods, such as Pine, typically take a shorter amount of time to grow than hardwood (deciduous) trees. The faster rate at which the trees grow can mean that the softwood logs end up being less dense than hardwood logs. A less dense softwood log can therefore burn much more quickly in a fireplace compared to a hardwood log of the size.
A further reason why a fireplace would burn wood so fast is that the air supply to the fire is too great.
One of the main issues with open fireplaces is that the airflow to the fire can’t be effectively controlled. As a result many homeowners decide to install fireplace inserts or even wood burning stoves in open fireplaces to help overcome this problem. These appliances allow the air supply to the fire to be controlled, and therefore better able to control the rate at which the fire burns.
A continuous and great supply of oxygen to the fire as found in an open fireplace can leading it to burning through the wood as fast as possible.
How To Slow Down A Fire In A Fireplace
By understanding some of the main reasons why a fireplace burns wood so fast, we can make changes to help slow down how quickly a fire burns in a fireplace.
Burn Recommended Moisture Content Wood
Many issues with having fires in open fireplaces can be a result of burning wood that is too wet, including the fire struggling to catch alight or burn properly, more smoke being produced and less overall heat being generated by the fire.
Burning wood that is too dry can typically be a much less common issue than burning wood that is to wet, but it can be a reason why your fireplace is burning wood so fast.
The recommended moisture content of firewood is between 15% and 20%. To achieve this wood needs to be left outside to dry out (season) until the moisture content is low enough for it to burn efficiently in a fire.
However long a piece of wood is seasoned for it will never be completely dry. The humidity of the atmosphere will always mean that seasoned firewood will retain some level of moisture content.
We’ve had a few seasoned logs inside our home for a number of years that have been at the bottom of the stack and we haven’t got round to burning. Even after all this time the wood is still reading a moisture content of around 10%.
Wood can also be kiln dried, and the moisture levels of kiln dried wood can be even lower than that of seasoned wood.
We bought a bag of kiln dried logs from our local store and found that all of the logs had a moisture content lower than what our moisture meter could read. As the lowest reading our moisture meter can is 6.8%, it showed that these kiln dried logs had moisture contents of anything under 6.8%.
These kiln dried logs are so dry that they burnt very quickly in our fires. Wood that is too dry can therefore be one of the reasons why your fireplace is burning wood so fast.
Therefore, to help slow down a fire in your fireplace, look to burn seasoned logs rather than kiln dried logs, or simply burn wood that is within the 15-20% moisture content range.
You can use a moisture meter to accurately read the moisture content of any piece of wood.
If you don’t already have a moisture meter for your fireplace you can see our favorite moisture meter here (UK readers can click here to see the exact moisture meter we use).
A moisture meter is an essential bit of kit for any fireplace, and by understanding how dry or wet your firewood is it will help you to have longer, hotter and more successful fires.
Burn Hardwood Logs
Burning softwood logs can be one of the reasons why your fireplace is burning wood so fast.
Softwood, such as Pine, from coniferous trees typically grow at a faster rate than hardwood, deciduous, trees such as Oak or Ash. As a result softwood logs can be less dense than hardwood logs.
When burning softwood logs in your fireplace rather than hardwood you may find that the fire is burning through the wood much more quickly.
In order to help slow down a fire in a fireplace look to burn hardwood logs instead of softwood.
Hardwood logs can last for a much longer period of time in a fire, meaning that you won’t be needing to add further logs to the fire as often. Because hardwood logs are typically denser than softwood, they can also give out more heat as a result.
We always burn hardwood logs in our open fireplace, and an example of one of the recent bags we bought from our local store is shown below.
Build Fires Using The Top-Down Method
Building fires using the top-down method instead than the more traditional way can help you to slow down fires in your fireplace right from the start.
A top-down fire is where the logs are added to the fireplace first, rather than the fire starter. In a top-down fire the kindling and fire starter are placed on top of the logs respectively.
The purpose of a top-down fire is to provide a cleaner burn of the wood straight from the start and to be able to extend the time the initial bits of wood are burning for.
Because the fire is started at the top, larger pieces of wood can be used right at the beginning of a top-down fire. Large logs used when building a traditional fire can lead to the fire being smothered.
To build a top-down fire in order to help extend how long the initial fire burns for:
- Place your largest sized logs together in a row at the base of your fireplace.
- Lay another layer of smaller sized logs on top the larger ones.
- Arrange the kindling on top of the logs in a crisscross formation.
- Place your preferred fire starter, such as newspaper or firelighters, on top of the kindling.
We have a complete article explaining how to start a fire using the top-down method in more detail here.
The top-down fire method won’t be able to slow down how fast a fire burns in your fireplace for its whole duration, but by building top-down fires you can increase the time it takes before your first load of logs needs to be added to the fire.
Reduce The Air Supply To Your Fireplace
A fire that’s burning through the wood really fast in an open fireplace can be the result of too much air being supplied to the fire.
A fire needs both fuel and oxygen to keep going, and if it has a plentiful supply of both it can burn through the wood at an increased rate.
If your chimney draws on your fireplace really well it can also add to a fireplace that’s burning wood really fast. A strong draft will be able to suck in vast amounts of air into the fire, therefore feeding the fire will all of the oxygen it needs to be burn through the wood quickly.
At the start of the fire it’s important to get the fire going as quickly as possible. As the fire progresses and temperatures heat up, it becomes less and less likely that the fire will go out, and so it’s more efficient to slow down the rate at which the fire is burning.
To help slow down a fire in a fireplace:
- Close any doors to the room from the rest of the house.
- Close any external air vents within the room that were opened prior to starting the fire.
- Close any windows in the room that were opened to help get the fire going.
By closing off the ways for air to get into the room you can help to slow down a fire in your fireplace by reducing the oxygen supply. With less air feeding the fire, it can start to slow down how quickly it’s burning through the wood.
A downside with open fireplaces is that the air supply can’t be accurately controlled. Fireplace inserts or wood burning stoves are commonly installed in open fireplaces to help improve the efficiency and heat output from burning wood.
Air vents on both wood burning stoves or wood burning inserts can be used to more accurately control how much air is being fed to the fire, which in turn helps to lengthen the burn time of each piece of wood.
If you’re finding that your chimney is drawing too well on your fireplace, a fireplace damper can be used to help reduce the draft and therefore the air supply to the fire.
If your fireplace has a damper is will typically at the top inside of your open fireplace, at the base of the chimney. Many dampers can be left partially open on a latch, and in doing so can help reduce the airflow up the chimney.
With less air going up the chimney, less air can be sucked into the fireplace to replace the lost air. This in turn can reduce the amount of oxygen being supplied to the fire and help to slow down a fire in a fireplace.
For more information about dampers we have a whole article dedicated to them here.
Essential Open Fireplace Tips
How Fireplaces Work
How To Build And Light A Fire In A Fireplace
How To Start A Fire In A Fireplace Using The Top-Down Method
How To Improve The Draw On Your Fireplace
How To Stack Wood In A Fireplace
Ways To Help Keep Smoke From Coming Out Of Your Fireplace
Ways To Keep A Fireplace Fire Going