The smoke from your chimney is just wood that hasn’t fully combusted (or burnt). Perfecting your technique reduces smoke levels and creates a great, warm fire.

Wood smoke also contains fine particles that can get deep into your lungs and cause health problems. 

Learn how to build a smoke-free fire with fire-master Dave Pullen.

Step-by-step instructions on how to build a smoke-free fire

Step 1 Fold newspaper into long strips and tie them into single knots.
Step 2 Place knots and several pieces of scrunched up newspaper into your wood burner.
Step 3 Loosely arrange 8-10 pieces of kindling on top of the paper in a teepee shape.
Step 4 Add a couple of small logs, making sure not to crush your teepee.
Step 5 Set the airflow to high and light your fire.
Tip: Keeping the door open a little helps the fire to get going.
Step 6 Once the kindling is burning well (five minutes), add some more small logs.
Tip: Now you can close the door properly.
Step 7 Once the small logs are burning well (10-15 minutes), add some big logs.
Tip: Make sure there’s space between the logs to allow air to circulate.
Step 8 Once the fire is going well, you can turn the airflow down.
Step 9 When reloading, turn the airflow back to high for 15 minutes or so.
Step 10 Sit back and enjoy!

Want to check that you are burning smoke-free?

It’s normal for some smoke to come out of your chimney while you’re getting your fire going, but it should be burning well and smoke-free after about 30 minutes.

Once you’ve got it going, brave the cold and go outside to take a look at what’s coming out of your chimney. Does it look similar to the picture with a tick? Congratulations – you’re a master fire-builder!

If it looks like one of the pictures with a cross, your wood burner is producing too much smoke.

Consider the following:

  • Are you using a good technique?
  • Are you using dry wood?
  • Has your chimney been cleaned in the last 12 months?
Example showing the amounts of smoke coming from a dull fire, a moderate fire, and a bright fire
Photo credit: Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation
Updated March 1, 2022 at 11:09 AM

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