Burning Question About Newspaper


I have a question that could save my life. My husband insists on burning newspaper in the winter, one sheet at a time to get warm as he sits directly in front of it. Now, this winter, he is going to roll up papers, tie them like a log and then burn them for warmth. I have warned him, my bricklaying brother-in-law, my brother and numerous others have warned him of the creosote buildup and he has NEVER had the chimney cleaned in 47 years.
gloria246 – 10/1/06 10:36 AM

First, not cleaning a chimney for 47 years is playing with fire, literally.  A chimney fire is one of the worst disasters a home can face.  The process of combustion leaves creosote deposits on the walls of chimneys that must be removed to keep the chimney functioning safely.  As a rule of thumb, you should clean a chimney at least once for every cord of wood burned.  Chimneys fires are fierce, self-sustaining and difficult to put out.  Don’t risk it.  Get your chimney cleaned – today!

Regarding your husband’s practice of burning newspaper, this isn’t unusual.  Many people burn rolled newspapers as a supplement to wood logs.  Personally, I would not recommend burning newspaper except as kindling to get a wood fire started.  Paper burns quickly and is light as a feather.  Any slight downdraft on the fire can launch a burning ember into your home where it could start a fire.  Paper logs also won’t retain the heat like wood logs do.

If you do decide to burn newspaper, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recommended they be soaked in water to remove some of the clay content, and then dried for 2 weeks before burning.  It is also a good idea to tie the logs with wire to keep them from unraveling (just keep in mind that you will occasionally have to fish that wire from the fireplace later).  Finally, I’d suggest never burning coated paper, like from magazines or color circulars.  The combustion of chemicals used in the colored ink and paper coatings may lead to unpredictable and unsafe results.

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