The type of wood that you burn is directly related to the amount of wood ash that you will be left with. And there will always be ashes remaining with a wood fire. A common question is whether it is a good idea to remove wood ash from the fireplace or wood stove every time a fire is built. Let's find out.
It is not a good idea to remove the wood ash from the fireplace or wood stove every time you build a fire. You should maintain a 1-inch layer of ash on the floor of the firebox during the regular heating season. Leaving this layer of wood ash will make it easier to build and maintain a fire.
This is because hot coals tend to nestle into the ash and glow, adding more heat to the fuel and reflecting the heat back into the fire. Another benefit of that small layer of wood ash is it will help to protect the floor of the firebox.
If you have a fireplace, you want to make sure that you are not letting your wood ash become deep enough to come into contact with the fireplace grate. Not only will this prohibit airflow to your fire, it can also cause the grate to burn out prematurely from the exposure to the excessive heat.
If you have a wood stove, large amounts of wood ash left in the fire box will reduce the amount of wood that can be added to the fire box. In either case, if the ashes are cleaned out, you will find that it is often more difficult to start a fire. This is because you first must heat up all the brick in the firebox before the fire can really take off.
A good tool to help constant wood burners will be an ash container with a lid and an ember extractor. The ember extractor will allow you to quickly sift the hot coals out of the ashes to assist with the next fire. This is a much safer way to remove ashes. You will have fewer hot coals to worry about in your ash container.
The ash container comes into play when you remove the fine ash from the fireplace or wood stove. An ash container with a lid is much safer and helps keep the dust down. The lid can also be important if you set your ashes outside, protecting it from any winter breeze. If this happens the coals can become active again. That breeze could disperse the active coals onto nearby structures and start a fire. It is important to always treat removed ashes with a great deal of respect, and to not leave them unattended for long periods of time.
You will not want to completely remove wood ash from the fire box until the end of the burning season. You do not want to leave your fireplace or wood stove full of ashes because the wood ash can draw in moisture and potentially rust metal components in your fireplace or wood stove.
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