Are Fire Logs safe to use? This is one of the most frequently-asked questions that we, as chimney sweeps, get asked. There is something to be said for their convenience and it’s not like everybody has enough room to store a cord of wood. We also find that older people like using fire logs because they sometimes find a wood pile too physically demanding. A fire log’s convenience and ease of use is a real advantage but there are a few things you should know in order to reduce the dangers from improperly using this fuel source.
What is a Fire Log?
Prefabricated fire logs are artificial logs made of wax, sawdust and other binding agents. Some of the more common brands are Duraflame, Pine Mountain and Earthlog. These logs are designed to be used in open hearth, brick and mortar masonry systems or prefabricated fireplace systems; however, they cannot be used in freestanding stoves or fireplace inserts. Some basic rules should be followed when using these products.
Rules for Using Fire Logs
Only burn one fire log at a time.
Never place fire logs on top of or below a wood fire. Many people will do this because it makes for an easy way to start a fire. Instead, many manufacturers have a safer alternative called a “fire starter” to easily start the fire. Fire starters are considerably smaller than fire logs and the sole purpose of a fire starter is to start a wood fire.
Never poke the fire log once it has started burning. Breaking open the log prematurely releases all the fuel at once and you may experience a major smoking problem. These logs are designed to release the fuel slowly, in a controlled way.
Prefabricated fire logs must be used on a fire grate with no more than three inches in spacing between the rods of the grate. This will allow enough support to prevent the logs from prematurely breaking open.
The manufacturers of these products state that they are not designed to be used in free-standing stoves or wood stove inserts!
Do not cook food over these fire logs due to the chemicals in the logs. Some manufacturers have designed special “campfire roasting logs” for this use.
Safety Issues with Fire Logs
If the fire gets out of control, use a dry-chemical fire extinguisher or sand. Some of these fire logs are a petroleum-based product. Using water to put out the fire may just “spread the fire” instead of extinguishing the flames.
Always use a fireplace screen in front of the fireplace. Sometimes these fire logs can “spit.”
The damper needs to be in a fully open position while using these fire logs. Even after the fire logs have gone through the time allotted on the package, the damper should still be left open until the next morning to make sure that the ashes are completely extinguished.
If you have glass doors on the front of the fireplace, the glass doors must be in a fully open position. Fire needs oxygen and it pulls the oxygen from the room. Cutting off the oxygen source will create a vacuum inside the firebox and we’ve seen more than a few instances of the glass imploding or exploding. Once the fire is out, close the glass doors before going to bed for safety reasons and to prevent downdrafts in the middle of the night.
And finally, manufacturers of prefabricated fire logs state that these products are clean burning but that doesn’t mean that these logs won’t create creosote buildup in the flue. In fact, in our experience, many times the creosote from fire logs has more of a buildup than with wood. Whether burning fire logs, wood, or other materials, make sure to have your chimney inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep on an annual basis and sweep if needed.
In summary, fire logs are convenient because they’re easy to use and easy to store. Follow the rules above and you’ll enjoy a safe and easy fire.
[Photo credits: Terri Pocock]
18 thoughts on “Are Fire Logs Safe to Use?”
What is the safest or best fire log to use?
By concept, fire logs are basically the same–a petroleum-based (fuel) product with wax (binding agent). Some people can be very sensitive to the petroleum odor that some of these logs give off. You may have to try different logs to find out which ones you prefer.
Another type of fire log to consider are java logs. Some of our customers who have used them really like them. Here’s a link to Amazon who sells the log, although you may want to look around your area to buy it locally: https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=java+log&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=122460076168&hvpos=1t2&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3467899934633151144&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_4p0h5arzwc_e_p14
When you say a free standing stove, what is meant? I have a wood stove that is used more as a fireplace then anything. It didn’t use wood pellets and is not hooked into the home heating ducts.
Are the these instructions for use with the levels of crestone?
What you’re describing is a free-standing stove used for heat. Prefabricated logs CANNOT be used in this type of system. Duraflame says this specifically on their website: “Duraflame® firelogs are Underwriter Laboratories (UL) Classified for use in zero-clearance manufactured metal fireplaces and are suitable for use in all types of traditional open hearth fireplaces. Our regular firelogs should not be burned in wood stoves or wood stove fireplace inserts, but you can burn our duraflame® stax® crackling, stackable logs in your wood stove. Check for the UL-Classification mark on the package before buying.”
As for your second question, I don’t understand it. What are levels of crestone?
Why Couldn’t I use a Duraflame log in my wood Burning insert with the door open like a fireplace
This is a common questions we get from homeowners.
The creosote from those prefabricated logs creates a different kind of creosote than regular wood. The creosote is “fluffier” and will actually plug up the pipe. We’ve seen situations where the pipe for the insert was completely plugged up from Duraflame use.
But the most important reason is that the instructions on the wrapper of the prefabricated logs specifically say that they are not designed to be used in stove inserts or freestanding stoves.
There is, however, a type that can be used in inserts. Duraflame has one called
“Duraflame® stax® crackling, stackable logs.” Here’s a link:
Thanks for posting this awesome article. I’m a long time reader but I’ve never been compelled to leave a comment.
I clogged my double walled pipe in only a month by burning waxed card board as a fire starter so I’m concerned that the wax in manufactured logs will do the same.
When you say “double-wall pipe,” is this for a prefab fireplace or a stove? Cardboard should never be burned in your fireplace because the glues and other chemicals to make cardboard can be toxic when burned. Here’s a blog post I wrote about what you should never burn in a fireplace: http://swede.kikawebdesign.com/fireplace/10-things-to-never-burn-in-a-fireplace/
Cardboard shouldn’t be used to start a fire but I doubt using it to start a fire is what clogged your system after just a month. There’s something else going on.
By the way, if you have a stove (whether it’s a free-standing stove or an insert), the manufacturers say not to use wax logs in those systems.
Thank you so much for writing this article. I have a new home that has a fireplace and I am new to the fireplace living lol. This is very helpful and simply stated for a newbie. Thank you!
Are pre fabricated fire logs safe to breathe? I am concerned about breathing in any chemicals.
Yes, pre-fabricated fire logs have chemicals. And smoke from burning wood is also not good for you to breathe. Any kind of chemicals are not good for you to breathe. Ideally, if your fireplace is drawing correctly, you shouldn’t be breathing any of the chemicals because smoke and gases should be drawn up the chimney and to the outside.
So breathing in the smoke or just absorbing in to your skin and clothes is not good. Could it cause poisoning of skin or lungs because i have a constant lead taste in my mouth.
I’m not a medical expert but your fireplace shouldn’t be smoking. For your safety, you shouldn’t be exposing yourself, either your lungs or your skin, to the smoke.
I would recommend contacting a local CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to have them inspect your chimney and see if they can determine what is causing your smoking problem.
I have a regular wood burning fireplace.I have never used fire logs .Always start with paper, fat wood and wood.
Im getting a little lazy to every night bring in the wood etc.
If I want to alternate starting my fireplace the the traditional way and other nights use a fire log is that safe? In other words is there residue left from the fire log ashes that would be bad for the traditional way of lighting my fireplace?