Ten Most Common Reasons a Fire Won’t Start in a Fireplace – Pt 1

Fireplace Problems

Learn the many possible explanations for why a fire won’t start in a fireplace.

Winter is hanging on; and even in the southern states, the fireplace can still be needed for warmth before spring comes to stay until summer. But what if you suddenly find that you can’t get a fire started? There are many possible explanations for why a fire won’t start in a fireplace, and the following are a few of the most common:

1 – The Damper Isn’t Opened Fully

Even if you remembered to open the damper in your fireplace, it’s possible that something has occurred which prevents it from opening all the way. From soot buildup behind the dampers to water damage, there are many possible reasons that the damper won’t open sufficiently. Hiring a professional chimney sweep to address the issue is typically all that’s needed.

2 – The Gas Supply is Cut off, in a Gas Fireplace

Of course, there must be a gas supply for a gas fireplace to operate. There are several possible reasons why there is no gas for a fire. There is usually a wall switch or a valve near the fireplace which transfers the gas from the main line or source to the fireplace; it could be that it was turned off and simply needs to be turned back on. The gas line may be open but there may be no more gas or perhaps a utility payment got lost in the mail and it was cut off.

3 – The Pilot Light is Out in a Gas Fireplace

The pilot light for a gas fireplace can be blown out by a sudden downdraft or by wind. If this is what happened, turn the pilot light back on. The usual way a pilot light is lit is that you turn the control knob to the Pilot position, a counter-clockwise movement. Click on the red button, which should light the pilot. Hold the button in for about a minute and then turn the knob to the “on” position.

4 – The Gas Valve is Blocked in a Gas Fireplace

The thermo coupling produces an electric spark from the pilot light which opens the gas valve. This is a very tiny spark, and even a small amount of dust can block the valve.

5 – The Wood is Wet or Too Green


In order to get a fire to properly start, the firewood must be complete dry.

If there is no heat inside the chimney, the fireplace cannot work properly. In addition, if you are trying to light wet or green wood, all you may get is a lot of smoke but not enough fire to create the heat that’s required for the chimney to do its job of carrying the smoke up and away from the home. The type of wood you use in the fireplace is important. The wood should be seasoned, which means dried properly. Otherwise, there is too much moisture in the wood; and any flames which ignite produce significantly less heat than a fire with seasoned wood.

The other top five reasons a fireplace doesn’t start involve more complex issues. Be sure to read Part 2 of this series on reasons a fireplace won’t start. In the meantime, contact our chimney professionals for all of your chimney, fireplace, and venting needs.

Read Pt 2 of this article to find out more reasons you may have issues getting a fire started in your fireplace.

Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110
Phone: 860-233-5770

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