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We have an older home in San Diego, CA built in 1925. It has a masonry fireplace and the dimensions of the firebox opening are 25.5" wide by 29" tall and it is 20" deep. The sides are angled in as they go back and the top angles forward. We have always been under the impression that it was designed to burn coal and not wood but then someone told us that this was not true. We have never tried to burn a wood fire in it...does anyone know if these dimensions of the firebox opening by themselves would make it not possible to burn wood? I guess the easiest way to find out if the smoke goes out is to start a fire...any other methods of testing this out without smelling up our house with smoke if it doesn't work? Thanks so much in advance for any help on this.
 

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Civil Engineer
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It certainly looks like either you or the previous owner burned something in that fireplace. I am unclear from your post whether you burned coal in there.

Whether a fireplace can burn wood or not is determined by the lining on the chimney. If the chimney is unlined, and not built from appropriate firebrick, burning anything would be dangerous because you could start a fire. Assuming the chimney is OK, the dimensions on the fireplace would determine the maximum size log you could burn, and how well the fireplace draws.

I suggest you hire a professional chimney inspection company to verify if the chimney is OK, and offer an opinion as to whether you can burn wood safely. If they say OK, try it, see how the fireplace draws.
 

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The fireplace has burned wood in the past. Before you burn wood, have the chimney inspected to see if it can still burn wood.
Components deteriorate and need to be repaired. Starting a fire to, "check it out" would not be the way to go.
Ron
 

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Not knowing it's use history, as mentioned, you need someone who inspects chimneys to take a look. One of the first suggestions they should make is to have it cleaned, unless their visual top and bottom inspection says otherwise.

Just my 2¢
 

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Have someone who is WETT certified inspect it. They can tell you what it can burn if anything.
 

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Concrete & Masonry
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There's nothing in those two pics that says you can't burn wood. Looks to me like a strange form of a modified Rumford. As other's have stated, get a professional out to do a comprehensive inspection, because fire isn't nearly as kind at showing the defects.

Here's a link to tall & narrow openings: http://rumford.com/tall.html
 
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