Think you know the best way to build a fire in the fireplace? Everyone has his or her own favorite way to stack firewood or arrange kindling. You might even be a fan of fire starters or manufactured fire logs. After much research and some first-hand trial and error, we’ve come up with what we think to be the best way to build a successful, and darn good-looking fire.
- Wood burning fireplace
- Dry, seasoned firewood
- Kindling wood
- Matches or lighter
Step 1: Open the damper
Before lighting a fire it’s very, very important to make sure that your chimney flue is free from creosote buildup (a certified chimney sweep should do this once a year) and that the damper is open. Use a flashlight and aim it up into the chimney to see if the damper is open or not.
Step 2: Arrange the kindling and firewood
Lay your kindling wood lengthwise along the grate. Your kindling will be thin pieces of dry wood and is usually sold in bunches. Don’t use freshly fallen branches or “wet” or sappy wood – these won’t burn as well and the sap can contribute to creosote buildup. You can use both kindling wood and newspaper.
Next, take your seasoned firewood (logs that have been dried for at least a year) and lay them perpendicularly over the kindling. Position them so that the far ends are a bit closer together than the front ends. Then lay another 2 – 3 logs the long way across the logs. This type of firebox will help contain the heat well.
Step 3: Warm up the flue
Warming up the flue (the inside part of the chimney) with a piece of lit newspaper is a great way to help draw up the smoke. Roll up your newspaper and light one end. Hold the lit end up the chimney and let it burn for about 10 seconds. When the smoke is going up the chimney it’s time to light the fire.
Step 4: Light the kindling
Use the lit newspaper to light the kindling wood and throw the newspaper on the fire. You can add more newspaper if necessary.
Safety tips to remember
Always let the fire die out well before you head out the door or go to bed. Use a fireplace screen once the fire is lit. To read more about fireplace safety, read our articles here.