How to Build the Best Fire in 60 Seconds

Quick tips for getting your fireplace warmed up.

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.


  1. Wood burning fireplace
  2. Dry, seasoned firewood
  3. Kindling wood
  4. Newspaper
  5. 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.




Anne Reagan

Anne Reagan

Editor-In-Chief, With a background in furniture and antiques, Anne has spent the last several years writing about home improvement and interior design. An avid traveler, she loves to collect pieces that tell a story and in her off hours she can be found hunting for vintage furniture and textiles.

Did you love the post? Tell us about it in the comments below!

  • The only thing I would add would be to open the front door a little, at least for starting the fire. This creates negative pressure in the room where the fireplace is and allows the smoke to go up or be drawn up the chimney better. Even with the flue open, the draw up the chimney is not enough for my fireplace, so a little boost with the door open helps.

  • Great feedback, David! Really appreciate your input, thanks!

  • Bob Helmig

    As was stated, everyone has their favorite method of starting a fire, but simple physics go a long way toward building a fire that is not only quick, but low maintenance.

    Heat (and fire) goes up. Orienting your wood vertically allows the fire to continuously feed on the less burned fuel. Also, light your starter and tinder from beneath the grate for a more rapid combustion. Then, if you absolutely must, rearrange your logs horizontally as they become well ignited. I prefer to stack my new fuel vertically against the old as I feed a well started fire.

    In the Kiva fireplaces of New Mexico this method is typical and seldom done any other way.


    I’m a “lighter-underer”. I do a vertical teepee (a horizontal teepee would be…odd) inside my portable fire pit.
    However, for the chimney at home I push very small kindling wrapped in newspaper under the grate, then place two logs horizontally on the grate with larger kindling pieces in the middle of that. Then I place a third log over top of the space created by the two below, but leaving airspace for the kindling fire. Things go up pretty well if the humidity is low and firewood is dry.


    I cheat and buy a premade log and add my real wood around that.