How-To

How to Build a Fire in a Fireplace

by Dani Howell December 30, 2018

Now that it’s officially winter, there’s no better time to relax indoors. You want to create an atmosphere that’s peaceful (and warm). That’s where the fireplace comes in. It’s perfect for any chilly night. You can enjoy a glass of mulled cider next to it. You and your friends can pull up chairs in front as you have a laid-back evening. You can even sit in front of it snuggled up in a blanket just taking in a mindful moment. The fireplace is quintessential cozy wintertime.

But, before you can enjoy that idyllic experience, you need to know how to start a successful fire in a fireplace.

Fireplace preparation

Building the perfect fireplace fire takes a bit of planning. Before you do anything else, you should follow some safety steps. Namely, you need to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Whether you’ve used it in the past or not, it’s important to make sure your chimney is clean and ready for a fire.

And, remember to open the damper before you start. This keeps your room from filling up with smoke, which definitely kills the relaxing atmosphere you’re trying to create with the fireplace.

You’ll also need:

  • Matches or a lighter to start the fire
  • Kindling
  • Newspaper—Make sure you’re using paper without a coating or colored ink. Avoid glossy paper, like wrapping paper, magazines, or anything similar
  • Wood—Stick with a seasoned one, and, for the best results, go with a hard wood like oak or maple

 

Set up the fireplace

I’ve always had the best luck using the upside-down method. First, you layer the biggest logs on your grate, placed parallel next to each other. You’ll want as little space between them as possible. Then, you’ll take logs that are a bit smaller and stack them on top of the biggest logs. This layer will be in the opposite direction (perpendicular) of the base layer. Repeat these steps for another layer or two using progressively smaller wood pieces and alternating the log direction. For the finishing touch, add your kindling and crumpled newspaper at the very top.

Once that’s good to go, you’ll want to prime your flue. Take a piece of newspaper, roll it up to look like a torch, light it, and hold it into the chimney. This warms the flue so smoke is pushed out the chimney rather than into your house.

All that’s left: Light the fire at the top of your pile and let the flames do the rest.

For safety’s sake, remember to put a screen in front of the fire once it’s lit.

As the fire burns through the top layers of wood, the bottom ones will catch. That means plenty of time for you to enjoy your handy work (and company) without having to tend to the fire. Make a drink, read a book, take part in a deep conversation. And, this method is known for creating a longer burn and producing more heat—exactly what you want during a cold winter night.

What’s your favorite way to build a fire in the fireplace? Let us know your go-to tips and tricks!

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