As any experienced camper knows, there is an art to building the perfect fire. Haphazardly throwing an arm load of logs together won’t cut it. The same thing is true about starting a fire in your wood burning fireplace. If you want to build a good fire that will burn for a long time and produce a lot of heat without a lot of smoke, you need to have a safe fire starter, the right fuel, and an understanding of the basics.
There are three fundamental things that you have to have to start a fire: heat (a fire starter), fuel and oxygen. These three essential components of a fire are called the fire triangle. You cannot build a fire without all three. Heat is what starts the fire. Fuel and oxygen are what feed the fire to keep it going.
Building a Fire 101
Step 1 – Open the Damper
The damper is usually located at the point where the firebox and the chimney meet though some fireplaces have a damper at the top of the chimney. It is a vent that can be opened or closed.
When you aren’t using your fireplace, the damper should be kept closed to keep drafts out. When you are using your fireplace, it should be opened to let oxygen in and smoke out. If the damper won’t open, you should wait to use your fireplace until it is fixed so that your home doesn’t fill up with carbon monoxide and smoke.
Step 2 – Choose the Right Fuel
The kindling and wood that you choose to fuel your fire are important. Newsprint or scraps of white paper (with non-toxic dyes) along with small sticks or chips of wood, work best for kindling. You should not use magazine pages that are heavily saturated with ink or pieces of painted or varnished wood because they can produce toxic smoke when they burn.
You should choose seasoned logs for firewood. Wood is considered “seasoned” when it has dried out for at least six months. If you build a fire with wood that isn’t seasoned or is waterlogged it will create a lot of smoke and emit little heat. It is also better to burn hardwoods, like oak, maple and cherry wood, instead of softwoods, like pine or firs. Hardwoods are better than softwoods because they burn longer and produce less smoke.
Step 3 – Stack the Logs and Kindling Correctly
To build a fire that will burn for a long time without a lot of work, you need to stack the firewood and kindling so that oxygen can get in. The best way to do this is to place rolled up pieces of newspaper or scraps of paper under the grate and lay pieces of kindling over it. Then stack the large logs on top in a zigzag pattern so that each log is touching but there are gaps in between them.
Step 4 – Light the Kindling with a Safe Fire Starter
Use either a long match or a lighter with a long handle to ignite the paper and kindling. Never use lighter fluid! Lighter fluid burns at a very high temperature and produces large flames that can easily cause a house fire.
We have a lot of experience building fires here at Timber and Wood Bowral.
We know from experience that you can start the perfect fire by following these 4 easy steps.
Let us know if this guide helps you… Or give us a call if you have another question about your fireplace!