How to build a fire in a fireplace

Crisp winter air brings with it the hope of steaming mugs of hot chocolate, snuggly blankets and the flickering glow of a fire in a fireplace. If you have an old wood-burning fireplace, you’re probably eager to fire up the first log and add to the winter ambience on chilly evenings. Of course, you can’t just start the fire at the flick of a switch; in fact, it takes more work to start a chimney fire than a bonfire in your backyard. Follow these tips to safely start a great wood-burning fire at home that will be both safe and warm.

Step 1: Prepare your fireplace

First, always build your fire in a clean fireplace. Remnants of old fires can build up, reducing oxygen flow to your fire and creating a hazard. Scrape out old ashes and regularly clear the firebox of debris and residue. Once your fireplace is clean and clear of hazards, get the space ready for your wood-burning fire. First, open the damper, which serves as the ventilation system that takes the air up the chimney and to the outside. If you don’t open the damper, the fire will send smoke and fumes straight into your living room. Next, prime your flue to ensure that the air flows up and out. To do this, simply roll up a newspaper, light it on fire and hold it inside the chimney until the smoke starts to flow upward. Once your chimney is ready, it’s finally time to build your fire.

Step 2: Build your fire

To build your fire, you will need three types of burning materials: tinder, kindling and logs. These various sizes and weights of flammable material should be stacked up to build a fire that burns evenly and for long periods of time. The trick is to gather materials that are the right size and weight to do the job.

  • Tinder is small and lightweight material that will catch fire easily. Small thread scraps, laundry lint, dried grasses and flax or newspaper all make ideal tinder material.
  • Kindling is heavier material that may take a minute to catch fire, but it will hold a flame for a couple of minutes before completely burning up. Twigs and sticks broken into small pieces are ideal kindling for a fireplace fire.
  • Logs can be of varying sizes, but they should be small enough that you can stack three to five inside your fireplace with plenty of room to spare. This will depend largely on the size of your hearth, but may also depend on personal preference. If you want your fire to last a long time, choose thicker logs that will take a while to burn.

Step 3: Light your fire

Once you have built your fire, it’s time to light it. Use a long match or a rolled up piece of newspaper to light your fire at the base in several places. You want to catch the tinder on fire evenly so that the fire burns upward towards the kindling and logs. In a few minutes, you should have a roaring hearth to keep you warm all day long.

 

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