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When it comes to building fires, we all think we know what we’re doing. That is—until the living room is full of smoke and the fire isn’t hot. It’s when you’re made to light a fire in order to keep warm or for ambiance and comfort for your home and family that you start to look for a better way. In the fire and chimney industry, we’ve lit more fires than we can count, and we recommend one to our customers for safety and efficiency.

Top-Down Firesstacked firewood next to axe

Considered new in many circles, the top-down fire has been around for some time. The idea is simple. Traditionally, the kindling is placed at the bottom of the fire, then larger wood is placed on top. It ignites as the wood falls onto the fire and the flames rise larger and higher.

A top-down fire is sometimes called an upside-down fire because it is the opposite of how people traditionally light a fire. Instead of kindling at the bottom, the largest pieces are placed on the bottom. The kindling is set afire on top and gravity causes coals and flames to fall. This is the most efficient use of firewood in your home, but it is something that takes instruction and practice.

How To Build Your Top-Down Fire

Whether you have a wood-burning fireplace, insert, or stove, you should be able to build and light a top-down burn with no problem as long as your firewood is properly seasoned and split to burn.

  1. First, place the largest pieces along the bottom of the fireplace running from front to back.
  2. Second, lay wood pieces that are cut slightly smaller across the first layer.
  3. Third, lay pieces that are cut the smallest across the previous layer running front to back.
  4. Lastly, gather kindling of softwood, cut in narrow lengths or short blocks atop the fire. This top layer of the fire should be at least a few inches below the top of the door of the stove or insert. Use this space to put wood shavings and paper knots.

To prepare paper knots, roll a piece of newspaper into a tight tube and then tie in a knot. Keep several of these paper knots in your kindling box, though once your fire is lit this way, all you’ll need to do is toss more logs on to keep it going. This technique can take longer to prep but results in a blazing fire within minutes.

Seasoned Firewood

It’s important that before you build your fire—any fire—you have an adequate supply of properly seasoned firewood. Seasoned firewood has less water content and burns more completely than green or “wet” wood, resulting in less creosote. Building a top-down fire helps the fire to burn more completely and helps the smoke to vent more easily because it’s not fighting to rise through a bunch of wood. If you have the proper firewood, have built a top-down fire, and are using the fireplace properly (damper, doors, etc.), and the fire is still not cooperating, there may be a bigger problem with the chimney system itself.

If you’re concerned about your chimney’s safety or efficiency this fall, give us a call at A to Z Chimneys. We care for chimneys from top-to-bottom.

Call us now at 916-408-2496 and schedule a chimney service today.