The perfect fire provides ample heat, a pleasant crackle and little smoke. Many factors can interfere with such a fire, leaving you with a fire that hisses and pops, fills your home with smoke and leaves you frustrated. A few tips can help you to build the perfect fire every time and avoid frustration.
Begin with the right tools
There are a few items you’ll need to build the perfect fire. Always start with dry, seasoned firewood. The firewood should be cut to the proper size, which is approximately three inches shorter than your firebox. You’ll need logs — split to 6 inches in diameter or less — as well as some kindling to get the fire started.
Additionally, you will need newspaper or a commercial fire starter, which is usually made of wax and sawdust. If you are using newspaper, stick to plain black and white, non-glossy pages. The newspaper can be wadded into balls or twisted into batons or knots. Finally, you will need long fireplace matches or a long lighter to safely ignite the fire.
Make sure your fireplace is ready
Never light a fire in your fireplace or wood stove unless your fireplace and chimney have been swept and inspected recently. Your fireplace also should be outfitted with a metal grate or andirons to allow air to flow around and fuel your fire. Before you build your fire, make sure your damper is open so you don’t flood your house with smoke!
Build a stable fire
Perhaps one of the most common fire-building mistakes is building a fire on a base of kindling and newspaper. As the fire burns, those bottom layers fall away, allowing the rest of the fire to collapse on top. This can create a hazard, as it can send sparks and bits of log flying, and it can compromise the quality of your burn. There are two primary methods for building a stable fire that will burn efficiently: the log cabin method and the upside down fire.
To use the log cabin method, place parallel logs approximately six inches apart across your andirons or fireplace grate. Place your newspaper or fire starter and some kindling between them. Place two more parallel logs perpendicularly across the top of the first logs, and repeat once or twice more until the fire is the desired height. Your wood stack should have a square log cabin look. Light the fire and enjoy!
As the name implies, the upside down fire takes the traditional fire building technique and flips it. You begin by placing a layer of your thickest logs along your fireplace grate. Then, you add a layer of smaller logs in the opposite direction across the top. You continue layer progressively smaller logs atop the stack until you reach the desired height. Kindling is placed on the top of the wood stack, and the newspaper or fire starter is placed on top of the kindling! Ignite the newspaper or fire starter, and the fire will burn from the top down, creating a steady fire that doesn’t need a lot of tending.
Call the experts!
If you need anything to prepare your fireplace for the perfect fire — whether it’s a chimney sweeping and inspection or repairs — be sure to call the chimney experts at A to Z Chimney Services!