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How to Make a Good Fire in Your Fireplace

Building a good fire in your fireplace is easy if you take it step by step.


First make sure your chimney has been cleaned and inspected, within the past year, by a chimney sweep or other qualified professional.  If creosote from burning wood has built up in your chimney, it can start a disastrous chimney fire. 


Next, make sure the damper is in the open position.  If you have a throat damper, it is located between the firebox and the chimney.  You can open and close a throat damper by means of a lever located just inside the firebox, at the top.  Instead, you may have a top damper, which is installed at the top of the chimney.  A cable running from the damper down into the firebox lets you open and close the top damper.


After removing anything flammable from the hearth area, crumple a few sheets of newspaper and place them in the fireplace grate.  Put some tinder on top of the newspaper.  Thin strips of wood no larger than a pencil make good tinder*.  Now add a generous hand full of kindling, pieces of ½” by 10” or 12” pine. (A product called fatwood makes excellent tinder.  Fatwood is cut from the resinous parts of pine trees.  The resin in the fatwood lights easily and burns hot.)  On top of the tinder lay 6 or 8 pieces of dry, seasoned hardwood about 1” by 1” and a foot long.   Now your fire is stacked, with the most flammable components at the bottom and the hardest to light at the top.


Now twist up a couple sheets of newspaper, light them, and hold them way up inside the firebox, where it joins the chimney.  This will warm the flue and start an upward flow of warm air.


Immediately light the newspaper at the bottom of the stack in several places.  Each layer of tinder, kindling, and firewood will catch fire from the layer below it.


When the kindling is burning nicely, add a couple of fire logs and you’ve got your fire going.  Add fire logs as needed and keep a fireplace screen or spark guard in place to keep stray sparks from escaping.


With practice, you’ll learn just how much firewood to add so that the fire has burned down to glowing coals by bedtime.  Keep the screen or spark guard in place all night.




*An easy way to make tinder is to split thin strips of wood off of a fire log or plank with a thick bladed knife.  You can hit the back of the knife with a piece of firewood to split off pieces of the size you want.  The same process can split off larger pieces for kindling, as well.  

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