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Few things are as pleasant and cozy as a crackling wood fire. Starting a fire in a fireplace is great way to knock the chill off a cool day or cold night. What wood you use and how you stack that firewood can make all the difference. Use this guide to learn how to make a fire in a fireplace, tips on selecting wood and information on fireplace accessories.
Get the Fireplace Ready
Before learning how to start a fire in a fireplace, clean out any ashes or trash. You can use a broom or consider using a vacuum for small debris.
Next, check the damper and flue and ensure they are operating properly. Smoke leaves your fireplace through the flue in its chimney. Proper ventilation is controlled by the damper which is located inside the flue. A blocked or broken damper can cause smoke to pour into the home. Check the damper by opening and closing it before you light a fire in a fireplace.
Tip: Have your chimney inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a professional.
An important part of knowing how to start a fireplace fire begins with understanding firewood. If a wood is too green or not properly seasoned, it burns poorly if at all. For a good, long-burning fire, hardwoods are best. Often dense hardwoods such as oak, maple or ash require more of an investment than soft woods such as cedar or poplar. Soft woods are budget-friendly but burn faster.
Buy seasoned wood from a reputable source or season it yourself by storing it off the ground in a dry place for six months or more. Whatever kind of wood you choose, make sure it is properly split and stored.
Tip: Avoid burning certain pine or other evergreens. They create creosote in the chimney which can build up, causing a fire hazard.
One of the best-kept secrets to knowing how to start a fireplace fire is using kindling. Without kindling, your ability to light a fire in a fireplace is difficult if not impossible.
Kindling can be small twigs, strips of wood, crumpled newspaper or a variety of store bought fire starters. Once you’ve decided on which type of kindling to use, it’s time to arrange the firewood properly.
Tip: Before lighting your kindling, always make sure to open your damper.
The next step in knowing how to start a fireplace fire is knowing how to properly arrange or stack the wood. Fire needs fuel, flame and oxygen. Stack the wood so that the fire can breathe. Once you’ve built your fire, use long matches to light it.
Here are the three most common ways to stack the wood for the best fire:
- A triangle stacked fire is most often seen at outdoor campfires. Starting at the back of the fireplace, stand 3 to 4 logs on their ends, leaning one against the tip of the other, forming a circle. Light the kindling in the “center” of this log "triangle".
- A log cabin fire resembles building a log cabin with an open middle. Place a log across the grate toward the back of the fireplace. Place a second log in a similar size at the front, about six inches from the log in the back. On top of the first piece of wood, lay a third and fourth log vertically, one on the right and one on the left. Depending on the size of your logs and your fireplace, two layers should be sufficient.
- Another way of how to light a fireplace fire is to light it from the top. This type of fire has an inverted or upside down look made of layers of different-sized logs. Start with a row of large logs laid horizontally on the grate. Follow with a row of medium logs laid vertical. Lay a third row of small logs horizontally. The final layer is a row of kindling.
Tip: Make sure your wood stack is less than half the height of the space inside your fireplace.
After you've learned how to light a fireplace, make sure to get the right accessories. A fireplace screen is a metal-mesh screen that covers the front of the fireplace and sits on the hearth. It can be simple and plain or elegant and ornate. A practical piece of decor, fireplace screens prevent a roaring fire from spitting embers into a room.
Other helpful wood fireplace accessories include pokers for moving around burning logs or tongs for adding another log to the fire. These fire tools often come in sets, and can include matching pieces such as ash buckets, log racks and hearth rugs.
Tip: Before buying a new fire screen, measure the space so it will cover the entire fireplace opening.
Now that you know how to start a fireplace fire, you'll be able to stay warm and cozy during chilly weather. Get ready by buying your wood and making sure you have the fireplace tools you need. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.