With cold weather upon us, the question of the day seems to be, “How do I build the perfect fireplace fire?” For safety sake and to avoid an unpleasant and frustrating experience each time you want to enjoy an evening in front of a warm and cozy fire, that is an important thing to know.
We did our online research to see what the experts say and it seems there are two basic methods for building a fireplace fire, dueling ideas so to speak from websites around the Internet. Here are summaries representative of those two methods—top down and bottom up:
How to build a bottom up fire
According to the folks at MarthaStewart.com, the go-to source for all things home-related, the bottom up method of laying a fireplace fire is the way to go:
- Open the damper.
- Crumple single pieces of newspaper or other tinder into balls or batons and place one or two under the grate.
- Lay newspaper torn into strips on top of the grate.
- Place several (6-12) pieces of kindling on top of the tinder, being careful to leave spaces between the wood sticks to allow air to circulate.
- Lay two thin split logs loosely spaced on the paper and kindling.
- Light the tinder with a match, preferably a long one made for this purpose.
- Add two more small logs and one large one, after the kindling has caught and the split logs are burning nicely. Avoid smothering the fire or causing it to burn out of control by never overfeeding it.
Read the complete instructions for starting a fireplace fire and get more tips about fireplace maintenance at MarthaStewart.com.
How to build a top down fire
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) offers another method of building a fireplace fire, with instructions for successfully implementing it, on its website in the Homeowner Resources section. The CSIA says the top down method is exactly opposite what most people have been taught about laying a fireplace fire. Their instructions begin with this question: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to easily start a fire every time with less smoke?”
Their answer to that question is “yes there is an easy and reliable way”. Following is a brief summary of steps to building a fireplace fire from the top down:
- Place the largest pieces of wood at the bottom with ends at the front and back of the fireplace for air flow rather than parallel to the fireplace opening.
- Stack four to five smaller layers of split wood with each level consisting of smaller and smaller pieces.
- Lay pieces of kindling again going from large pieces on the bottom to the smallest like wood shavings on top that can be lit with a single match.
- Watch as the fire burns from the top to down until the logs at the bottom are burning steadily.
Thanks to the CSIA for sharing these instructions with us. Read more details and learn about chimney safety and fireplace maintenance at CSIA.org.
No matter which method you choose to start a fireplace fire, remember to put safety first, protecting your home and yourself.
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