3 minutes reading time (523 words)

How To Start A Wood Fire

One of my favorite things about cool fall evenings or chilly winter nights is relaxing with a warm blanket listening to the crackle of a wood burning fire while I gaze into its mesmerizing flames. Does this ring a bell?

The thing of it is, one of life's simplest pleasures can be a bit tricky to create if you haven't had much practice with it. So, if you've never started a wood fire in a fireplace, then this guide is for you.

1. Open the Damper

  • The damper is a device that allows or restricts airflow through the chimney. Most dampers slide from one side to the other. If the damper is closed and you start a fire, smoke will pour back into the room. Make sure your damper is open before you begin your fire.

2. Prime the Flue

  • The flue is a duct for smoke that is produced by the fire. Since most chimneys are usually on the outside of a house, they will naturally be cold. Therefore, when you open the damper, cold air will sink down the chimney and settle in the very area you are trying to make warm. Remember, cold air sinks, warm air rises.
  • To prime the flue, light a roll of newspaper and hold it up to the damper opening for a 30 seconds or leave the damper open for 10-15 minutes before starting the fire. You will know you have primed the flue when you notice the draft changing from blowing into the room, to up and out of the chimney.

3. Build the Fire

  • There are many ways to build a fire and most are effective. But here, I will tell you how to build an 'Upside Down' fire as they require little maintenance and are a personal favorite of mine.
  • Stack a layer of large fuel logs along the bottom.
  • Stack another layer or two of smaller logs on top of the larger fuel logs creating a grid.
  • Add a decent size layer of kindling (small twigs or splinters of wood no thicker than your pinky finger) on top of the smaller logs. The more, the merrier.
  • Complete the pyramid by placing a bunch of balled up newspaper balls and other tinder (material that is easily ignited such as wood shavings) on top of the kindling. 

4. Light the Fire

  • Begin by lighting the newspaper from various sides.
  • Lightly blow air into the flames to help spread the fire.

5. Sufficient Air Flow

  • ​One of the more important tips for making a wood fire is making sure there is enough air flowing throughout the fire. When a fire becomes suffocated, it will burn out and die. If you are following the above steps and it does not seem to be working, try and spread apart some of the kindling or larger logs.

6. Enjoy the Fire

  • That's right. Just sit back and enjoy.

7. Stoke the Fire

  • After your fire has been roaring for some time, it may begin to die down. Add another log or two and with the fire poker, vigorously move around the larger logs until you see the fire start to pick back up.

8. Put Out the Fire

  • Spread apart the logs, coals, ashes, etc.
  • Shut the doors.
  • Let itself burn out.

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