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How to Build a Fire in a Fireplace

The creation of a hot, long-lasting fire in the fireplace challenges even the most seasoned fireplace veterans. Some days the fire starts hot and stays hot for hours, and on other days, all it does is sizzle and smoke. Trying every type of wood formation does not seem to make a difference either. The “log cabin” never lights, and the “teepee” always goes out. Fortunately, there are a few surefire tips that can help create that perfect fire every time.


Before striking a match or stacking any logs, you must first ensure that the fuel has been properly prepared. Wood lights the fastest and burns the most efficiently when it has had the chance to season. Seasoned wood has sat uncovered but out of the elements long enough to dry almost completely. Half the weight of freshly cut wood consists of water, so burning this wood spends significant amounts of energy on boiling the water away instead of creating fire. If starting the fire only resulted in hissing and sizzling, the wood was too wet. Seasoned wood has a water content of 20 percent or less, so this wood lights quickly and burns hot.

Upon acquiring properly seasoned wood, it must be split into a variety of sizes. Gather these split logs, some uncolored newspaper, and kindling split into various sizes before attempting to start a fire.

The most effective way to build a fire is known as the top-down method. While not as simple as other common techniques, the top-down method produces the best results when executed correctly. It starts with virtually no smoke and can burn for up to two hours without needing additional wood.

To start the top-down method, place three or four split logs on the floor of the firebox, all laying the same direction. On top of these and in the opposite direction, add a layer of kindling split to a medium width. Next, lay down about ten pieces of fine kindling. Separate out four or five sheets of newspaper, roll them up individually, and tie each into a loose not. The knot serves only to prevent the newspaper from rolling around, so it does not need to be tight or precise. Set the newspaper on top of the fine kindling, and light the newspaper.

Another option for starting a fire is to use the two parallel logs method. Place two parallel logs on the floor of the firebox with crumpled newspaper filling the space in between them. Set fine kindling on the new paper and lay a variety of kindling sizes on the very top. In this technique, the newspaper starts the kindling, which usually burns long enough to ignite the two larger logs. This technique is easier than the top-down method, but the fire will require more wood once the kindling has nearly burned out.

For more help on creating the best fire, contact Bulldog Chimney Sweeps to speak with a professional.