How to Build the Perfect Fire
Building a perfect fire in the fireplace isn’t rocket science, but it can be tricky. Follow these simple steps to create a roaring blaze in your fireplace, fire pit, or stove in no time.
The perfect fire requires more than just setting a match to some wood. Do a little prep work to ensure you achieve a warm, long-lasting fire.
- Clean up. It may be counter-intuitive, but do not completely remove all of the leftover ash from your fireplace or wood stove. Instead, leave about ½ inch of ash at the base.
- Wipe down. Before you start another fire, first clean off the glass doors on your fireplace or stove. Take a damp paper towel, dab it in the ash on the ground and then wipe it on the glass to take any soot off.
- Get some air flow. Make sure the damper is open.
- Deal with a downdraft. If you feel a downdraft of air when you open the fireplace doors, open a window on the windward side of the house (the one where the wind is hitting) about 1 inch to get proper air flow.
Now it’s time to set up the wood and get the fire started.
- Gather kindling. Don’t try and light a flame on massive hunks of wood—it won’t work. Instead, start out with small pieces of dry kindling—wood that is smaller in diameter than your wrist.
- Wood placement. Place pieces of kindling in one direction, either front to back in the fireplace or side to side. If lighting a wood stove, make sure the kindling is aligned from front to back, since that is the direction of internal air flow.
- Build on your base. On top of your first layer, add four or five more layers of kindling in alternating directions.
- Insert a fire starter. Place a fire starter, such as real Georgia fatwood or compressed sawdust, in the bottom center of the stack of wood. Balled up newspaper is also commonly used but since it doesn’t stay lit as long, you will probably need to add more. (Don’t use premade logs such as Duraflame—they create a build-up of creosote in your chimney.)
- Strike a match. Light the fire starter.
The fire you’ve just started will now either die out, once it burns through all the kindling, or catch and burn more warmly. It’s all up to you.
- Give it a few minutes. After about 10-15 minutes, once nearly all the kindling is burning, it is time to add some full-size logs to your fire. Put several logs on, using the same formation as with the kindling.
- Close it up. To prevent sparks from hitting the floor in front of the fireplace, close the mesh curtain or the glass doors. You can also close the window, if you opened one earlier.
With the fire burning brightly, simply add more logs when the fire starts to die out, crisscrossing over the existing layers, and you should be able to enjoy several hours of crackling firelight.
by Marcia Layton-Turner