The Best Way to Place Logs on a Fireplace

Wood heat is often the cheapest and most effective method for heating a home in the winter. The goal of anyone who uses wood heat should be to create a fire that will burn hot for a long period of time. Knowledge of wood types, an understanding of how the fire works and practice will enable you to make a merry fire every time and keep the same fire burning for days and even weeks.

  1. Starting a Fire

    • The first thing to remember when starting a fire is that a flame needs oxygen to thrive. Make sure the fireplace is free of soot by shoveling out ashes and emptying the ash tray, if one is present. Next, gather a newspaper, dry twigs of various lengths, some small branches (no longer than 18'') and several thicker logs.

      Crumple a few single sheets of newspaper and pile them in the middle of the fireplace. Use several branches to build a tepee around this pile. When building the tepee, make sure there is enough space between branches for air to get in. Next, insert multiple twigs under and around the tepee. Light the newspaper in one or two locations. At this point, the fire will begin to burn the newspaper. Place more twigs on the fire, but be careful not to smother the flame. If everything has been done correctly, the fire should catch the twigs and the branches as it gets hot. If the branches do not catch right away, you may lay a couple flat newspaper sheets across the top of the tepee, suggests Jim Dulley in "The Best Ways to Build a Fire." Once the branches have caught and are burning well, move on to building the fire.

    Building a Fire

    • When burning wood indoors, it is important to use mostly seasoned hardwoods. Unseasoned wood contains a high water content and will not burn nearly as well. Hardwoods will burn at high temperatures for hours, whereas softwoods burn up quickly and leave heavy creosote deposits in chimneys.

      Place a couple pieces of softwood, such as pine or fir, on or around the tepee (which may have fallen over by this point). They will burn best if placed above the flame with room for air to flow underneath. Now use hardwoods to build up the fire in the same manner. Criss-cross logs where possible for air flow, and if the fire begins to dwindle, consider removing excess logs. Allow the logs to burn without interference until more logs are needed.

    Maintaining a Hot Fire

    • Now that a cheery fire is burning in the fireplace, make sure it will remain hot without more logs for a couple hours. Lay a thick piece of hardwood along the back wall of the fireplace. Doing this will protect the bricks and produce coals that will radiate more heat into the room. In addition, lay a couple more thick logs around the perimeter of the fireplace. Again, remember to allow for air flow.

      Stack a variety of hardwood logs on top of the existing fire. Make sure some of the logs come into contact with the hot coals at the base of the fire. Finally, use a fireproof door designed for indoor fireplaces to cover the opening. Monitor the fire every hour when possible. For overnight fires, place a couple extra, thick logs on the coals.

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