How to Build the Perfect Fireplace Fire

Prep your house HVAC system for winter
Fire up the furnace! Getting your home ready for winter
November 29, 2018
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Build a fire in your fireplace

One of our favourite things about the winter season is spending time next to a warm and cozy fireplace fire at home. After all what’s more romantic than snuggling up to your loved one in front of a glowing fire? And what’s more relaxing than coming home from a long day of work and unwinding next to a glowing hearth? If you’ve never built a fire in a fireplace before (and no automatic fireplaces don’t count), then this guide is for you.

1. Clean your chimney

It’s always a good idea to get your chimney swept before you start lighting any fires for the season. Even if you haven’t used it for a while, animal nests and old leaves can cause blockages that can result in a smoke-filled home. Of course, this should already be checked off your list from when you winterized your home. If not though, call a chimney sweep to come check it out for you.

2. Open the damper

We’ve all been there where we made the mistake of not opening the damper the first time making a fire in the fireplace. You’re in the middle of an ice storm and the heater goes out so you try to be the hero by starting up a cozy fire for the family. You get the fire going but the next thing you know the entire house is filled with smoke. If you can, try to avoid ever making that mistake by making sure to open the damper all the way.

3. Prime the flue

If your chimney is built outside of your house, the chimney flue is probably cold. When you open the damper, the cold air in the flue will sink and come into your warm house. If you try to light a fire during this air sink, you’re going to end up with smoke coming into your house instead of up the chimney. To counteract the air sink, you need to prime the flue by warming it up. This is done by lighting a roll of newspaper and holding it up the damper opening for a few minutes. Once you feel the draft reverse you know the flue is primed and you’re ready to start your fire. If you have a fireplace that has a gas pipe to supplement your wood burning, turn on the gas and light the pilot light without any wood in the fireplace. Your flue will warm up in a matter of minutes.

4. Develop an ash bed

Having a 1-2-inch ash bed in your fireplace hearth will help insulate the fireplace and create hotter fires. If you’ve never built a fire in your fireplace before, this can cause a problem. One quick fix is to take the ashes from your outdoor grill and place them in your fireplace to build the ash bed. While a small ash bed is good, too much ash is a bad thing. Make sure to clean the ashes out of your fireplace from time to time.

5. Build an upside-down fire

Several fire-building methods exist, and all of them have their merits. If there’s a particular way you like to build a fire, by all means do it. But if you’re looking to build a clean burning fire that lasts for hours, try using the “upside-down” fire method. Unlike traditional fires that require you to put tinder and smaller kindling at the bottom and larger fuel logs on the top, the upside-down method reverses the sequence. Start by stacking your larger logs on the bottom of the fire grate and then stack smaller logs on top. Add a kindling layer on top of the stack and top it off with bunched up newspaper balls and other tinder. Light the fire from the top. Since the smoke won’t have to pass through the cold logs, the fire will burn cleaner. What’s nice about this arrangement is that you don’t have to do much to keep it going.

Now that you have a cozy fireplace lit, it’s time to pick out a good book, make some hot chocolate, sink down into your chair and bask in the glow of the blazing hearth. When it comes to keeping your home and family warm this winter season, you can rely on Crystal Heating and Cooling.