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How To Use A Fireplace: A Step-by-Step Guide

A fireplace can add a certain hint of warmth to any house. Especially on cold nights, you can gather around the corner and have a fun time. Or weekends can turn into a fam-jam with a crackling sound in the background.

All these scenarios are great to play in mind but for actually doing so you need to use the fireplace. But how to use a fireplace? You need to create that has lasting flames.

Else a single wrong step results in a room filled with smoke or can cause a spark. The only requirements are a few easy steps to follow and enjoy a cozy ambiance.

A single mistake or wrong step can cause serious problems. From excessive smoke filled in the room to other possible hazards. You surely don’t want to face any such situation while using a fireplace.

Today we are here to help you with learning to use a fireplace in the right way. There are only a few major steps like starting and maintaining the fire. Next, you need to keep the fire going and that is pretty much it.

If you follow up the steps listed below in this article. Not only you will be able to start the fire but also keep it lasting for hours. So without much ado let’s get started with the topic.

How to Use a Fireplace?Fireplace1

You may think that using a fireplace comes with some hard and fast rules. But that is so not the case, instead, it is pretty facile how to use a fireplace.

Once you get started with using it, or usage becomes often. There would be a few things that might not be the same or work as your wish.

A few such issues include difficulty to start a fire without smoking or going out. It may turn cold sooner, may not produce much heat as you expected it to.

To use a fireplace in the right manner, several factors contribute. Among these 2 factors are the prime ones; oxygen and fuel. Without these 2 you can’t start the fire or it won’t go on for longer.

Next, the right type of firewood also plays its role. It can alter the fact of how well fire burns and how long it stays. Then the proper airflow also plays its part to keep the fire going on.

The whole process comprises of these few steps listed below:

  • Starting the draft
  • Building the fire
  • Lighting the fire
  • Keeping the fire going

1. Starting the Draft:

The process of fireworks when cold air sinks and the hot air rises. Thus this hot air rises to the chimney from the fire and any byproduct like smoke and waste safely travels out.

When the hot air rises the chimney creates a pressure difference. It sucks more air to replace the lost air up into the fireplace up to the chimney.

Hence this pulling effect is what we know as the draft in a fireplace. More air gets pulled if the draft is stronger into the fireplace.

This helps to feed oxygen to the fire and keep it going longer. Hence the draft plays a vital role to keep the fire burning.

If you can understand the working of a draft, you can learn how to use a fireplace. It will ultimately help maintain the fire and produce more heat with the fire.

2 basic aspects alter the draft and make it stronger or weak.

  1. The air temperature inside the chimney compared to the outer air. If the temperature difference is more it will produce a stronger draft. The higher temperature in chimneys creates hotter fires making the room warm and cozy in no time.
  2. The height of the chimney alters the draft, the higher the chimney means the stronger the draft.

To extend the duration a stronger draft can help to keep the fire going. It sustains a hotter fire but a poor draft will only make the fire end in no time. The lack of oxygen or insufficient supply can also result in no fire.

There are a few important things that you can follow to boost the draft. It will ultimately increase the chances of lasting fire with lesser failed attempts.

  • First of all if by chance your fireplace has a damper you need to open it far away.
  • Within the same room as the fireplace open an external air vent/s.
  • Within the chimney, you need to warm up the air.

To stop the heat loss from the rooms or house when the fireplace is not in use, dampers are the thing.

These are either metal or ceramic plates sitting inside the top of the fireplace. Residing at the base of the chimney using a handle you can close or open these. Also, you can leave these on a latch so they are partially open.

To ensure max draw on the fireplace a damper must be open fully before starting the fire. This helps to get a fire going on within no time.

Moreover, an open damper also allows smoke to dissipate created by fire. It leaves the fireplace via chimney instead of accumulating inside the home.

Before you start the fire, open up the air vents in the same room as your fireplace (if any). These are external air vents that almost every house has in the room as the fireplace.

In case you don’t have an air vent then switch to opening the windows present in the same room.

When you open the window or vents brings much-needed air into the room. This creates a strong draft to replace air within the chimney and fireplace.

Moreover, opening vents/windows also avert the chimney from sucking up the warm air. So the house and room remain warm enough throughout.

In case you haven’t swept the chimney for over a year do it beforehand. When the fire burns it produces creosote that lines up inside the chimney. It can impact the effectiveness of the draft or simply reduce it.

Then the use of wet or softwood only also results in the excessive build-up. Birds may nest up in the chimney, walls can accumulate debris that would fall.

To avoid such scenarios you must clean the chimneys once a year. For people living in colder climatic conditions, there would be a daily use of the fireplace.

Hence such chimneys need frequent cleaning or regular sweeping. In the end, this cleaning will enhance the efficiency manifold.

At last, you can improve the draft you can opt for priming the flue. In other terms, this means to warm up the air before starting a fire inside the chimney.

Your chimney might have cold air trapped inside that causes fire to go out often. You will end up struggling to keep the fire up as there won’t be any draft.

Use any heat source to warm the chimney from inside so it helps in building a draft. A common example is to use a rolled-up sheet of newspaper to boost the draft. Simply light it at one end while holding it under the chimney. Do it for a short while and voila!

2. Building the Fire:Building the Fire

The next step in how to use a fireplace is building the fire. To let the fire get going quickly you need to build in a certain way, especially in an open fireplace.

In other terms, build fire with enough air to keep it burning. Whereas keeping the fuel sufficient to burn the fire in enclosed proximity.

You can build 2 main types of fire in your fireplace. First, is the traditional way to build a fire. Whereas the other includes adding the material in the fireplace to get it done.

Below are the 2 main types you can use to build a fire.

The Traditional Way:

First, you place the fire starter inside the fireplace. Then it follows by ignition and the logs.

The Top-Down Fire:

First, the logs are set inside the fireplace with igniting them. And the fire starter is then placed on the top.

It depends on your personal preferences which method to opt for. But either of these can work well if followed in the right manner. But the latter has a few extra plus points compared to the former method.

These are the key benefits the top-down fire method can offer.

  • It brings out a cleaner burn compared to the other method from the start of lighting the fire. So ultimately you face lesser smoke production.
  • You can add larger sized logs to the fire with this method. In means, the initially added wood can last longer before you add more logs.

To build a fire in you also need to consider another factor; the fireplace grate. A grate helps in supplying air to the base of the fire as wood tends to burn better.

If there is a source above the fire to provide air then it would burn efficiently. Thus a presence or absence of grate while building fires won’t have much impact.

One of the key plus points of fire on hearth is insulation. Yes, that’s right! The ash can help in creating insulation for the fire and the heat traps back in. This results to boost combustion and you get to enjoy utter warmth.

Apart from that, a grate can help with keeping fire off the base of the fireplace. Over time it can protect the fireplace from the heat produced during fires.

In case you decide to build fire without a grate then leave an inch of ash at the base of the fireplace.

Best Material For Building Fires:

You need to ensure that you use the right material and has rich quality before building fires. Here are the things you will need to build a lasting fire. 

  • A whole range of large and small kiln fried logs.
  • Kindling or small dried pieces/bits of wood.
  • A firestarter like a newspaper or a firelighter.

Also, the right wood with high quality is an important rule for an efficient burn. You will need either seasoned or kiln dried logs as well as kindling.

If you tend to use wet/softwood, it would burn without efficiency. Then the chimney also gathers more mess and smoke, ultimately leading to fire going out often.

A wood left outdoors for a longer period like 2 years or more is seasoned wood. This long span helps it to dry out completely with all moisture dissipated. Similarly, a kiln-dried wood is also dried out but in a kiln for several days.

It is ideal to buy wood in bulk before getting into burning sessions. Apart from that, you need to stock up bags of kiln-dried wood from a nearby store.

You need to know that kiln drying is a bit on the expensive side. Also, this process is likely to bring out better fire results as it is dry enough.

In case, the wood is not well seasoned or dried enough, it won’t burn well. The result would be excessive smoke, fire going out again and often.

Ideal Wood Condition:

If a wood includes these signs, it is ideal for burning and dry enough.

  • It has split ends or bark
  • rather than a greenish tint, it has a brown color
  • It has easily removable and peeling bark

Before using wood no matter which type, ensure its moisture contents are pretty low. In simple words, before using you need to know the accurate moisture content of every piece of wood.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the recommended moisture content is 15-20%. Such pieces of wood are ideal for burning with efficient fire.

You will need a moisture meter to check the exact moisture content of the wood. It is a small tool designed to press against the wood that gives the content reading.

People who want to know how to use a fireplace must have a moisture meter. Also, this device can keep you away from using wet wood. So in the end you only get to use completely dry, moisture-free wood for the fire.

Moving on to the next part, you need to consider the wood type while burning. Either a softwood is ideal or hardwood logs would last longer.

The popular choice for kindling is softwood rather than hardwood. It comes from coniferous trees that can easily catch fire and burn quicker.

But the major drawback of softwood logs is that it won’t last long. So you will end up adding more logs frequently resulting in excessive consumption. The reason behind this is softwood being less dense compared to hardwood.

Also, softwood tends to have higher sap content that results in creosote. As mentioned above, this tar accumulates in your chimney requiring frequent sweeping.

Coming towards the hardwood logs derived from deciduous trees, they are denser. Hence the fire build via these logs will last longer and produce more heat.

Once the fire gets in hardwood logs are the preferred choice. As a result, you won’t have to add more logs. The downfall with these logs is that deciduous ones require more time to grow.

Only after a certain time of growth these become dense and take extra time to dry out. Hence the ultimate result of this time is higher prices of hardwood logs.

Now, that you have opted for the right type of wood, you can build a great fire.

There are 2 major methods you can use to build fire in your fireplace. So here are those 2 ways:

Building a Fireplace Fire Using the Traditional Method:

This is the old, traditional method used by the majority of people. It starts by placing any fire starter like a newspaper at the base of the fireplace. Afterward, you can add on the logs and kindling on the top.

First, the fire is lit at the base and it burns through kindling upwards until all logs catch fire. Take a fire starter either firelighters or newspaper and place them at the base.

Newspaper is a better, cheaper option that every household has plenty of. Take a single sheet of newspaper and crunch it into a roll or ball.

Avoid over-tightening to let the easy flow of air when it catches fire. For people using a grate (if any), you can opt to place these starters below or on top of it.

If you place the newspaper below the grate it would avert logs and kindling from displacing. This can happen once the fire starters burn out completely.

No matter which fire starter you opt for, in the end, you need to do 1 main step. It is to place a few bits of dry wood on the top known as kindling. In fact, branches, small twigs, bark turn out to be great options as kindling.

When building a fire softwood kindling can be the optimal choice. These being alight tend to catch fire in no time and transfer heat/flames on to other logs. Thanks to less dense softwood, your fire can flare up in minutes.

Try to add these kindling in a crisscross manner so the wooden bits interlink. As a result, the bits of wood touch each other helping fire spread faster. This pattern also averts the blockage of airflow throughout the pieces.

After the kindling comes to the log that you need to place on the top. Start with small-sized logs as they are preferable to initiate the fire. These logs not only take lesser space but helps in spreading the fire quickly.

Moreover, it’s suggested to start by adding 2-3 logs. A few logs will disrupt the air around. This will help to transfer heat among the logs as well as flames.

You must not go for piling them on top of each other neither leave them scattered too far. It would either leave no passage for airflow or would be out of reach to spread evenly.

A proper arrangement with a certain distance among the logs would be ideal. If you have trouble with starting the fire then opt for softwood. Otherwise, both are optimal choices to build a steady fire.

Building a Fire Using the Top-Down Method:Building a Fire

This is a modern version of how to use a fireplace with the name top-down method. In simple words, this method is the inverse of the conventional method. Or at least reverse the order of materials placed in your fireplace.

Unlike the previous way, you first lit the fire at the top and it travels to the bottom. Now, those unfamiliar with this process may feel a bit awkward at first. But this is a method adopted around widely and in fact, preferred more.

The major plus point we achieve here is that initial flames help to build the draft. The Sooner the draft creates, the better the fire will ignite and last longer.

So to build a top-down fire you will need the largest-sized logs. Start by placing these logs together at the base of the fireplace in a row. To place them on the grate or not is completely your choice.

Horizontally pack these logs together so they all touch each other. Only then the fire will transfer evenly throughout the rows. For better airflow, a recommended step is to face the ends of logs towards you.

Place the larger sized logs at the base and use hardwood to enhance the burning time. Place another layer of logs on the top of this layer but keep these smaller in size.

Then you can even add kindling on top of this small-sized logs layer. Lay down the kindling so every piece interconnects and fire spreads evenly.

3. Lighting the Fire:

Here we have the third prime step of how to use a fireplace. This is to light the fire after building it. When the follow the steps listed above, you have set up to get the fire going in minimal time.

To ensure that you get to enjoy lasting fire, a quick starting plays an important role. Otherwise, lack of fresh air or poor/insufficient wood quality can alter the timings.

It doesn’t matter which method you opt to build the fire. What actually matters afterward is to light the fire starter to start it. But the only important factor is to light up at multiple places.

In simple terms, rather than igniting a single corner, go for various parts of the fireplace. In this way, the fire will scatter through the kindling and logs in less time.

You should opt for using long matches, especially when in open fireplaces.

Below are the benefits these matches offer to light the fire:

  • these make it easier t0e while reaching corners and farther areas.

To help and prevent anything from the fire you might want to use a fireplace screen. This screen placed in front of the fire will keep anything from catching fire in the room.

Also, once you start lighting the fire, it is high time for the fire to go out. So you will have to keep a close eye on it and try to keep it going on.

Until the first layer of logs run out, a top-down fire tends to last longer. In case the fire keeps going out on lighting it, follow these tips.

  • ensure the fireplace has enough draft
  • check the moisture content of the wood in use
  • ensure the number of firelighter or newspaper is enough
  • check the amount of kindling and if it’s laid properly
  • check the size and order of logs placed

4. Keeping a Fire Going:

In the last, you only need to keep this well-built fire going on. When the first layer of log burns out completely, it is time to add more in there.

With time the fire will keep progressing and the temperature will also rise. This inner rise in temp makes it easier for coming logs to catch on fire.

In case, you initiated with smaller logs, now you can add the larger chunks. To ensure the fire keeps going on for a long time in the fireplace here is what to do.

  • Try to throw in some hardwood instead of softwood. Not only it tends to last longer but also provides more heat than softwood.
  • Add a few logs at a time instead of going in with 1 at a time. This will help in the equal transfer of heat and flames to boost efficient burning.
  • The logs/wood later to be added must be completely dry with low moisture content. So don’t forget to check the content of the wood for later.

Conclusion!

It is bliss to sit around the fireplace at the end of the tiring weekend and have quality time. The cozy environment can ward off any worries and traces of hectic routines.

Now that you know how to use a fireplace, we hope you will have a great time with your family.

Either it is a Christmas evening or a new year’s dinner, you will be able to set up a fire on your own. These 4 steps are the basics that any amateur can also follow.

Apart from these steps, if you face any other confusion. Or in case you have doubts about the topic. We are here to help you out so feel free to question.