How to Build an Efficient Top-Down Burning Fire in Your Fireplace

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Whenever anyone talks about fireplace efficiency, the main topic will always be the correct way to light a fire. Many people still think that starting the fire at the bottom makes sense since it will travel upwards and consume the wood at the top of the pile. What this actually does is cause the fire to start slowly, and this produces more smoke and creates faster creosote buildup in the chimney. It will also take a bit more work since you might have to start puffing to get the fire going. Starting a fire from the top down might seem strange to anyone who hasn’t done it before, but there are easy ways to do it.

Top Down Fire Tips

No matter what approach you use, you get the best fire with the least smoke from seasoned wood. If you cut your own firewood, give it enough time to dry out, and store it in a place that is free from moisture. The steps to building a good top down fire are:

  • Separate the pieces based on size, ranging from smallest to largest.
  • Put in the largest pieces first. They should point directly towards the back of the firebox rather than in a slanted pattern.
  • Start adding more firewood on top of those pieces, decreasing in size as you go up the pile. Up to five levels is good, but you can go a little higher if you have a large fireplace.
  • Put the kindling at the top of the pile. It should be dry enough for you to light it with one or two matches.

Once the kindling starts to burn, it will ignite the wood directly below it, and the fire will continue to burn steadily. Some advantages to using the technique are:

  • You will not have to deal with a lot of smoke
  • Logs on top will not collapse onto the burning wood below and smother or slow down the flame
  • The fire requires less maintenance, so you don’t have to keep adding as much wood as is the case with a fire that starts at the bottom

Some people use bits of crumpled paper as kindling on the top of the pile to get the fire started. If you do this, you should not have to use a lot of paper if the wood is dry enough. For many, the top down fire method is old news, but if you have never used it, then it is time to give it a try for a cleaner chimney and improved efficiency. Call us at 610-626-2439 for an appointment for a chimney inspection, chimney repair, or chimney cleaning.

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