If you don’t know that there is an efficient way to use your fireplace, then you may be building your fires incorrectly. You should not have to work too hard to keep your fire going when you could be relaxing and enjoying the warmth. While you may have learned a few techniques over the years, these might not be the best way to get the most from your fireplace.

The most common fire building technique used by many homeowners is to start at the base by adding kindling, then placing the logs on top to get it going. This will give you more smoke and eventually, more creosote. The best way to build your fire is to start at the top. This will produce more heat and less smoke. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start with larger pieces of wood, placing them so that they point towards the front and the back. This positioning of the wood leads to better air flow, allowing the fire to burn cleaner.
  • Now add smaller pieces of wood, adding rows until you get to about half the height of the space.
  • Put in the smaller pieces of firewood and put the kindling on top. You can use paper on the kindling to help start the fire quickly. Crumble the paper before adding it to the pile.
  • To start the fire, light the paper or the kindling. As it burns, the fire will continue downwards, igniting the pieces of wood below.

There is one big difference between this method and the teepee style that so many people tend to use in their fireplaces. When the wood starts to burn from the bottom of the pile, the base will crumble, causing instability among the logs at the top. As they begin to fall to the sides the fire will burn unevenly and less efficiently. Chances are, at this stage you will probably be getting less heat as well.

One big advantage of starting your fire at the top is that you will not have to stoke it to keep it going. Since the fire will generate more heat, it will lead to a cleaner chimney. Removing creosote will be less difficult when you burn from the top down. Your chimney can benefit even more from this method if you only use dry wood. By lighting your chimney correctly and having your chimney maintained you can avoid problems and repair costs.

A yearly chimney inspection and cleaning will go a long way in ensuring that that your chimney is in tip top shape. We always recommend that you follow the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) guidelines and have the chimney inspected once before winter and again after winter to make sure winter usage didn’t do any damage. The CSIA recommends at least those two cleanings and inspections, but more frequent cleanings and inspections should be considered if you use your chimney on a regular basis. Call us at 610-626-2439 if you’d like to schedule an inspection or cleaning after the winter chill has left the air.