One of the most frequently asked questions in our business is “how to burn wood in a fireplace”. A lot of us were taught in scouts or from our family and friends. Often, the skill is not totally the best.
Here are 9 key stages on how to burn wood in a fireplace.
Get an annual chimney check – Have chimneys inspected annually and cleaned as necessary. This reduces the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisonings due to creosote build-up or obstructions in the chimney.
Keep it clear – Keep tree branches and leaves at least 15 feet away from the top of the chimney.
Build it right – Place dry, seasoned firewood or fire logs at the rear of the fireplace on a supporting grate using the following top-down fire method. Start by placing the largest pieces of wood on the bottom of the fireplace grate or wood stove, with the ends going front to back (opposite of what you were taught). This front to back method allows the air to mix well with the fuel. Place smaller wood on top with their ends going side to side. Keep alternating your rows of wood using smaller and smaller pieces until your wood is stacked about ½ the height of the fireplace. At this point you will begin placing your kindling (the smallest pieces of wood). Again, stack smaller and smaller pieces until there are simple wood shavings on top. The shavings on top should be small enough to light with a single match. As the fire burns from the top to the bottom, it will continue to ignite the wood below. Only a little smoke is created as the fire burns hotter and more cleanly from the top of the stack. Burning wood this way prevents smoke and unburnt gases from entering your cold chimney. This can potentially adhere to the chimney walls causing creosote.
Keep the hearth area clear – Combustible material too close to the fireplace or to a wood stove, could easily catch fire. Keep furniture at least 36” away from the hearth.
Use a fireplace screen – Use metal mesh or a screen in front of the fireplace to catch flying sparks that could ignite or burn holes in the carpet or flooring.
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – Place detectors throughout the house and check batteries in the spring and fall. An easy way to remember to check: When you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time, check your batteries.
Never have a fire in a fireplace unattended – Before turning in for the evening, be sure that the fire is fully extinguished. Supervise children and pets closely around wood stoves and fireplaces when in use.