Building the Fire in the Fireplace

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 24,939
    Jerry Neal from Sugarlaof Chimney Restoration provides tips for building a fire in a fireplace.

    Jerry Neal: Hi! I am Jerry with Sugarloaf Chimney Restoration and today we are talking about how to build a fire in a fireplace. Right now, we are going to lay the fire in the firebox. What I like to use is, rather than buying commercial fire starter like I showed you earlier, I just like to use regular newspaper because it is readily available and if you have small enough wood, it will start it. This is our kindling. I am going to pull off some newspaper and lay it between the grate to make sure there is no cold or block in your chimney. What I like to do first is blow up a couple of newspapers and stick them on the end of the poker, stick the burning newspaper up near the damper and you will hear a draw in. While you are doing that, you can start putting your kindling down. It is important to put small pieces of wood fairly close together. It takes three elements to get wood to burn. You need the fuel which is the wood, you need oxygen and you need heat. The reason we use kindling is because it is smaller in density and a big round piece like this. You space them close together so they will heat each other while they are burning and you give it air space in between. So now that we have got the basic kindling set, we can light the base. We open our damper, we put the newspaper up there to make sure we had draft going up and as you noticed, there was no smoke coming out, and now it is okay to light this. As you can see, this is burning pretty good, drawing well. We are getting some popping, so it is time to add the other wood and put the fire screen in place. Wood has spaced to heat each other. It allows oxygen to move around it and get burning correctly. Let's talk about fire screens. This is a good fire screen because it covers the whole opening, and at the top as you can hear with the popping in the fire, popper tends to throw sparks. With this top we can't get sparks flying out over and on it to the carpet. Now that we have got the fire built and it is burning, we need to tend it. You can see that some of the kindling is starting to fall down on the bottom and give us an ash bed. So, when I first laid this, I gave it a lot of space so it had plenty of air to get ignited. Now we want to leave these bigger pieces closer together so they can heat each other because being bigger, they are going to take more heat to sustain combustion. So, we will just kind of pull these together and get them warming each other. Some of these kindling that falls down under, just push it to the rear of the fireplace. As you build up an ash bed, it will be easier to start bigger pieces of wood and you don't ever want to leave them unattended. You could be tending your fire like this, the screen is off, you get a phone call, you forget about it and when you come back, you have got a spark or something on the carpet or something is catching fire. Also, you get tired and want to go to bed, well, don't fill it up and go to bed. Let it die down, put it out it you want with sand or water. Last thing to remember is your fire, even though not burning brightly after it is going down or it has gone out, it will still contain a little smoke and that will go off the chimney so you want to keep your damper open until morning.

    What to do with the ashes? A lot of people like to throw ashes in combustibles bags. What you need to do is to put them into non-combustible metal container with a lid such as the one like this. You can scoop out the old ashes, put it in here and then leave it on a cement surface or a non-combustible surface for at least a week before you dispose off them. Never dispose in a paper bag or plastic bag and leave in the garage. Every year I hear fires in our area. Hope somebody has done just that. Make sure you clean the debris away from the front of the fireplace. Check your fireplace screen. Is that in good condition or it still keeps sparks from flying into the room? Most important thing to consider is before you even start your first fire since you have it inspected by a Certified Chimney Sweep. The National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America both recommend that you have your fireplace inspected at least once a year. So that concludes our general Maintenance and Inspection guidelines and I am hoping that you will spend many hours of relaxation and enjoyment in front of your fireplace in the years to come.

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