How to Build a Fire in Your Fireplace

There’s no one right way to build a fire in your fireplace. But there are some tips and tricks to help build a fire that lights easily, lasts long, and provides maximum heat! Keep reading for our best indoor fire-building suggestions!

Safety First

First and foremost, be sure that your chimney has been inspected by a professional before building a fire in the fireplace. This should be done at least once per year to ensure that it is clean and structurally intact for your safety. If you are unsure of when the chimney was last inspected, err on the side of caution and schedule an inspection before using the fireplace.

Key Elements for Building a Fire

The key elements to any good fire (whether indoors or outdoors) are fuel, air, and of course, fire! First, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of dry, split, seasoned firewood of various sizes. For the least creosote buildup, we recommend using hardwood (such as oak, ash, beech, and others) when available.

You’ll also need some kindling (wood or wood scraps that are smaller than your fuel wood) and tinder or a handy, easy-to-light RUTLAND Fire Starter Square. If you don’t have a fire starter, newspaper (or other paper without colored ink or gloss), or pinecones make great tinder.

For safety and best airflow, we recommend using a fireplace grate. A fireplace grate is essentially an elevated tray that goes into the fireplace and holds the wood/fire in place. Since it is elevated, it allows for air to pass easily through the base of the fire (the “combustion zone”) to keep it burning. You’ll also want to keep 1-2 inches of ash at the bottom of the fireplace, under the fireplace grate, at all times. This creates a layer of insulation in the fireplace and helps to generate more heat.

Placing the Logs

For maximum heat and minimal smoke, we recommend using the “top-down” method, where you build a fire with your largest fuel logs at the bottom, medium and smaller fuel logs in the middle, and your kindling and tinder on top.

First layer: Place your largest fuel logs on the fireplace grate, parallel to one another with some space in between to allow for air flow.

Additional layers: In size order from largest to smallest, place another layer of logs perpendicular to the base logs but parallel to one another with space between. Add a final layer or two of even smaller logs perpendicular to the layer below it. Be sure that you don’t stack higher than halfway up the firebox. You can always add more wood once the fire gets going. Cover the top layer with kindling and place the tinder or a fire starter on top.

Opening the Damper & Priming the Fireplace

Be sure that the fireplace damper is open (this can usually be accomplished by pulling down on the handle/lever located inside the top of your firebox, but consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions) and prime the fireplace by lighting a roll of newspaper or long piece of wood on fire and holding it up into the flue. This will warm up the chimney flue from the inside and create an upwards draft so that the smoke does not fill the room. The flue is primed when you feel the draft reverse and start pulling upwards.

Lighting the Fire

Light the fire starter (watch our video!) or tinder. The kindling should catch on fire and slowly burn down towards the fuel logs. If the flames do not catch, add more kindling and tinder and try again. Ensure that there is room for air flow between the logs to keep the flames burning and the fire building. Once the fire starts, use a fireplace screen to prevent any sparks or embers from flying out of the firebox.

Now you only need to keep an eye on the fire and add more wood if it starts to die down prematurely. Otherwise, relax with a good book or a loved one and enjoy the warmth!

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