There's nothing quite like the coziness and warmth from a crackling fire when it's freezing cold outside. It is certainly a vital part to an enjoyable winter getaway! However, many of us have not learned how to start a fire efficiently as gas and electric fireplaces are increasing in popularity. You put some wood in the fireplace, light a match, and sit back and just watch it burn, right? Not so much. If you don’t know what you’re doing it can be a frustrating experience instead of a relaxing one. Cold weather can make it especially difficult so there are a couple of additional things to consider when starting fires in winter.
First, some things to keep in mind:
- If the fireplace has a damper, open it completely before beginning
- Clean out any ashes from previous fires - leave an inch or so for insulation if it's especially cold out
- Fire feeds off of air, so leave space around logs
- Use dry, seasoned wood
- Good kindling includes sticks and logs that have been split very small
- Good tinder includes twigs, pieces of bark, pine cones and paper (not glossy)
- If starting with a very cold fireplace, the flue may need to be primed - roll up some newspaper, light the end and hold it near the open damper for a couple of minute
Most people start a fire by laying down tinder, followed by kindling, and then finally layering logs on top. Though this is the most popular method, it isn’t the best (by far)!
Here are a couple of methods that burn cleaner, produce less ash and soot, ensure a better air supply, require less tending to and make the firewood last longer, all while producing more heat! Give both of them a try and see which one suits you.
THE “UPSIDE DOWN” METHOD
- Lay two or three large logs down parallel to each other with a good distance between them
- Lay about four or five smaller logs on top of the larger logs, again leaving space between them
- Add another layer of even smaller logs (~ 6)
- Finally, add a layer of tinder and then a layer of kindling
- Light the tinder and enjoy a long lasting crackling fire as the embers drop down and feed the layers below!
“LOG CABIN” METHOD
- Lay two logs parallel to each other about six inches apart,
- Lay two logs on top and perpendicular to the first two
- Add another layer or two of smaller logs if room allows
- Heap kindling and tinder in the middle and light!
When your first load of wood has turned into charcoal, add more wood and enjoy!
(Remember to never leave a fire unattended, have a fire extinguisher handy, and communicate with children about the dangers of fire)