Keeping Warm This Winter

Top Fireplace Questions

Ready for the snap, crackle and pop of a roaring fire? Fireplaces are one of the most sought-after home features, but using one can be intimidating, and you’ve probably got questions. Here’s a quick guide to get you and your fire started this fall.

How do I use a wood-burning fireplace?

1. Get your chimney inspected

Safety is your first priority! Have your fireplace and chimney inspected by a licensed professional. This is something you should do every year, before the first fire of the season.

2. Prepare the fireplace

Clean out any old ashes with a broom (make sure they’re cool, of course). Check that the damper is open and working properly.

3. Gather and prep your wood

Use seasoned hardwood that has been split and dried for at least six months — preferably for a year. Seasoned hardwood logs should be dark and cracked at the ends, and they should make a hollow sound when knocked together. To construct a long-lasting fire, place a rolled-up ball of newspaper or fire started beneath the grates. Then lay pieces of narrow, finely split wood in a crisscross pattern on the grates, called kindling. Finish the stack by securely resting one to three dry logs over the kindling.

4. Prime the flue

This step heats the cold air inside the flue so you don’t get a backup of smoke. Before you light the fire, light a tightly rolled-up sheet of newspaper, and hold it toward the open damper. Keep it there for a minute or two until you see the smoke going up the chimney.

5. Light it up!

Now you’re ready to light your fire and enjoy. If the fire starts to go out, gently fan the flames with folded newspaper or use a poker to get the air flowing again. Add logs to the fire with tongs to provide more fuel. When the fire has gone out for the night, close the metal or glass doors before you go to bed.

Are fireplaces efficient?

It depends....