The Ultimate Guide on How to Burn Firewood in a Fireplace

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A crackling fireplace conjures up images of warmth, coziness, and a soothing ambiance during chilly evenings. However, effectively burning firewood in a fireplace is an art that requires a blend of knowledge, preparation, and technique. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the essential steps and considerations for achieving a safe, efficient, and enjoyable fire-burning experience.

Selecting the Right Firewood

The journey to a successful fire begins with choosing the right type of firewood. Not all wood is created equal, and your choice can significantly impact the burning process. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting firewood:

1. Type of Wood

Hardwoods like oak, maple, hickory, and birch are ideal for burning in fireplaces. They are dense, burn longer, and produce more heat compared to softwoods like pine or cedar. Softwoods ignite quickly but tend to create more creosote buildup in the chimney.

2. Seasoning

Seasoned firewood is wood that has been dried properly, typically for about 6-12 months. Properly seasoned wood has a lower moisture content, making it easier to ignite, producing less smoke, and generating more heat. Green or freshly cut wood contains excess moisture and is challenging to burn efficiently. Depending on the time of year that you order wood you may need to order seasoned or even kiln dried firewood in order to ensure successful combustion.

3. Size and Splitting

Firewood should be cut into manageable lengths, usually around 16 inches, to fit comfortably within the fireplace. Splitting larger logs into smaller pieces with a splitting maul or axe ensures better airflow and combustion. Our processor does a great job of splitting the wood into firewood sized pieces but for kindling you will need to split them smaller.

Preparing the Fireplace

Properly preparing the fireplace sets the stage for a successful fire. Follow these steps to ensure a safe and efficient setup:

1. Clean the Fireplace

Remove ashes and debris from previous fires using a fireplace shovel and brush. Clean the grate, ensuring unobstructed airflow. A light layer of fine ash makes a good protective layer for the base of the chimney so don’t feel like you need to remove ever last speck.

2. Check the Chimney

Before lighting a fire, inspect the chimney for any blockages, creosote buildup, or structural issues. A clean chimney promotes better ventilation and reduces the risk of chimney fires. If you burn regularly it’s a good idea to have a chimney sweep come annually to maintain and inspect the flue.

3. Use a Grate

Place a fireplace grate at the bottom of the fireplace. Grates elevate the firewood, allowing air to circulate underneath and promoting more complete combustion.

4. Create a Firebed

Arrange crumpled newspaper or fire starters on the grate. Place small kindling on top in a crisscross pattern, leaving space for airflow.

Building and Igniting the Fire

Building a fire is a step-by-step process that requires attention to detail for a successful ignition. Follow these steps to ensure your fire gets off to a good start:

1. Layering Technique

Place two or three small pieces of dry kindling on top of the newspaper or fire starters. Build a small pyramid of larger kindling over the base.

2. Ignition

Light the newspaper or fire starter at the center of the pyramid. The flames will ignite the kindling, creating a sustainable firebed.

3. Add Small Logs

As the kindling catches fire and begins to produce consistent flames, carefully add small logs to the fire. Arrange the logs in a crosshatch pattern to allow airflow.

Managing the Fire

Once the fire is established, proper management is essential for maintaining a steady burn and minimizing smoke production. Here’s how to manage your fire effectively:

1. Maintain Airflow

Airflow is critical for combustion. Ensure the damper or flue is fully open to allow a steady supply of oxygen to the fire. This promotes efficient burning and reduces smoke buildup.

2. Add Larger Logs

After the initial kindling and small logs have burned down, add larger logs to the fire. Place them towards the back of the fireplace, allowing space for air circulation. When the fire is really strong and hot select more dense woods like oak to burn.

3. Avoid Overloading

While it might be tempting to add a large amount of wood at once, overloading the fireplace can lead to poor combustion and excessive smoke. Add logs gradually as needed. If you do over load the fire, carefully remove the log and place to the side of the fire inside the chimney. Never remove a log from the fireplace once it has been placed in the fire incase it remains lit.

4. Regularly Stir and Adjust

Periodically use a fireplace poker to gently stir the burning logs. This helps distribute the embers and encourages more even burning. You can also adjust the placement of logs to ensure optimal airflow.

Safety Considerations

Burning firewood in a fireplace is not only about creating a pleasant atmosphere but also ensuring safety for your home and loved ones. Here are some safety considerations to keep in mind:

1. Use a Fireplace Screen

A sturdy fireplace screen prevents embers from escaping the fireplace and helps protect against accidental burns.

2. Maintain Clearances

Ensure that flammable materials, furniture, and other items are kept a safe distance from the fireplace. Maintain a clearance of at least 3 feet around the fireplace.

3. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are crucial for alerting you to potential dangers. Regularly test and replace the batteries in these detectors.

4. Regular Chimney Cleaning

Schedule regular chimney cleaning and inspections by professionals to prevent creosote buildup and address any structural issues.

Extinguishing the Fire

Properly extinguishing the fire ensures that it doesn’t pose a risk after you’re done enjoying its warmth. Follow these steps to safely extinguish the fire:

1. Allow the Fire to Burn Down

Let the fire burn down to a bed of glowing embers. You can add smaller pieces of wood if needed to maintain a low flame.

2. Sprinkle with Water

If you can’t wait for the fire to burn down make sure to sprinkle the embers with water to cool them down and suppress any remaining heat. In the future try and adjust the fuel level of your fire so it burns out when you want it to.

3. Monitor the Ashes

After extinguishing the fire, monitor the ashes for several hours to ensure there are no lingering hot embers. If you left a ash bed burning overnight be sure to check it the next morning.  Once the ashes are completely cold, you can safely dispose of them.


Burning firewood in a fireplace is a timeless practice that requires both knowledge and skill. By selecting the right type of firewood, properly preparing the fireplace, building and managing the fire, and following safety guidelines, you can create a safe, efficient, and enjoyable fire-burning experience. Whether you’re seeking warmth, ambiance, or a gathering place for loved ones, a well-maintained fireplace is sure to provide comfort and satisfaction during the colder months.