Few things symbolize the holiday season like the glow of a warm and crackling fire. Whether you’re relaxing after a Thanksgiving turkey feast, savoring a cup of hot cocoa, or wrapping gifts for your loved ones, a wood fireplace gives you a cozy, safe feeling that’s kept up by good maintenance and proper preparation. Follow these wood fireplace best practices to ensure yours is always an area of comfort and joy.
Use Good Wood
Good wood is essential to a warm and slow-burning fire. Opt for oaks, maple, and birch wood, as they contain less natural moisture than softer woods, giving you a longer burn and minimizing residue buildup. Store your logs outside, stacked on a pallet at least 20 feet away from any structures. Lastly, confirm all logs are completely dry and split into smaller pieces before using.
Prep Your Space
Taking care of the area around your fireplace is just as important as taking care of the fireplace itself. For the best wood-burning practices, avoid having combustible objects like furniture, carpets, drapes, and plants too close to the flames. Use a grate to surround the flame and protect children and pets, and slightly crack a window to keep smoke from accumulating. Always have a fire extinguisher nearby and check that the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working, too.
Regularly Remove Buildup
Over time, ash, soot, and creosote (the tar-like substance that sticks on walls) have likely built up inside your wood fireplace. All these materials are flammable and can block airflow. To evade issues, clean out buildup and residue a few days after using your fireplace with a fire shovel, handheld broom, dish soap and baking soda paste, and scrub brush.
Is your toolbox fully stocked with the right equipment? Check out Top Tools Every Homeowner Should Have to find out.
Set Up Your Fire Correctly
Starting a fire can be intimidating—it takes a little more than just logs and matches. Follow these wood-burning fireplace tips to heat your house safely:
- Crack a window and open your grate or screen.
- Make sure your firebox is clean and free of buildup or residue.
- Confirm that your damper (the door at the bottom of your chimney) is open.
- Prime the flue by lighting a roll of newspaper and holding it up the chimney for a few minutes.
- Place your kindling (easily combustible elements, like small bits of dry wood or newspaper) inside the firebox.
- Stack four to six logs on top of the kindling and ignite with matches or a lighter.
- Keep your eye on the fire and enjoy it!
Call in the Professionals
At the end of the burning season, all fireplace users should call in a professional chimney sweep. These experts will clean and inspect your wood fireplace and the surrounding areas. They can also show you how to maintain things yourself so your fire is always delightful.
Fireplace Best Practices & Holiday Home Fire Safety & Prevention
Holiday traditions have a way of bringing together family, friends, and neighbors. However, many of the most popular holiday festivities also invite some added risks to your home. While these wood fireplace best practices are important, read our article, “Holiday Home Fire Safety & Prevention,” for six crucial suggestions to keep your loved ones safe.
How do I get the most out of my wood-burning fireplace?
To get the most out of your wood-burning fireplace, it’s necessary to burn good wood. You don’t want to use wood that’s rotted or growing mushrooms. Also, stack wood correctly for your fire. Stacking wood log-cabin style will help increase the heat and duration of your wood burn.
What are the best practices for safely burning wood in my wood-burning fireplace?
For safe fireplace tips, always keep flammable items, like curtains, furniture, and books, away from the fireplace. Only use newspaper, dry kindling, and all-natural fire starters. Lastly, don't burn wet or unseasoned (green) logs. Wood should be seasoned for at least six months.
Can you put too much firewood in a fireplace?
Yes. You should only need about four larger logs to start a fire. Place two logs down for the base, then newspaper, and two logs on the top, perpendicular to the base logs. Make sure to leave enough room for air to circulate around the logs, and don’t add too much wood.
How often should I clean my wood-burning fireplace?
If you use your fireplace frequently, clean it once a week. If you only use it occasionally, you should only have to clean it about once or twice a month.