Many of us are reluctant to light a fire in the fireplace, but we’re always glad we did. Sure, there’s a bit of work involved in starting and maintaining a wood-burning fire, but here are ten easy ways to minimize the hassle and enjoy your home fireplace more.
1. Have comfortable seating by the fireplace. We suggest something snuggle-worthy or a rocking chair. Consider a convenient place to rest a drink, bowl of popcorn, or even your feet. If the fireplace and reading are a combination you appreciate, enough light to read by is a must.
2. Make fun a high priority. You can add orange peel or lemon peel to the fire to make a pleasant aroma.
Use the peelings from oranges, lemons or limes to start your fireplace fire. The natural oils are fire-starters and the citrus aroma adds to the experience.
Popping corn with a fireplace popcorn popper and roasting chestnuts are two favorite fireside activities. You can buy treated pine cones that make the flames change colors to blue or green. You can even cook snacks or meals in a dutch oven or cast iron pan.
3. Emphasize Convenience. Think of the activities you most commonly enjoy as you sit by the fire, and set up the area to be conducive to them. Love reading by the fire? Have good reading light. Watch television and movies? Keep the remote handy. Play board games? Store them nearby.
4. Use well-seasoned hardwood. Buy freshly cut firewood in the spring, so it will be well-seasoned by fall, when you want to use it. Choose oak, hickory, and other hardwoods because they burn cleanly and evenly. Avoid pine and other softwoods because they can cause creosote build-up in your flue.
5. Keep your firewood dry and well-ventilated. Store your firewood in a log rack that holds it up off the ground and allows air to circulate through the stack. Some firewood racks come with a half-cover that keeps the top few rows of firewood dry while keeping the rest of the stack ventilated. You’ll always have good firewood, ready to use.
6. Keep some firewood and fire-making materials right at hand. Use an indoor log holder to keep enough firewood for one or two fires handy. Having some wood handy promotes spontaneous fire-building. Spur-of-the-moment fires are often the most convivial and satisfying.
At the beginning of fireplace season, split up a good supply of kindling. Keep some of it, some newspaper, and some fatwood handy so you can start a fire when you feel like it. Use newspaper to ignite the fatwood, which ignites the kindling, which ignites the firewood.
7. Use a fireplace grate. A fireplace grate lifts your firewood above the floor of your fireplace, creating a space to put the newspaper and fatwood when you want to light a fire. As hot air goes up the chimney, it is replaced by air that enters the fireplace under the fire, making your fireplace draft better. Ashes fall through the grate where they can easily be removed.
8. Simplify ash cleanup. Is there a home where some eager soul calls out “Oh, let me! Let me!” when it’s time to remove accumulated ashes? We didn’t think so. A vacuum designed specifically for ashes makes quick work of the task.
9. Have the right tools for the job. A good set of fireplace tools is indispensable for managing your fire once you have it going. You’ll need a poker, a pair of firewood tongs, a shovel, and a fireplace broom. The poker and tongs will help you re-arrange firewood as it burns down. The shovel makes it easy to clean out the ashes from previous fires. The broom can keep your hearth free of the bark and sawdust that firewood always seems to shed. A pair of long, good quality fireplace gloves allows you to reach into the fireplace to add new logs to the fire, just where you want them.
10. Light your fire early. Light your fire at least two hours before you want your fireplace to produce its maximum heat. It can take several hours for the fireplace bricks to heat up and radiate maximum heat back into the room.
Use any or all of these 10 tips to enjoy your home fireplace more. Use your fireplace to create more family-time memories, treasured events with friends, and quality personal-time.