How to Start a Fire in a Fireplace

You don’t have to be an Eagle Scout to start a fire in your fireplace. You just have to use a tried and trusted method.

How to Start a Fire – Step by Step

  • Make sure the damper is open. It may be located inside the firebox or at the top of the chimney.
  • Crumple 2-3 sheets of black and white (not color) newspaper and place them on the fireplace grate.
  • Put a handful of tinder on top of the newspaper. Slivers of pine wood, or fatwood make the best tinder.
  • Criss-cross 6 or 8 pieces of kindling–dry hardwood, about 1 inch square by 1 foot long, on top of the tinder.
  • Twist together two sheets of newspaper, light them and hold them up inside the fireplace to get an upward flow of warm air started.
  • Light the newspaper under the kindling in 2-3 places with fatwood, a fireplace lighter, or fireplace matches.
  • When the kindling is burning well, add 2-3 pieces of split, seasoned firewood. (Later, add more firewood as needed.)
  • Let your fire breathe: leave space between the logs for air to flow.
    How to Start a Fire in Fireplace: Let the fire breathe with spaces between the logs

Since the beginning of time, people have found lighting the communal fire a rewarding experience. As you start a fire in your fireplace, seeing those first flickers of flame grow into a sustainable fire will, no doubt, be rewarding for you, too.

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Are Wax Fire Logs Safe?

Using Wax Fire Logs with Care

Although sawdust and wax composition fake fire logs offer convenience, if not properly used, they can create safety hazards.

  • Do not break apart wax fire logs.

When poked or broken apart, artificial fire logs can cause a flare-up (sudden increase in burn rate) and possibly even an explosion and chimney fire.  Homeowners in Kansas City, Missouri, faced over $11,000 in damage when a poked wax log exploded and ignited a chimney fire.

Damage from a chimney fire to chimney's smoke chamber.

This damage to the smoke chamber of a chimney was caused by a chimney fire ignited by breaking apart a wax fire log. Photo by HearthMasters.

The instructions on the boxes and wrappers of wax logs say not to break them.  This means neither breaking them apart with a poker nor by tossing in a natural log on top of an existing wax log fire.  There are safety reasons to follow these directions.

Additionally, the hot wax can adhere to your poker.  When you remove the poker from the fireplace, that wax can get onto your floors and carpets.  In a worst case scenario, flaming wax can stick to the poker, drip, and ignite the floor or carpet.

  • Do not add a wax log to an existing natural wood fire. 

Mixing artificial logs and natural logs can change the characteristics of the fire. Wax logs contain twice the BTUs of energy per pound as natural firewood, so mixing the two can result in an excessively hot fire, one that possibly exceeds the specifications of your fireplace.   Wait until your natural wood fire is out before adding a wax fire log to your fireplace.

  • Burn only one wax fire log at a time.

An artificial fire log is designed to burn at a controlled rate.  As the external surface of the wax log burns, it exposes the internal fuel of the log.  A fire with more than one artificial log can disrupt that process.

  • Do not use artificial fire logs in your wood stove or in older manufactured fireplaces.

Many manufacturers of wood stove will not honor their warranties if artificial fire logs have been used in the stove.

Read the product label and warranty on your fireplace before you burn artificial logs.  Older manufactured fireplaces have stickers on them that say to use only natural firewood.   If your fireplace was manufactured after most brands of artificial fire logs were UL-Classified for use in zero-clearance fireplaces, there will be no such limitations on the warranty.

  • Use a fireplace grate even with artificial logs.

Fireplace grates lift the logs, whether natural or artificial, off of the floor of the fireplace firebox.  This provides an air flow to the burning material.  Not only is the fire easier to start with a fireplace grate, it is easier to maintain.

  • You still need a chimney sweep.

Artificial firewood, since it has virtually none of the moisture that natural wood has, does not produce creosote deposits in chimneys.  However, as they burn, wax fire logs do put off a fine soot that many chimney sweeps say is sticky, making it easy for creosote from wood fires to adhere to it.  Some homeowners find they need to have their chimneys swept more often if they are using artificial fire logs sometimes and natural wood fires at other times.

Artificial fire logs are typically composed of dried sawdust and either petroleum wax or a plant-based wax.  They are popular because they can be bought everyplace from the corner convenience store to the grocery store. In addition, many find them easier to light than natural logs. The convenience of artificial fire logs makes them appealing.  

By following the instructions on the wax fire logs and the directions and warranty on your wood stove or fireplace, and the wax logs can be burned as safely as their natural counterparts.



Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance, Safety Tagged with:

How to Decorate the Fireplace for Thanksgiving

How to Decorate the Fireplace for Thanksgiving

As family and friends gather to celebrate all we are thankful for, don’t forget to decorate the fireplace for Thanksgiving.  After all, that’s where everyone will gather around after the bountiful Thanksgiving meal.  (And as they watch the parades and football games on television!)

Here are three tips on how to decorate the fireplace for Thanksgiving:

Allow these three principles to guide your decorating for your Thanksgiving fireplace and fireplace mantel, and you’ll love the results!

1.  Respect the existing color scheme in the room when you decorate the fireplace for Thanksgiving.

Mason jars and blue lettering on the Thanksgiving banner echo the blue tiles of the fireplace

Mason jars and blue lettering on the Thanksgiving banner echo the blue tiles of the fireplace. Photo courtesy thelilypadcottage.

The fireplace mantel above echoes the lovely blue tiles in fire fireplace both in the blue mason jars and in the Give Thanks banner.  The white and gray of the tiles are repeated in the painted white pumpkins with gray stems. Natural greenery and autumnal apples give just the right pop of color.

2.  Take your cues from nature’s natural tones for fireplace decorating at Thanksgiving.

Whether feathers, pinecones, or wood, nature's subtle tones set the color scheme for this Thanksgiving fireplace.

Whether feathers, pine cones, or wood, nature’s subtle tones set the color scheme for this Thanksgiving fireplace. Photo courtesy thebungalowblog.

Acorns and pine cones, twine and burlap, wood and aged paper:  the harmonious color scheme of this Thanksgiving fireplace takes its cue from nature.  Cream tones in the pitchers, papers, and pumpkins provide bright highlights. Even the natural gray stones’ tone is picked up in the galvanized pail sitting on the hearth, invitingly filled with pine cones and twig as fire starters.

3. Think pumpkins, pumpkins, and pumpkins to decorate the fireplace for Thanksgiving!

All of the Thanksgiving fireplaces and mantels on this page include real or artificial pumpkins!  Pumpkins are relatively inexpensive, come in sizes from minis to jumbos, and communicate both autumn and Thanksgiving (think pumpkin pie!)

Pumpkins grow not just in traditional orange, but also in white and cream.  And if they aren’t in the color you need, a can of spray paint transforms them into the pumpkins of your dreams.

Pumpkins decorate an unused fireplace for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkins a plenty is all that’s needed to turn an unused fireplace into a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Photo courtesy of

By using multiple paint colors, SugarSweetHomes accents the front-and-center pumpkins in the display above.  Unpainted pumpkins fill the firebox and frame the sides of the hearth. An unused fireplace (also known as The Black Hole) was transformed into the room’s focal point with a theme that works from Halloween through Thanksgiving.

Pumpkins, whether real or ceramic, repeat the autumn colors in the mosaic.

Pumpkins, whether real or ceramic, repeat the autumn colors in the mosaic. Photo courtesy

A pumpkin is cleverly positioned atop a candle holder to provide height to the arrangement above. The striking mosaic’s autumn colors show up within the mantel display’s ceramic owl, autumn flowers, fall leaves and candle holders.  And the black accent of the Family plaque is carried through in the photo frames and top and bottom bands of the candle holders.

When decorating your fireplace for Thanksgiving, start with the existing colors of the room in mind, add elements of nature – including plenty of pumpkins – in natural tones, and you will have a display worthy of the Thankful Spirit of the season.

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Fatwood Fire Starter Kit Giveaway!

Fire Starter Kit Giveaway

Start your fires in fashion this winter! We’ve giving away 8 lbs of fatwood, a hand-crafted copper cauldron, and a pair of heavy-duty cowhide fireplace gloves for the ultimate fatwood fire starter kit giveaway!

Fatwood is one of the best natural firestarters available.  Loaded with energy-rich resin, just one or two strips of fatwood can have a fire roaring in no time. As an added benefit, fatwood has a wonderful, rich smell. This 8 lb bag contains 80-120 sticks, plenty to last the season.

Along with the fatwood we’re including these heavy duty cowhide fireplace gloves. These gloves are a full 19 inches long, providing plenty of coverage, and are heavily insulated to protect you from the heat of the fire. No more nervous feeding of the fire; just don these gloves and set the logs in with confidence.

And of course you’ll want something stylish in which to store your new fatwood and fireplace gloves. That’s why we’re giving away this gorgeous hand-crafted copper cauldron.

Enter below to win this $300 value Fire Starter Kit Giveaway!

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Posted in Decorating, Holidays, Using Your Fireplace