A Guide to Wood Burning - Certified Chimney Sweeps WI - IL - IA
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Wood Burning Made Easy

A Guide to Wood BurningIf you love sitting by a roaring fire but you are also intimidated by the task of starting a fire, you have a lot of company. Some people even associate fire-building with going camping or with boy scouts. Our certified professional chimney technicians have some tips to help remove your apprehension about building a fire; no need to win a campfire badge before you can do an expert job of it.

Something to Remember

Three components are necessary for a fire to get started. A standard model which demonstrates those needed components is called a “fire triangle” or a “combustion triangle.” Starting a fire requires: heat, fuel, and oxygen.


You’ll need some type of kindling to properly get a fire started. The best types of kindling wood are cedar, pine, and all types of dry softwood. All three of the following approaches to setting up the kindling work well:

  • Two or three pieces of finely split wood
  • Softwood logs that are very dry
  • Small sticks

It’s good to put newspaper with black and white print under the kindling and light the newspaper with a match or lighter. Once the kindling is burning, slowly add logs of increasingly larger sizes.

A Few Tips and Words of Caution

  • Using a flammable liquid such as kerosene or gasoline to start a fire is extremely dangerous and should never be done; it can easily cause an explosion that results in serious injury.
  • Burning glossy printed magazine pages and similar paper causes toxic fumes to pollute the air; it also causes more than the usual amount of creosote to build up in the chimney liner.
  • Air inlets are necessary for kindling to start burning. An oxygen supply can be provided by opening the damper, which needs to be done, anyway. In addition, if the kindling is placed on a fireplace grate, plenty of air should be able to circulate and allow the fire to burn.
  • If the damper is open and the kindling is on a fireplace grate but the fire still won’t seem to start, the problem may be that the home is so tightly sealed that it has caused negative air pressure. Opening a window slightly may be all that is needed to temporarily fix the problem. Our chimney professionals can help you find a permanent solution.

Burn the Right Kind of Firewood

Burn Proper FirewoodWhen you are using the right kind of kindling and firewood, the fire should start easily and burn cleanly. Wood needs to be seasoned or dried out before being burned. Otherwise, the energy from the fire goes toward burning out the moisture. Burning green firewood also causes large deposits of highly flammable creosote in the flue. Burning unseasoned firewood results in highly inefficient, smoky fires that provide very little heat.

The two types of firewood that you have to choose from are hardwoods and softwoods. When you understand the attributes of each kind, you can choose wood that gives you the type of fires you prefer. For instance, hardwoods are very dense; they produce more heat and burn for a longer period of time. Softwoods, on the other hand, burn quickly, radiate less heat, and die out quickly, with few lasting embers.

Tips on Building a Fire

In addition to choosing the right kind of kindling and firewood, you also need to place the firewood in a way that will allow you to have the type of fire you want. Your fire can burn quickly or slowly and produce little heat or a lot of heat.

  • Loosely stack at least three pieces of softwood in a crisscross pattern for a fire that burns rapidly and produces the kind of heat that is perfect for a mild winter day.
  • If you want a fire that produces a lot of heat and burns for a long time, place large hardwood logs close together.

Your fireplace or wood stove will work better for you if you keep it clean and well-maintained; and it will also be safer to use. Contact our chimney professionals today to schedule an inspection and cleaning.

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