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Creating a Top-Down Burn for a Cleaner Fire

Building a Fire - WI hearth storeHere’s the standard method a lot of people use to start a wood fire in a fireplace: lay down some kindling (twigs, small wood shavings, etc.), then stack a bunch of wood on top of it.  Light the kindling.  Hope for the best.

There’s a better way.  We’ll show you how to create a top-down burn for a cleaner fire.  The setup takes a little longer than the traditional haphazard approach, but the fire you get will be much better in many ways including less smoke and a more consistent and even burn.

The first step in creating a top-down burn (or any other kind of burn) is using only seasoned wood.  Seasoned wood is dry wood, wood that has had time to lose its moisture.  Green (wet) wood is hard to get started and produces a huge amount of smoke and creosote, which is never a good thing.

Start your top-down burn by first placing the largest logs on the floor of a clean firebox.  The logs should be placed long-ways in the fireplace, not side-to-side, i.e., the cut ends of the logs should be facing the room and the back of the firebox.

Next, add smaller logs in layers so that the stack is built from largest to smallest logs to about halfway up the height of the firebox.  It’s important that there is breathing room within the log stack, because oxygen is necessary for a proper burn.

This is the time to add kindling, on top of the stack.  As with the logs, put down a first layer of the largest kindling pieces, building up to the smallest at the very top of the stack.

If the kindling is sufficiently dry, you should be able to ignite it simply with a match or a hand-held fireplace lighter.

As the fire begins to take hold, you’ll notice right away that there’s less smoke, and you’ll avoid having collapsing logs, which is common with bottom-up burns.  A little settling of the logs is normal, but you’ll prevent the big, dramatic collapses that can cause ash and embers to fly out into the room.

Less smoke and fewer toxins

Employing a top-down burn for a cleaner fire works well in any kind of wood-burning fireplace.  In addition to less smoke, you’ll be sending far fewer smoke byproducts into the chimney, because gasses will be routed right through the fire, neutralizing them before they make their way into the chimney.

Another big advantage in the top-down burn method is a more even burn and more efficient use of all the wood that’s in the stack.  How many fires have you started that when finished left large chunks of charred but not-fully-burned wood in the firebox?  Use the top-down method to create thorough, even burns every time.

Fireplace inspection and cleaning serviceAnd remember: when operating any home heating appliance, it’s smart to have it inspected and cleaned regularly by a certified chimney sweep.  An annual cleaning is your best bet for fireplace operation that’s both efficient and safe for all who live in your home.

Burlington Fireplace & Heating of Wisconsin is standing by to help with all your hearth needs, from sales of top-line appliances to complete fireplace and chimney maintenance, inspection and repair.  Visit us at 857 Milwaukee Ave., or call (262) 763-3522 with questions.

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