When it comes to heating your home, a real wood fire beats central heating hands down. It might not be quite as convenient as automatic timers and thermostats, there's nothing like a roaring log fire to make you feel cosy and relaxed on a chilly evening.
Getting a fire going isn't the most difficult thing in the world, but starting a good fire that will last as long as possible and heat your home effectively is another matter entirely. For that, you'll need to take a bit of care every step of the way. Follow these tips and you'll be enjoying the perfect fire, night after night.
This is one of the factors that people often give the least thought to, buying or gathering whatever is available under the assumption that, as long as it will burn, it's good enough. While you'll certainly be able to build a fire with any wood, the exact choice actually has quite a large effect on the end result.
The main point is that different woods burn at different temperatures, with hardwoods burning hotter than softwoods. They also burn up at different speeds, affecting the lifespan of your fire. A variety like red gum is a good choice for a high-temperature fire that also burns for a long time.
If you're buying wood, make sure you get it seasoned so it has the perfect level of dryness and is ready to use immediately. The ideal moisture content of firewood is around 20 percent, so if you're seasoning wood yourself, a moisture measuring device is useful.
Wood should be stored indoors if possible, but otherwise in a well-sheltered woodshed or log store. If you live somewhere damp or humid, it's especially important to get this bit right. Keeping the wood dry not only ensures it stays well seasoned, it also prevents decay and pest invasions.
You should have your chimney swept at least once per year to keep it clear, and also make sure the fireplace is swept clean of ashes between fires. Both of these things ensure your fire can burn freely, reach its maximum temperature, and last for longer.
Building the fire
There are many different ways to build a fire, but one of them stands out as the best way to start a hot, lasting blaze: the top-down method.
Using this technique, you start by building your main fire logs up in a criss-cross, log cabin type layout. If you have firewood of different sizes, use the largest pieces on the bottom and get smaller as you go. Finish off by placing some kindling on top, followed by tinder. Light the tinder and you're on your way to an excellent, long-lasting fire.