How to build a long-lasting fire

There’s no escaping the cold weather. It’s been a tough winter this year with plenty of hard cold spells and ice and snow, perfect for sitting around the fireplace to warm up. And there is definitely something about a fireplace… It can be mesmerising and warming, bringing people together and heating a room enough to make you forget how cold it is outside. For those of you who have struggled to get that fire going well and for a long time, this month’s article is for you. We take a look at what you need to do to build a good fire that will not smoke you out and will burn for hours with minimum fuss.

Check your damper

While most wood burners don’t have a damper, some open fires do. If you have one, check that it is fully open by shining a light up the chimney. If it is closed, or partially open, then you will have smoke coming into your room.

Open a window

This one may sound a little strange, but bear with us. Fire needs oxygen. Cracking open a window slightly will give it that fuel that it needs and give your fire that oomph that will make it the centre point of your room. With today’s insulation and draft-proofing there is not much air circulating, and trickle vents won’t do the trick. To avoid a smoky, sluggish fire crack open a window.

Prime the flue

Your chimney flue will be cold and trying to light a fire while the cold air is sinking down will only push the smoke into your room – exactly what you are trying to avoid. There is a very easy way of fixing this. Roll up some newspaper and light it, holding it up the damper for a short while. You will know when it is warm enough because you will feel the draft reverse.

Building a fire

There are plenty of ways to light a good fire. If you know one well then stick to it, but if you haven’t quite got it to work properly yet, or it takes a lot of effort then we have a slightly different technique for you to try: the upside-down fire. It works like this:

  • Stack your larger logs on the bottom of the grate
  • Add the smaller logs on top
  • Place a layer of kindling on top of the smaller logs, typically smaller sticks or twigs
  • Scrunch up some old paper, such as newspaper, or other tinder (make sure it is dry and shredded for maximum effect)


Once you have built your stack well, it is time to light it. Light it from the top and within 15-20 minutes you will have a roaring fire going. An upside down fire works by preventing the fire that you started with your tinder and kindling from passing through colder logs which will lead to smoke. This will give you a cleaner-burning fire and a chance to sit back and enjoy it without being smoked out or having to do too much to keep it going – just add the occasional log as you need to.

Remember that if you live in a smoke control area you can only burn smokeless fuel, not logs. If you are using a wood-burning stove using a Defra-approved stove for such areas allows you to use logs and other smokeless fuel.

For more tips and tricks on getting the perfect fire going, as well as for new fireplaces and any accessories that you may need, our Fiveways Fires & Stoves team is on hand to help. You will find us on 020 8127 4747 or for an informal chat or a free, no-obligation quote.

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