Take everything you’ve ever known about building a fire and turn it on its head.

Nearly everyone who has learned to build a fire has learned the same method. Begin by placing wadded up newspapers in a pile on the bottom. Then add kindling. Then add some larger pieces of wood. Then a few large logs. Light the newspaper and wait for the fire to ignite. Add some larger logs when the fire gets going.

Top-Down Fire Image - Crofton MD - Clean Sweep AA

Believe it or not, this isn’t the most efficient way to build a fire. By reversing this thinking and building a top-down fire, you can achieve a hotter, more efficient burn that ignites faster, creates less smoke and burns longer before it needs to be refueled. A top-down burn takes advantage of gravity as it ignites, which means that the larger pieces of wood catch fire faster. For this reason, we believe that a top-down burn is a better way to burn.

We know habits can be hard to break, and building a top-down fire can take some getting used to. But once you practice our methodology and get used to the construction of a top-down fire, you will be building hotter, cleaner fires. Here’s how to do it:

  • Step 1: Place your largest longs in a single layer on your fireplace grate. Start with dry firewood and place your largest split logs, the ones you would normally add last, in a single layer on your fireplace grate.
  • Step: 2: Add your medium-sized logs. Add a smaller layer of logs, about halfway up your fireplace, on top of your largest logs. Depending on the size of your firebox and your wood, you may have one layer of medium-sized logs, or you may have two. Just make sure your logs get progressively smaller from one layer to the next.
  • Step: 3: Top with kindling. Take your usual form of kindling and place it in a layer on top of your pile of firewood.
  • Step 4: Weave in newspapers. Add your chosen choice of fire starter, which for most people would be tightly balled or twisted pieces of newspaper. Tuck them snugly in between pieces of kindling.
  • Step 5: Light your fire and enjoy. As you would with your traditionally constructed fire, ignite the newspaper with a long match or lighter. As the newspaper burns, it will ignite the kindling and then the larger logs. Because the fire is taking advantage of gravity, it will ignite faster and hotter. And because you were able to put down more larger logs to start, you can go longer without having to add more wood to your fire!

At Clean Sweep Anne Arundel County, we’re committed to teaching you the best way to heat your home with your fireplace or wood stove. Call us with any questions, to schedule an appointment for your chimney sweeping and inspection, or to talk to us about increasing your home’s efficiency with a fireplace, fireplace insert or wood stove.