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How to Build a Fire in a Fireplace

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough demonstrates the best way to build a fire in order to prevent smoke from filling up the room.

In this video, This Old House mason Mark McCullough explains the best way to build a fire in a fireplace.

Steps for Building a Fire in a Fireplace

  1. Start by crumpling up some paper or newspaper and place it loosely underneath the grate.
  2. Take two of the biggest logs and place them parallel with the back of the fireplace on top of the grate. Leave space between them for the flames to reach up over the logs.
  3. Take some of the smaller logs and place them perpendicularly on top of the bigger logs.
  4. Place the kindling on top of the smaller logs in a loose pile.
  5. Prime the chimney by lighting one of the pieces of paper on fire with a match or lighter and hold it up in the chimney. This should start an updraft to ensure the smoke will rise right away.
  6. If the paper is long enough and it’s still safe to do so, use that same paper to light the pile of paper underneath the grate.
  7. Place the burning paper on top of the kindling. This should create a strong draft that will keep the smoke in the chimney and out of the house.


All the materials Mark used to build the fire in his fireplace were found either around the house or in the backyard. The only thing Mark cautions against is burning pine and other softwoods in the fireplace, as it can cause creosote to build up in the chimney which could eventually result in a dangerous chimney fire. Seasoned hardwood is best to use in a fireplace.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by MJM Masonry.