Brrr! That chill in the air is winter heading our way. If you’re blessed with a wood-burning fireplace, make this the year that you put it to good use. Besides its soothing warmth, a fireplace is such a dramatic focal point, especially if you dress it up with beautiful accessories. I’ve included some of my favorites. And, if you’re not sure how to get that blaze going, just follow these five simple steps and you’ll be a ready to qualify for a Merit Badge in fire starting.
1. Start with a clean chimney. If it’s been a while since you used your fireplace, have it professionally inspected and cleaned.
2. Open the damper all the way so your home doesn’t fill up with smoke. There are even decorative signs to remind you not to overlook this important step. I found this one at Ponderosa Forge.
3. If your chimney is on the outside of your home, the chimney flue will be cold. This could cause your home to fill with smoke. Prevent this by rolling up a newspaper, lighting it and holding it up to the damper for a few minutes. When you feel a reverse draft of air, your flue is primed. If you have a supplementary gas pipe, turn it on and light the pilot before you add wood to the grate. This will warm the flue up, too.
4. Keep a bed of ash about 1 to 2 inches deep in your hearth to insulate the fireplace. If you’ve already cleaned out last year’s ashes, build a fire in your outdoor grill and use the ashes from that.
5. For a fire that burns for hours, try this upside down fire lay, recommended by TheArtofManliness.com. Stack your largest fuel logs on the bottom of the fire grate and put smaller logs on top. Add the kindling. Top the stack with wads of newspaper. Then light the fire from the top and enjoy the flames.
…And 7 Essential Fireplace Accessories
1. Wood Storage. I love the oxidized patina on this copper bucket from Pottery Barn. But for a less pricey solution, try a galvanized tub from the hardware store.
2. AshBucket. Keep your hearth tidy with a safe place to collect and hold hot ash and embers. This double-bottomed, galvanized steel bucket with lid and handle from Plow and Hearth is handsome and functional.
3. Andirons. Hold your logs or a flat grate in style. I love the rustic appeal and earth-friendly attitude of these by Ferro & Fuoco from The Fireplace Mall. They’re hand-forged from recycled railroad tracks.
4. Fireplace Grate. Ace Hardware has a nice selection of affordable, functional and durable cast iron grates like this one.
5. A Screen. This will keep sparks and ash under control, and give your hearth a finished appearance when it isn’t lit. Frontgate® has a lovely selection of options including this classic hand-forged and hammered Essex model.
6. Color-Changing Fireplace Cones. Create a light show in your hearth. You can buy them, but why not have a fun family project making them with pine cones you gather and simple flame colorants like borax and table salt using these easy instructions.
7. Cooking Accessories. Plow and Hearth has dozens of tools designed to fireplace cooking like this corn popper and ‘Smores toaster.