How to Build a Wood Fire

Burning wood has to be the most luxurious way to heat a room sustainably, and there's nothing more welcoming than the sight and smell of a real log fire.

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Wood Fire DK - A Greener Christmas © 2008 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Wood is a carbon-neutral, renewable source of fuel. It releases the same amount of carbon dioxide when burned as if it were to rot naturally. So, it's a much better alternative to fossil fuels, which aren't environmentally friendly.

Recently cut wood tends to have a lot of water in it, so it can smolder and burn inefficiently. Use firewood that has been cut, split, stored and left to season for at least a year; the drier the wood, the more efficient the fire. Splitting logs and stacking them outside under a cover allows the air to circulate freely and dry the wood out sooner. Use hardwoods for firewood: They have a greater density of fibers and burn slower and longer. Good firewoods are beech, apple, pear, pine and oak. Ash is considered the best for both firewood and kindling, but whichever wood you choose, buy it from sustainably managed sources. Be sure to look out for a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo.

Starting a Wood Fire
The more small, dry kindling you have, the more easily your fire will start. There's no need to use toxic chemical firelighters if your kindling and wood are dry. Scrunch up some sheets of newspaper fairly tightly and put them in the fire grate. Pile the kindling on top, criss-crossing it loosely so there is plenty of air between each piece. Wood that is packed too tightly won't burn properly. Add two or three small pieces of firewood at the side and back of the kindling pile. Light the bottom of the newspaper at the front with a match, and the kindling should catch fire quite quickly. You need a good draft of air up the chimney to encourage the flames to pick up, so you may want to open a grate or window just to get the fire started. As the flames begin to subside, place a couple more pieces of wood on the kindling and allow the fire to become established.

Excerpted from A Greener Christmas

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2008

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