How to Use a Fireplace Grate

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Things You'll Need

  • Gloves

  • Measuring tape

  • Broom and dustpan

  • Trash bags

  • Tinder (crumpled black-and-white newspaper, dry bark, dry grass)

  • Kindling (twigs, wood splits, thin branches)

  • Seasoned hardwood logs, various sizes

  • Rolled newspaper

  • Long wood stick matches

  • Long trigger-activated lighter

  • Store-bought firelighters (optional)


Keep glass doors open when the fire is burning to prevent creosote buildup in the fireplace.

If you have a large grate and fireplace, add two logs positioned in the same direction as the base logs after you add the tinder and kindling. Then, place three logs on the top at an angle.

Keep the damper open until the fire is completely out.

Clean the grate with hearth cleaner outdoors over a tarp to remove creosote buildup.

Store-bought fire-starter bricks take the place of tinder and kindling. Place the product in the center of the grate with one log behind it. Light the brick and place another log in front of the brick and parallel to the first log. Once the fire spreads to the logs, angle a small log on top of the two base logs.

You can burn seasoned softwoods in the fireplace; however, they burn less efficiently and generate more flammable creosote than hardwoods.


Never use wet wood as tinder, kindling or fuel.

Never leave a fire unattended or leave children in the room alone.

Flammable liquids, cardboard boxes, food packaging and other trash are fire hazards. Do not burn these items in the fireplace.

Have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned every year to prevent creosote buildup. Clean the firebox on your own as necessary, as often as once a month when you’re building a fire every day.

Sweep the ash out of the firebox before it’s high enough to touch the underside of the grate.
Image Credit: provato/iStock/Getty Images

Fireplace grates, typically made of steel or cast iron, increase air movement around the fire, allowing it to burn more evenly and efficiently. But this doesn't mean that you can overload the grate to minimize adding logs later; even with the added air movement, proper fire starting and maintenance is required. If you plan to build daily fires, opt for the thickest, heaviest grate you can find, preferably of cast iron. As the fire matures, add progressively larger logs, reserving the smallest for the next fire. Put on gloves before you start filling the grate to protect your hands from splinters and heat.

Step 1

Base the size of the grate on the size of the firebox: The width and depth of the grate should be 6 inches less than the opening width and total depth of the interior of the firebox. For example, a 42-by-16-inch firebox requires a 36-by-10-inch grate.

Step 2

Wet the ash with water, sweep the firebox floor at least 24 hours after your last fire and dispose of the debris. Position the grate in the center of the fireplace so that the long side faces the opening. You should have about 3 inches around the grate on all sides.

Step 3

Position two small seasoned logs parallel to each other on the grate, one towards the front and one towards the back. Fill the area between the two logs with tinder; crumpled newspaper or dried bark work well. Add a healthy amount of kindling 1 inch or less in diameter over the tinder and the logs. Twigs or leftover wood splits from cutting firewood are ideal.

Step 4

Top the tinder, kindling and logs with two to three small logs angled between the back left and front right corners of the grate. If you have a narrower fireplace or grate, two logs will suffice. This allows for ample air movement, maintaining space for the fire to breathe and grow.

Step 5

Open the damper. Roll a piece of old newspaper lengthwise. Hold it below the opening to the flue and light the top end of the roll. Let the smoke waft up the chimney for about 10 seconds.

Step 6

Drop the newspaper onto the logs and let it burn out. Position a fireplace lighter underneath the grate and light the tinder. Close the screen or place the standalone screen in front of the firebox opening. Add additional logs as necessary to maintain the fire.


Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.