Have your chimney cleaned once a year, before you begin using the fireplace.
A wood-burning fireplace is a cozy addition to your home, providing a focal point in a room and a warm place to curl up on a cold night. It also can help you decrease your heating bill, but only if you use your fireplace properly. Using a wood-burning fireplace requires proper wood selection and a working knowledge of how to operate your chimney damper. There are also steps you should take when not using the fireplace to prevent warm air from rushing up the chimney.
Open the chimney damper before each use, and close it after each use. The open chimney damper allows smoke to escape up the chimney as you burn the wood. When you are not using the fireplace, keeping the damper closed prevents warm air from escaping.
Select the firewood you want to use in your fireplace. Only use wood that has been seasoned for at least six months, otherwise it will be too wet to burn properly. Do not burn pine in your fireplace because it causes creosote buildup and puts your home at risk for chimney fires. Select a mixture of both hardwoods and softwoods.
Line the bottom of your fireplace grate with softwood, then stack the hardwood on top. Place fire-starter logs underneath the grate, and light them with a lighter or match. Fire-starter logs are available at most home improvement stores. These logs ignite the softwoods, which in turn ignite the hardwoods, which burn longer.
Feed the fire by adding hardwood logs at regular intervals, depending on how large your fire is and how long you want it to burn. Generally, you get more heat out of a small fire with plenty of air circulation.
Keep the coals under the grate lit by stirring then with a fire poker as they become covered with grey ash. The hot coals keep the fire burning. To put the fire out, cover the hot coals with ashes using a fireplace shovel, and let the wood in the grate burn itself out.
Remove the ashes with the fireplace shovel and discard them in a metal can when they are completely cool. Close the damper, and place a fireplace shield in front of the fireplace to keep warm air from escaping up the chimney.
Based in Richmond, Va., Dawn Gibbs writes about topics such as history, fashion, literature, crafts, alternative medicine and healthy living. Her work has appeared on GreenDaily.com and several style websites. Gibbs holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Virginia Commonwealth University.