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We’ve Been Making Fireplace Fires Wrong This Whole Time

Here is the simple guide to building fires that last longer and burn brighter.

There’s nothing better than spending warm summer nights and cool fall evenings around a fire with family, loved ones, pets, and an ice-cold beer. At least that’s true if you build a fire pit or fireplace fire the right way. Done incorrectly, you’re up and down every five minute to poke and stoke, and that’s if you get the damn thing going in the first place. Instead of endlessly tearing up old newspapers and blowing until your lungs give out, Tim Ferris, autodidact and author of the Four Hour Work Week, has provided a few tricks and tips to help your hearth stay warm and your fire burning bright for hours at a time.

The Form and the Shape

If you really want to keep a fire going, it’s time to ditch the tried and true “teepee style” of log arranging, for which you lump tinder at the bottom and then stack bigger pieces above in a style that vaguely resembles a pyramid. Besides the fact that “teepee” is a slightly problematic name, the method also isn’t as effective as most people think. It turns out the real secret to a strong and effective fire is turning everything upside down. Instead of waiting to put the big logs on top with the hope of the tinder and kindling catching on fire and subsequently spreading the flames to the logs, you actually want to put your big unsplit logs in first and make sure there is as little space between them as possible.

There’s Levels to This Game

Once your base of big wood is laid, add the smaller logs right on top, once again leaving as little space between the wood as possible. Repeat the process, layer after layer, alternately stacking big and small logs tightly on each other until your wood pile has reached a sufficient height. As a final touch, place whatever fire starters you have as the top layer (old newspaper or paid bills work great for this). To get your fireplace going, ignite your fire-starters and watch in amazement as your fire takes like it never has before.

Time After Time

Instead of the usual 20-30 minute burn you are probably used to, the upside down method, if done properly, can keep a fire burning for more than three hours (and allegedly even up to seven hours) without you having to maintain it in any way. And it’s not just the length of the fire that improves. Upside down fires also produce more heat than traditional fire-starting methods while greatly reducing the amount of smoke caused by the fire, which can be one of the more frustrating aspects of fireplaces.

Tricks of the Trade

One thing to keep in mind is that the upside down fires do take longer to really burn than your typical fireplace fire, so it may take around 15 minutes for flames to really start popping up. But with a little bit of patience, a lot of firewood, and some unconventional stacking, you’ll finally be able to binge the entire Chappelle’s Show without having to tend the fire between episodes.