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A person positioning a safety screen in front of a wood heater

Overview

There's nothing better in winter than a nice wood fire. But they require a bit of maintenance to keep them going. We'll show you how to keep a firebox clean, what tools you need, what wood to use and how to light the perfect fire.

Steps

1Choose the right wood

For a great fire, make sure that you never burn cold or damp wood. This creates excessive smoke outside and even inside your house. If you don't have a wood source on your property, you can buy firewood in bulk or in bags. Avoid burning treated pine or rubbish in your fire. These create extra soot in your chimney and treated pine contains chemicals, which can be quite toxic in your fire.

A bag of firewood and a bag of kindling next to a wood heater

2Get rid of the ashes

Fireboxes can get pretty dirty because of all of the ash. Keep the area around the fire clean by using a shovel and brush to sweep up ash.  To clean inside the firebox, use metal tools. This is because there may still be hot embers present. Make sure you don't put hot ashes into your plastic council garbage bin. Try scattering the ashes on your garden instead. It's also a good idea to use a galvanized bucket for taking ash or embers out of your firebox.
A person using a shovel and brush to sweep up ash in front of a wood heater

3Lighting your fire

Set your firebox with paper, plenty of dry kindling and firelighters. If you can't light it with matches, try using a fire lighting stick instead to reach the back of the firebox. When the fire is alight and roaring, use good quality fire tools to put pieces of wood on the fire. Tools such as tongs, poker sticks, and a shovel are essential for a good fire.

Fire tools including tongs, poker sticks, a shovel and a brush next to a wood heater

4Keep the glass clean

It's important to keep the glass at the front of your firebox clean. Not only does it help the heat to come out, but it makes the fire nice to look at. To clean the glass, use some scouring brushes and warm soapy water. You may need a harsher scrubbing brush to remove soot that has stuck on.

Discoloured glass on the front of a wood heater

5Use a safety screen

It's important to use a safety screen when your fire is going. This will provide a small barrier and safeguard your hot fire from kids and pets. There is a range of different sizes and styles to suit every fireplace.

A person positioning a safety screen in front of a wood heater

6Clean the flue

It's really important to maintain the flue. This is one of the biggest safety issues with wood fires, because many house fires occur due to a flue that is not maintained. To be safe, check it annually. Put a brush down through the flue or drag a bag through it to loosen all the soot and buildup inside. 

The flue of a wood heater surrounded by safety mesh

7Turn fan off before opening the door

When you open the door while the fire is on, make sure the fan is turned off and the airflow is open.  Otherwise you'll quickly get covered in smoke. Most of these types of wood heaters have a switch on the side for the electric fan. 

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More D.I.Y. Advice

Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.