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There’s nothing like a bright burning fireplace to warm the cockles of your heart and make winter the cosy inviting season we love to enjoy! Here are a few facts and tips you may find useful to get the best from your family hearth …


It should maybe go without saying, but to get your home fires burning bright your wood needs to be dry, and preferably well-seasoned. It takes about 12 months for 300mm hardwood log cuts to cure and reach their best condition for burning. If you don’t already have an existing supply you started a year or more ago, the next best option is to buy your firewood from a reputable supplier, like your local nursery. There, you can find good, dry firewood for sale and even bundles of kindling to get you started.


Hardwoods like Yellowgum, Red Gum and Ironbark are recommended. These are the species you can most easily source through firewood suppliers. They’ll have a low moisture content and be properly cured and dried to burn well. If you’re cutting or choosing the wood yourself make sure it is not one of the poisonous or sappy species that can emit toxic smoke and fumes. Old railway sleepers are another type of wood to NOT burn in your wood heater or fireplace, as the sleepers can contain toxic substances like oil, grease, chemicals and even asbestos fibres, which can be extremely harmful if inhaled. Wedged in the cracks, railway sleepers might also conceal small stones, which can explode dangerously when exposed to extreme heat.


If your wood heater or fireplace is not operated properly, you run the risk of alienating your neighbours by inundating them with a barrage of unwanted smoke ... not to mention exposing yourself embarrassingly as greenhorn in the time-honoured art of good fire-making. The rule of thumb is that you should start with good, dry kindling and get it burning well, then add smaller pieces of dry wood (not wet, sappy twigs!) and let them catch alight and turn to hot coals. Only once these preparations are in place is it time for the bigger logs to go in. Trying to burn things too quickly from the start will result in a less efficient fire and the annoying excess of smoke you want to avoid.


To get a fire hot you also need a good supply of oxygen through your fireplace. Make sure the flue is wide open and is not blocked. If there is smoke pouring out into the room, it’s a sure sign you have an obstructed chimney or flue. Fires need air to burn. Don’t suffocate yours if you want the flames to burn bright.


Here’s a little something you may not know. CSIRO studies have found firewood to be the carbon-neutral heating fuel that emits the least amount of greenhouse gas. So when burning wood in your fireplace it’s good to know you won’t be leaving a dirty carbon footprint on the white Berber rug of your existence on this planet. They found that burning firewood makes no worse contribution to greenhouse gasses than if the wood was left in the forest to burn in clearing or bushfires, or to decompose or be eaten by termites (which, believe it or not, have their own emissions). A wood heater or fireplace is the eco-friendliest means of both warming and cooking, which is worth bearing in mind when you want to do your bit to help Mother Earth. We hope these tips will help you enjoy your colder months a little more. Wishing you a wonderful warm winter season, with plenty of good times around the family hearth!

*Tony Skinner runs Turtle Nursery and Landscape Supplies, Rouse Hill, Sydney,