Kindling is an essential part of building a fire in an open fireplace. The kindling helps to transfer the flames from the fire starter, such as newspaper or firelighters, to the logs more effectively.
But what can you do when you don’t have any kindling available to hand? How can you start a fire in a fireplace without kindling?
To start a fireplace in a fireplace without kindling, be sure to use the smallest available kiln dried logs, and build the fire using the top-down method. Try to use other materials available to you that can be a substitute for kindling. These can include using newspaper tied up into a knot, bark taken from the logs, pinecones, or even another form of fire starter.
We’ve explained how to start a fire in a fireplace without kindling in more detail below, outlining each of the different methods that you can try.
How To Start A Fire In A Fireplace Without Kindling
Kindling can be defined as small bits of wood that are easily combustible in order for a fire to be started more easily. Kindling helps to transfer the fire from the fire starter to the logs.
When building a fire in a fireplace without kindling, you’ll need to consider how you’ll be able to better transfer the fire from the fire starter to the logs.
This means looking into maximizing how well and how quickly the logs can catch fire, as well as looking at ways of being able to burn the fire starter for a longer period of time so that the logs have an increased chance of catching alight.
To improve the chances of the logs catching fire, you need to:
- Use smaller logs in your fire because they can typically be easier to catch alight than larger sized logs.
- Build your fire using the top-down method so that the fire starter burns for as long as possible without being smothered.
- Ensure that the wood is as dry as possible to maximize the chances of it catching fire. Use kiln dried logs if possible.
There are a few things you can use as a substitute for kindling that can work very well, including:
- Tying several sheets of newspaper together into a knot, to help increase the time it burns for.
- Taking the bark off the logs and using that as a form of kindling.
- Using other bits of small wood such as twigs and pinecones.
- An alternative fire starter such as long lasting firelighters.
Use Smaller Sized Logs
Kindling is typically used when building a fire to help transfer the fire to the logs from the fire starter more effectively.
Logs can be very hard to light with a simple naked flame from a match or lighter. The greater the surface area of the logs, the harder it can be for log to catch alight, meaning that larger sized logs can be even harder to light than smaller ones.
If you’re going to try and light a fire without kindling then you’ll need to be using the right sized logs to help maximize the chances of getting the logs to catch fire from just the fire starter.
When starting a fire in a fireplace without kindling you’ll therefore want to be using your smallest sized logs when building the fire.
Build A Fire Using The Top-Down Method
When trying to start a fire in a fireplace without kindling we’d also recommend using the top-down method when building your fire.
The top-down method of building a fire is essentially a reversed way of stacking the materials in your fireplace. Instead of placing your fire starter such as newspaper at the base of the fire, when building a top-down fire the logs are placed in the fireplace first, followed by the kindling and then the fire starter.
Building a conventional fire without kindling can cause the fire to be smothered by the logs located on top soon into a fire. When building a top-down fire, the fire is started at the top and so there’s can be a lower chance for the fire to go out before the logs are able to catch.
To build a fire using the top-down method (without kindling):
- Place a layer of smaller sized logs at the base of the fireplace.
- Lay another layer of smaller logs on top, but at 90-degree angle to the way the logs below are facing.
- Put your fire starter, such as newspaper, on top of the logs.
We’ve explained how to build a fire in your fireplace using the top-down method in more detail here.
Use Kiln Dried Logs
To be able to start a fire in a fireplace without kindling you’ll need to be using logs that are as dry as possible.
When wood is freshly cut it will be high in moisture content and will therefore burn highly ineffectively when used in a fire. This ‘green’ wood can have a moisture content of anything over 20%, but depending on the type of wood and on the time of year it is cut, green wood can have an average of around 50-60% moisture content
For wood to be able to burn efficiently in a fire it needs to have a much lower moisture content. The recommended moisture content for firewood is between 15% and 20%.
To reach such a low moisture content the wood needs to be dried out, known as seasoning.
The wood is left outside on a hard platform under an overhang, but left open on one side to allow the wind and sun to help dry out the wood. Depending on the type of wood, this drying out process can take up to two years before the wood can be dry enough to be used as firewood.
Even when wood is seasoned for a long period of time, it still retains some level of moisture content. We’ve had a couple of seasoned logs sat at the bottom of the stack in the house for a few years, and even after all this time they still have a moisture content of around 10%.
Although these logs would burn great in a fire, if you’re starting a fire without kindling then you’ll want to be using logs that are as dry as possible. The lower the moisture content of the wood the higher the chance it has of catching alight and burning quickly.
Wood can also be kiln dried rather than seasoned. This process significantly speeds up the drying time of the wood, and the wood can reach moisture content levels lower than that of seasoned wood.
We bought a typical bag of kiln dried hardwood logs from our local store and tested their moisture content using our moisture meter.
We found that all of the logs had a moisture content of lower than 10%. In fact, the moisture content was so low that our moisture meter couldn’t even read it.
Our moisture meter can read moisture content down to 6.8%, meaning that these logs were lower than 6.8% moisture content.
These kiln dried logs would be perfect for when trying to start a fire in a fireplace without kindling.
Although very low moisture content wood can burn much more quickly than wood with between 15 and 20% moisture content, it’s important that the logs are able to catch alight as quickly as possible when kindling isn’t be used.
Therefore, when starting a fire in a fireplace without kindling, look to use kiln dried logs when building the fire to maximize the chances of the logs catching fire and having a successful fire.
Use Tied Newspaper
When building a fire in a fireplace with kindling, some sheets of crunched up newspaper will work great as the fire starter.
When starting a fire in a fireplace without kindling, crunched up pieces of newspaper typically won’t be able to burn long enough for the logs to catch fire.
When using the newspaper as a fire starter, instead of crunching sheets up into balls, you’ll need to roll several sheets of newspaper up at once and tie it into a knot.
You’ll typically need to use between 4-6 sheets for this method to work, but you’ll learn how many sheets of newspaper will work for you.
Once the newspaper is rolled fairly tightly, tie it into a knot.
You can then tuck the ends into the knot to help create an even longer lasting firelighter.
The purpose of tying the newspaper into a knot is to help prevent the newspaper from unraveling and moving as it’s burning.
Rolling up a number of sheets at a time helps the newspaper knot to burn a slower rate, which in turn gives the logs more time to catch fire.
If you’ve built your fire using the top-down method, simply place the newspaper knot on top of your logs and start the fire by lighting the newspaper.
Use Bark From The Logs
A great substitute for kindling is to use the bark from the logs that you’re using to build the fire.
If you’re (hopefully) using dry logs then the bark will be able to peel off with minimal effort.
You can either lay the bark on top of the logs or break it up into smaller pieces to help them catch fire more easily.
This bark can be used in conjunction with a newspaper knot to help maximize the chances of the logs catching fire.
Other Small Bits Of Wood
As a substitute for kindling, other small bits of wood can be used, such as dry twigs, leaves or even pinecones.
Alternative Fire Starters
As prolonging the time a fire starter burns for is one of the keys ways to help start a fire without kindling, alternative forms of fire starter can be used that are specifically designed to burn for a longer time.
Newspaper burns very quickly, which is fine for a fire with kindling, but for a fire without kindling you want to the fire starter to burn for a longer period of time.
You can buy nuggets or disks that can burn for over 15 minutes, giving your logs plenty of time to catch fire even without any kindling.
We’d recommended this box of 100 environmentally safe nugget fire starters, where just one nugget will give you a much higher chance of being able to start a fire in your fireplace without the use of any kindling.
Essential Fireplace Tips
How Fireplaces Work
What Moisture Content Firewood Should Be And How To Check
How To Keep A Fire Going In A Fireplace
Ways To Improve The Draw On Your Fireplace
How To Start A Top-Down Fire In A Fireplace