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Fireplace Prep

Martha Stewart Living Television

 The one consolation of the encroaching winter chill is that, finally, it's the time of year when you can stoke up a fire. Of course, it's best to be fully equipped to make your hearth every bit as welcoming and efficient as it can be. Start with wood; dry hardwood such as hickory, ash, oak, maple, and birch are all good choices. If you see radial cracks along the cross section of a hardwood log, you'll know it's dry enough to use. Avoid burning softwoods like pine or spruce, as they tend to burn up too quickly, and be certain to store your wood in a cool, dry place.

To get the blaze going, you'll need tinder -- small twigs, pine branches, or twisted newspaper -- and kindling, which are larger. Some of the tools you'll want to have handy include a poker, tongs, a fireplace screen to stop wayward sparks, and a shovel, whisk broom, and dustpan to remove the ashes.

Safety should be a paramount concern. The National Chimney Sweep Guild recommends having your chimney swept about once a year; this removes any debris that can block the escape of gases or cause a chimney fire. To find a specialist in your area, look in the Yellow Pages under "chimney" or visit the National Chimney Sweeps Guild website.


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