Fire, fire burning bright

I grew up with fires. I have had a fireplace in every house I have lived in (okay, except one).  You cannot beat the licking flames and real warmth that comes from a firebox. I adore them to bits. From the cavemen of old to the designer apartments today, fires have a large place in our lives. Who hasn’t enjoyed the flames of a fire in winter. I will travel many miles to find a country pub with an old-fashioned roaring open fire.

Our new home has a firebox in the corner of the lounge room.  We have sunken the hearth and we will tile the wall around the chimney to feature it up.

Example tiling:

The volume builders do struggle a bit with the fireboxes. They are not a standard item and we found the fire was actually quite a lot of work to get across the line. Most of the offerings were for fake gas ones. A wonderful option for some, but not for me. After a lot of paperwork and negotiating about what models would and would not work in our home, there was a lot of compromise. Also, building regulations with new home fireplaces are very steep.  We will require a bricked chimney well past the top of our roof so there is no risk of ember attack on our own house or the neighbourhood.

I’m still not sure where the wood will go.  I have an antique wooden chest that has been passed down the family. Maybe that would make a grand log-box

I have spent the past two years collecting firewood from the suburbs. I am the urban angel that helps the elderly with their felled trees to keep the streets clean! Okay, overboard, but you get the gist. There is honour in salvaging you own wood. So really, the firebox will cost zero to keep us warm in winter. (New car installation cost aside!)

We plan to use the firebox as our primary source of heating for most weekends and 2-3 weekdays.  I estimate we will burn around 1.3 kg of firewood per hour between May – September.


This is 150 days.   Rough maths, but I think we’ll go through around 1.3kg of wood * 7hours * 150days). That is around a 1-2 tonne of wood each winter.  That also considers the kwh of our fire box which is pretty modest. Here is a handy calculator for how much wood you may use:

There are a lot of myths out there about fires and how bad they are for the environment. The new fireboxes have burn efficiencies of in excess of 65% or so. The very best, are pushing 90%.  A standard open fire is about 5-10% efficient! The new units are pretty good. If you use the right wood – hard and dry – I feel there are no real environmental issues. There is lots of great information at this website (

We plan to create little kindling/paper packages that we can toss into the fire to make starting it really easy.

My garden will also love the potash that comes from the wood – so double bonus there.

Do you have a fire? Are you planning a firebox?


6 thoughts on “Fire, fire burning bright

  1. We are having a fireplace. You can’t beat wood fires for ambience but I don’t have your dedication to collecting wood, so we are going for gas. We haven’t selected the exact model yet. I love your idea of the fire-starter kits.

  2. Hi again E and M. I’m revisiting this post again after finding out the price of gas fireplaces (wood imitation). I got a bit of a shock at the price, so I want to make sure we make a good decision. I am also rethinking the possibility of wood. Our fireplace won’t be our main heat source, but will mainly be for atmosphere. Which model did you select? Any other suggestions from your research? ( I had a quick look at Choice to see if their reviews might help, but they only reviewed a few options and it was 4 years ago.) Thanks!

  3. Hi Johannemarias. I looked for a high burn efficiency model. You really want to be putting in the least amount of wood possible so look for a burn efficiency above 65%. Some are in the high 80s which would be fantastic. Fires are fair bit of work to keep going and wood storage can be a nightmare for some people. I love chopping firewood (throw back to childhood I guess) but some people may find it all way, way too hard! The homeheat website gives burn efficiency information if you decide to ditch the gas!

  4. Some one once told me to keep a fire burning through a Victorian winter you need to collect three logs every day.

    One thing I did for my last wood heater was to provide an air supply direct to the fire place from outside. This was great for preventing the drafts that can result from having a wood heater

  5. HI Brian. I like the idea and end goal of 3 logs a day as my target. We are lucky to have some local tree choppers who leave a lot of wood on the sidewalk outside their office so I do have a few back up plans should the suburban chain saws go quiet..

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