Recycling old newspapers into needed heat

Homemade Fireplace Logs

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Making Fireplace Logs

My fiancée and I have purchased a new home with a wood burning fireplace in the family room. This room is underneath some of the bedrooms. We want to use this for heat at night when we are home, but I am curious as to how to use waste paper and/or how to make newspaper logs, etc. Any tips including the amount of logs needed per evening would be most welcome.
Cindy in NJ

Look for Discarded Wood

We live in an area where people throw away firewood. For instance, when they remove a dead tree, it is cut up into small chunks and placed on the curb for free disposal. If this is not an option for Cindy, she could roll up old newspapers and tape into a "log." I've found that rolling the newspapers loosely is better, because more air can circulate and keep the fire burning briskly.
Shaunna P. in ND

Remove Glossy Print

My husband and I live in a 1943 farm house with plaster walls and a raised foundation. We rely on our fireplace to help heat the house. We tightly roll several layers of newspaper together until they have something of a weighted feel. The denser the better. Be sure, however, to remove any glossy and colored advertising print as this may emit fumes into the room. Store bought starter logs are no more than shredded wood materials and wax compressed into a log form. So to make them more fire effective, we crush up unused candles and sprinkle inside some of the layers. We also use larger, broken bits of candles as starter pieces for a fire instead buying those starter materials. Pinecones also make great fire starters and are often easily found. Our homemade logs tend to have some very colorful flames with better smells than any store bought item.
Sandy in California

Use Caution

Be careful about burning waste paper and fireplace logs in your fireplace. The commercial logs have wax in them. This melts when the fire is burning and hardens on the walls of your flue when it cools down. I burned them almost exclusively for one winter and had to spend major bucks to get the chimney cleaned. A normal sweep wouldn't dislodge the wax, which when it builds up, can catch fire. The chimney sweep had to pour chemicals in to soften the wax and come back a couple days later to sweep it. This had to be repeated three times to get it all off. It is better and safer to use real wood. Chimney fires are hard to put out and expensive to fix afterwards.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fireplace Logs

You'll need a bundle of old newspapers and a few empty vegetable cans or string.

  • Remove both ends and the labels from the cans and discard any glossy inserts in the newspaper. (No need for the cans if using string.)
  • Take a 1-inch stack of newspaper and, section by section, alternate the direction of the folds. Tightly roll up the stack, slip a can on one end and slide it to the middle of the rolled newspaper to hold it together or tightly tie the newspaper together.
  • Completely soak the rolled newspaper in water and then (this is very important) let it dry completely to compress the papers and hold them together while they burn.
  • Use the newspaper log, can and all, like a regular fireplace log. After it burns and the ashes have cooled, carefully remove the metal can with a pair of tongs (it might still be hot).


Related: How to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter

Make Your Own Fire Starters

The best tip we can offer is how to make fire-starters. We never made our own logs (with woods behind our back yard), but I keep my dryer lint and cardboard egg cartons handy to make my own wonderful fire-starters. Simply pack a good amount of dryer lint into each egg space in the carton and pour melted wax over each one until fully saturated. I collected used candles from weddings, friends and family, even a few great deals at garage sales, and melted them down for this purpose. After the carton has cooled and hardened, break each little section apart, and you will have a dozen fire-starters. These are great on camping trips, too, as well as for damp or green firewood.
Jackie in Benton, Arkansas

Reviewed March 2018

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