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How To Build A Turf Fire
How To Build A Turf Fire

I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for some time now. It may seem trivial to some and probably humorous to my Irish friends, but learning to build a turf fire that actually burned was quite a feat for me.

It began last year after some friends were visiting my wife. They had come over to see our young baby and see how my pregnant wife was doing. A few days after their visit we received a delivery of a pallet of turf as a gift to help keep our house warm for the winter. Apparently the wood fire I had built did not quite meet their standards of warmth for a home containing a pregnant wife and soon to be two babies. It was a great gift and I found that turf (a.k.a. Peat) burns much hotter than the wet wood I had been using. After a winter of experience, the following is my humble opinion on how to build a great turf fire that will warm your soul, or at least keep your wife and kids from hypothermia.

Gather Your Tools & Materials

Turf also known as Peat is aged plant material gathered from the bogs of Ireland. It is dug up by hand or machine and dried in preparation to be used as fuel. It is a limited natural resource in Ireland, but it is still widely popular as a heating fuel. Turf can be purchased almost anywhere in Ireland. You can find it at your grocer, petrol stations, hardware stores and usually at your nearest convenience store. You can usually purchase it for 3 or 4 euros per stack or several hundred for a full pallet. A full pallet last more than a year for my family, but we also use oil heating to heat most of our house.

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I like to use a long lighter to start the fire. The length helps me not burn myself and to get around pieces of fuel. I usually adjust the flame to full power for the quickest results.

 

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Matches also work, but I tend to go through a dozen before getting anything lit.

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You can find these plastic tubs at euro stores for five or ten euros. They make getting wood or turf from the garage much easier and it doesn’t look to shabby either.

How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (39)I like to make sure I have a shovel, sweep. and pointy metal thing (what are those called anyway?) to help with clean up and to move hot turf around.
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I keep a metal bucket handy to put overflow dust in and sometimes use it to clean out the ashes from the stove.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (40)

 

Firelighters are brilliant! I had used something similar in America when lighting wood fires, but I never realized how awesome these are. They take the headache out of getting a fire going. I don’t recommend buying the cheapest you can find, because some of them are really rubbish, but you don’t have to buy the most expensive either. Like turf, firelighters can be find in most every shop. These ones are made in Ireland and actually have turf in them.

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Clean Your Stove

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A huge part of getting a good fire started is all about airflow. To prepare for proper airflow a good practice is to clean out the stove of old ashes.
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I use the metal rod or sweep to push the dirt through the bottom vents into the collection tray underneath.
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I then remove the collection tray to carry it outside. You may also dump it into the metal bucket if it too windy or cold at the time.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (11)

We have a safe place that we dump our old ashes outside. Be careful if it is windy, you will be covered in ashes. It is also important to be careful of being burnt or starting a outdoor fire from ashes that are still hot.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (13) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (14)

This stove is ready for a new fire.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (15)

Build A Castle

I add about three pieces of firelighter to my stove. You could use a third less if you use sticks, but I find that using a little extra firelighter is just as economical.

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Place the firelighter in the center of the stove bottom.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (21)

To start I fully open the vents at both the top and the bottom of the stove to get full airflow going.
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Next add one or two pieces of turf around the firelighter.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (28) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (29) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (30) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (31)

 

I don’t put all my turf in at once so that I can easily light the firelighter.
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Then I start adding turf pieces perpendicular to those below. I stack them as high as I possibly can, like a castle.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (34) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (35) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (36)

 

Adjust The Airflow

Early on I only shut the door part way in order to get even more airflow. This was a trick I learned for increasing airflow and the height of the flame, but be careful to always watch it because it can be dangerous if coals fall through the opening. I usually leave it like this for 5 or 10 minutes or until the turf has started to turn orange in places.
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Once the turf is sufficiently hot (you should see a good portion of the turf orange hot) I knock the castle of turf in on itself. This is the next stage of getting the fire going.
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I then fully close the stove door. And adjust the ventilation on both top and bottom to the desired setting. I usually keep it at half-open for another 5 or ten minutes before closing the vents about 90% closed.How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (50) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (52) How_To_Build_A_Turf_Fire (56)

Enjoy a Cuppa’

You should start to feel the room heating up. Now is time to get out the biggest mug you can find for a nice mug of tea (cuppa tay). I like to sit down with your man John Wayne. Who better to enjoy a roaring fire in Ireland with than The Quiet Man himself.

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"Out here a man settles his own problems."
“Out here a man settles his own problems.”
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Noel Cammack
The happy husband of one wife and father of three children. I am the web developer for extraordinaryisland.com, but I occasionally do some exploring and writing of my own.