How To Build And Light A Fire In A Wood Burning Stove

In Indoor Fireplaces, Wood Burning Stoves by James O'KellyLeave a Comment

Building and lighting a fire correctly in a wood burning stove helps to promote a long and successful fire, while also helping to reduce the chance that the fire will go out once lit.

To build a fire in a wood burning stove:

  • Bring the wood in inside before a fire to bring it up to room temperature.
  • Ensure that any excess ash is removed from the stove.
  • Take crunched up pieces of newspaper and place them at the bed of the stove.
  • Add several firelighters in between the bits of newspaper if required.
  • Lay small bits of dry softwood kindling on top of the newspaper in a crisscross arrangement.

To light a fire in a wood burning stove:

  • If required, warm up the flue to start the draft on the stove.
  • Fully open any air vents on the stove.
  • If the stove has a damper, ensure that it’s fully open.
  • Light the newspaper and/or firelighters at different points across the front of the stove.
  • Close the stove door if there is sufficient air supply through the air vents to keep the fire going. Leave the door cracked open for a few minutes if not.

This guide explains how to build a fire and light a wood burning stove.

I’ve also put together a guide on how to build and light a fire in a multi fuel stove, which you can find here.

Multi fuel stoves can also burn types of fuel other than wood, such as coal. For more information I’ve listed the complete list of differences between our multi fuel stove and wood burning stove.

I’ve explained in detail below every step we take to starting a fire in our own wood burning stove.

How To Build A Fire In A Wood Burning Stove

We make sure to bring in any wood that we’re using for a fire from outside at least a day before burning it. Cold wood is harder to catch alight and harder to burn, and so this helps to ensure that the wood is at room temperature before being used.

The first step in building any fire in a wood building stove is to remove any excess ashes from the bed of the firebox.

Wood burns best with a source of air from above, and so it can help a fire if there is a bed of ashes to burn on. It’s generally recommended that about 1 inch depth of ash should be kept between fires (more information can be found in another one of our articles here).

The manufacturer of our own wood burning stove states that it’s only necessary to remove excess ash from the stove occasionally.

Anything up to a couple of inches is fine, but it your firebox is full of ash then it’s worth clearing some out.

It’s good to leave a bed of ash inside a wood burning stove as it helps insulate the next fire

Take some sheets of newspaper or plain paper and scrunch them up into balls. The paper shouldn’t be overly tight, as air still needs to get in between it.

Place the balls of newspaper at the base of your wood burning stove until full, again without packing them in too tightly.

Wood Burning Stove Newspaper
Crunch up sheets of newspaper and place them at the bed of the stove

You can also add some firelighters into the mix of newspaper at this point.

Small bits of dry kindling should then be added to the top of the newspaper in a crisscross arrangement. This helps the flames to spread to the bits of wood while still allowing air to get in between them.

Add small bits of dry kindling on top of the newspaper
Wood Burning Stove Build Fire
How the fire in our wood burning stove looks once built

To make sure that the wood catches alight and burns efficiently, it should be dry and low in moisture content. Kindling that is well-seasoned or kiln dried should be fine for use, but you can use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of any wood you use to ensure that it’s below the recommended 20% moisture content for firewood.

It’s also preferable to use softwood kindling such as Pine when building a fire, as softwoods typically catch alight and burn more quickly than hardwoods. The aim is get to a fire going quickly and up to temperature, and using softwood kindling helps speed up this process.

How To Light A Fire In A Wood Burning Stove

Before lighting a fire in a wood burning stove, it’s important to ensure that:

  • The stove and flue are up to temperature.
  • Any air vents on the stove are fully open.

A cold flue can be a common reason why a fire goes out in a wood burning stove after being lit.

We like to leave the door to the stove open for a while before use to help bring it up to room temperature, but we also heat up the flue using a bit of newspaper if required.

Stove Glass Clean
We like to leave the door open for a while before using our wood burning stove to help warm up the stove and flue
You can also warm up the flue with a lit sheet of newspaper if required

You can read how we warm the flue of a wood burning stove in more detail here.

Before lighting the fire, you should fully open any air vents on stove. This helps to ensure that the fire is getting as much air as possible after being lit, so that it can burn through the newspaper and small bits of wood as quickly as possible.

There’s only one controllable air vent on our wood burning stove, and is located underneath. A handle that sticks out the front of the stove controls this vent, and pulling and pushing the handle opens and closes the vent respectively. Pulling the handle away from the stove as far as possible therefore fully opens the air vent.

Wood Stove Vent
Ensure that any air vents on the stove are fully opened before lighting the fire

If your wood burning stove has a damper, ensure that it’s fully open before lighting a fire. I’ve explained everything you need to know about dampers here.

The fire should be started at various points across the newspaper, to help spread the fire evenly to the wood.

Once the fire has visibly caught hold of the wood, the stove door can be closed. This helps ensure that all air supplying the fire is entering the stove through the vent(s).

Wood Burning Stove Fire
Close the stove door after lighting the fire, or leave it open for a few minutes if the fire keeps going out

If the fire in your wood burning stove keeps going out when shutting the door, it’s ok to leave the door slightly open for a few minutes while the fire gets going. The stove door shouldn’t be left open for the entire duration of the fire however, as the fire can’t be controlled if air is getting to it other than through the vents.

The initial bits of wood can then be left to burn through until progressively larger sized logs can be added to the fire without causing it to go out.

Wood Burning Stove Adding Logs
You can start to add larger sized logs once the fire has started well
Another log added to the fire

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