Multi fuel stoves are a much more efficient way to heat your room compared to traditional open fireplaces, but to have the most successful fire possible in a multi fuel stove, the fire should to be built and lit in the right way.
Because multi fuel stoves can burn a number of different types of fuel other than wood, their setup is slightly different to that in a wood stove.
We have both a multi fuel stove and wood burning stove in our homes, and if you’re unsure of the differences between the two I’ve outlined the complete list of differences between our own stoves in another article here.
In this guide I’ve explained how to build and light a fire in a multi fuel stove using wood as the fuel, with pictures and videos to highlight what we do at every step when using our own multi fuel stove.
To build and light a fire in a multi fuel stove, you should:
- Ensure that the ash pan is emptied if required.
- Lay a bed of crumpled newspaper inside the stove.
- Place small bits of dry wood or kindling on the newspaper.
- Ensure that the air vents are fully open.
- Light the newspaper at varies point across the stove.
- Keep the air vents open, and leave the stove door slightly open if required.
- Once the flames have caught hold of the wood, close the door and close down the air vents as required to control the fire.
We have a typical multi fuel stove in the family that we use regularly throughout the winter months, and so I’ve shown in detail below how we build and light a fire in our own multi fuel stove.
As all brands and models of multi fuel stove are designed and operated slightly differently, there may be some slight differences between your stove and ours, but the concept of building and lighting a fire remains the same.
Before building or lighting a fire in your multi fuel stove, you’ll need to ensure that:
- The ash pan has enough capacity for the upcoming fire, and emptied if not.
- The amount of ash being left at the bed of the stove’s firebox accords with the type of fuel being used.
- The door on the stove is left open prior to use to get the flue up to room temperature, or the flue is primed using a heat source.
- The fuel has been brought in from outside, ideally the day before.
We typically clean the ash pan out between every fire, and a picture of our clean ash tray is shown below for reference.
Leaving a layer of ash inside the bed of the firebox may also be beneficial depending on the type of fuel that you’ll be burning.
Wood burns best on a layer of ash, and can burn efficiently with only a supply of oxygen from above. If you’re burning wood in your multi fuel stove then it’s fine to leave a thin layer of ash at the bed of the stove’s firebox as it helps to insulate the heat. Any excess buildup of ash inside the firebox above a couple of inches should be cleaned out.
On the other hand, coal requires a source of air from below to burn efficiently, which is why multi fuel stoves typically contain a grate at the base of the firebox, and a separate air vent to control the supply of oxygen from below. It’s therefore important to remove all ashes from your stove if burning coal.
It’s also a good idea to leave the door to your stove open for a while before using the stove to bring both the stove and flue up to room temperature. A cold flue can prevent the draft required to keep the fire going once it has been lit.
To warm up or ‘prime’ the flue, you can roll up a piece of newspaper, light one end and place it under the flue inside the stove. Once you feel the cold air being pulled into the stove and up the flue, there should be sufficient draft to start building and lighting the fire.
Wood and other types of solid fuel should also be brought in from storage outside, or from a cold area of your home such as your garage so that they can get up to room temperature before use. Cold wood is harder to catch alight, and so you may have trouble starting a fire in your multi fuel stove if using cold fuel.
How To Build A Fire In A Multi Fuel Stove
With the ash pan compartment cleared, and the stove and fuel up to room temperature, you can start to build a fire in your multi fuel stove.
To build a fire in a multi fuel stove, you’ll need:
- A supply of paper, newspaper or firelighters.
- Some small bits of dry wood, known as kindling.
You’ll also need a range of small to large sized logs to keep the fire going once the kindling has created a hot bed of coals. The bigger your supply of logs, the longer you can keep the fire going in your stove.
The aim when building a fire in a multi fuel stove is to get the fire going and up to optimum temperature as quickly as possible. This means building a fire in a way that maximizes the efficiency of the flames taking hold of, and burning through the fuel.
A fire requires two main components: fuel and oxygen. It’s therefore important to take into account both the fuel and air supplies when building and lighting a fire in stove.
To rapidly spread the fire to the fuel, there needs to be a catalyst that helps the fuel to light more easily. This can be in the form of paper or firelighters.
We like to use old bits of newspaper, as its readily available in our home and we find it’s great for getting the fire going. One sheet of newspaper should be crumpled up into a ball at a time, and placed onto the bed of the stove.
The newspaper shouldn’t be over crumpled or it will inhibit the supply of air to the flames. Likewise, newspaper that isn’t packed tightly enough can prevent the flames from spreading to the wood.
Furthermore, the newspaper shouldn’t be packed too tightly together inside the stove for the same reason.
Here’s what our multi fuel stove looks like once the newspaper has been crumpled and placed into the stove.
It’s much harder to get larger pieces of wood to catch alight compared to smaller ones, and so once the bed of newspaper has been built you’ll need to start adding small bits of wood on top.
The kindling should be dry, and small enough to fit into the stove. Moisture content of 20% or less is recommended for wood, and you can measure the moisture content of your wood using a moisture meter.
The small bits of wood should be added to the stove on top of the newspaper one at a time in a crisscross pattern. Building up a fire inside a multi fuel stove in this way helps for air circulation between the wood, and allows them to catch alight more quickly and easily.
Don’t overload your stove with too much kindling, as a tightly packed stove can prevent the fire from getting going.
The picture below shows what our multi fuel stove typically looks like once the kindling has been added.
The fire in your multi fuel stove has now been built, and is almost ready to be lit. I’ve explained below a few further things you need to do before lighting a stove.
How To Light A Multi Fuel Stove
With the fire in a multi fuel stove built, the fire can be lit once the air supply to the fire has been checked.
To light a fire in a multi fuel stove:
- Ensure that the air vents on the stove are fully open.
- Light the newspaper at evenly spaced locations along the width of the stove.
- Once the flames have caught hold of the kindling close the stove door. (If you’re having trouble lighting the fire you can leave the stove door open if required to maximize airflow to the fire)
- With the fire visibly taking hold of the fuel, the air vents can be partially closed down to control the airflow, and the stove door can be closed if it has been left open.
The draft from the flue plays an important role in ensuring that a fire gets going well once lit. Cold air within the flue can prevent the hot air from the fire from rising, and therefore drawing further oxygen into the fire.
As mentioned earlier, leaving the stove door open for a while before lighting helps to bring the internal temperature of the stove and flue up to room temperature.
You’ll also need to ensure that the air vents on the multi fuel stove are open all the way to maximize oxygen supply to the fire when lit.
As with many multi fuel stoves, ours has vents located underneath the stove and on the front.
The vent on the front of the stove can also be known as the primary vent. Its purpose is to provide air to fire from below through the ash pan compartment, which is required when burning certain solid fuels such as coal.
On our multi fuel stove, the vent needs to be rotated open as far as possible before the fire is lit.
The secondary air vent on our multi fuel stove is located underneath. The handle to control this vent sticks out from the front of the stove.
This handle simply needs to be pulled away from the stove as far as possible to fully open the secondary vent.
With the air vents open, the fire in a multi fuel stove can now be lit.
The newspaper should be lit at a number of locations across the stove to help the fire spread to the wood more quickly.
We find that our multi fuel stove catches alight fine with the door closed, and so once the fire has been lit the door will be closed to ensure that all airflow to the fire is going through the vents, and can be controlled.
If you’re finding that the fire isn’t catching alight, it may be that there isn’t enough oxygen supply to the fire, and so it’s ok to leave the stove door slightly open to help the fire get going.
There’s usually a good draw on our multi fuel stove, and so we typically close down the air vents once the fire has caught hold of the wood.
Each model of multi fuel stove is different, and so if you’re having trouble getting the fire going refer to your manufacturer’s guidelines on how best to start a fire in your stove.
It’s also important to keep using your stove to learn how best it works for your particular situation. With practice, you can understand how best to build a fire in your stove and what amount airflow is required to get a fire going.
With the fire now lit, it’s a case of waiting for the wood to burn down to become hot coals, which allows larger pieces of wood to catch alight more easily.
Here’s what our multi fuel stove looks like after the fire has burnt through the kindling:
At this point larger sized logs can be added to the stove.