A cold wood burning stove and flue can prevent a fire from catching and getting going.
Warming the flue before building and lighting a fire in a stove aids in having a successful fire, so how to warm the flue of a wood burning stove?
The most common way to warm the flue of a wood burning stove is to place a rolled up piece of paper, that is lit at one end, under the flue inside the stove. Hot air from the flames helps to remove the cold air from the flue and start a draft on the stove. Smoke rising from the paper up the flue is a sign that a fire in a wood burning stove is ready to be lit.
I’ve explained below how we warm the flue of our own wood burning stove before having any fires, as well as other methods that you can try.
How To Warm The Flue Of A Wood Burning Stove
Wood burning stoves provide a controlled environment in which wood can be burnt more efficiently to provide heat.
With the door to the stove, the damper and the air vents closed, a wood burning stove is sealed from the air inside your home. Wood burning stoves can therefore become cold due to the connection with the outside via the flue.
A cold flue and/or wood burning stove can be a common reason why a fire in a stove goes out once lit. Warm air rises and cold air falls, and so cold air inside the flue can push down on the stove and prevent smoke and waste gases from leaving the stove. This in turn prevents fresh air from getting to the fire, causing it to eventually go out.
It’s therefore important to warm the flue (also known as ‘priming’ the flue) of a wood burning stove before lighting a fire to ensure that it gets going properly.
Before attempting to warm the flue of a wood burning stove, you should always ensure that the damper is fully open if you have one.
Opening The Stove
Depending on the outside temperature, we usually open the air vent and door on the stove for around half an hour before lighting a fire.
This helps both the stove and flue to warm up to room temperature.
Use A Heat Source
Sometimes leaving the door and vents open on a wood stove won’t be enough to warm up the flue. Placing a heat source under the flue inside the stove helps to warm up the flue much more quickly.
We typically use newspaper when building and starting a fire, and so we have plenty of newspaper lying around to use to help warm up the flue.
Simply roll up a sheet of paper or newspaper and hold it at one end. The newspaper shouldn’t be too tightly rolled up or the air won’t be able to get in between.
Light the other end of the newspaper and place it inside the stove near the top.
Once you start to see smoke from the newspaper heading up the flue, then it’s a sign that there’s sufficient draft on the stove to start a fire.
If you’re having trouble getting the flue to warm up, try leaving the heat source under the flue inside the stove for a longer period of time. In very cold temperatures this process may have to be repeated with a second piece of newspaper.
It may be the case that the flue needs cleaning if it isn’t warming up. It’s recommended that a flue or chimney be cleaned at least once per year, but more often if wood is burnt regularly.
Cracking open a window in the room can help start the draft along with a heat source.
You can also try starting the fire as usual and seeing whether it goes out. Lighting a fire may warm the flue up enough that the fire will get going well once lit for a second time. Ensure to use small bits of dry softwood kindling to help the fire get going and to quickly increase the temperature inside the stove.
If your wood burning stove has a damper, ensure that it’s fully open before attempting to warm the flue and before starting a fire. You can read my complete guide to fireplace dampers here for more information.
Other heat source methods for warming the flue can include cardboard or even a hair dryer! Another option is to light a single firelighter inside the stove and leave it to burn through.
Parts Of A Wood Burning Stove Explained