How To Warm The Flue Of A Wood Burning Stove

In Indoor Fireplaces, Wood Burning Stoves by James O'Kelly6 Comments

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.

Stove Glass Clean
Leave the door to the wood burning stove open for a while before starting a fire to help it warm up
Wood Stove Vent
Open the vent(s) before warming the flue or starting a fire

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.

Roll up a sheet of newspaper

Light the other end of the newspaper and place it inside the stove near the top.

Light one end of the newspaper
Place it under the flue inside the wood burning stove
The outlet to the flue at the top of our wood burning stove

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.

Smoke heading up the flue is a sign that the draft on the stove has started

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.

Further Reading

Parts Of A Wood Burning Stove Explained


  1. Thank you. This was very helpful. Twice now our log cassette burner has instantly filled with smoke which spilled out the sides of the door. Didn’t know what the heck was happening and to be honest had a panic. But this makes sense to warm it through first

    1. When not in use I leave a lit church candle in the fire. If not the cold stove sucks heat out of the room. With a candle it warms it up to about 40C/100F. I also put the kindling on top of the logs and this almost eliminates smoke.

  2. Really useful info….now I understand why sometimes the fire doesn’t light first time. Thank you for posting this information.

  3. I’ve just had a very expensive wood stove fitted with a twin wall pipe roughly 5m high.
    Every time I light it I get a room full of smoke which is very frustrating.
    I’ve learnt that heating the flue is the key but burning paper doesn’t do a quick enough job to be honest. I’m now considering a gas burning torch to rapidly heat the flue

  4. A hair dryer is another way of warming the flue but beware of the risk of blasting ash everywhere if not carefully directed!

  5. I have an outside flue so it’s cold all the time so I use 4 little tea light candles about 20 minutes before lighting the fire and it works really well. I set up the fire then place the tea lights on a flat piece of wood on top of the kindling, great

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