If you’ve found that the fire in your wood burning stove keeps going out then you’re not alone. In the last couples of years both my parents have installed wood stoves in their homes, and found that to begin with, keeping a sustained and hot fire was sometimes quite challenging.
There are many factors that influence a successful fire in your stove, and each one can be a reason why your wood burning stove keeps going out.
Having a fire in your stove requires three main elements; the right firewood to burn, sufficient airflow to the fire, and enough draw on the stove from the flue to remove waste byproducts from the fire.
Over the years of using our wood stoves we’ve found that the most common reasons for the fire to keep going out is:
- using wood that is too wet.
- not providing enough oxygen to the fire through misunderstanding how to use the air vents on the stove correctly.
- Having a fire when the flue is dirty or the damper is too far closed.
Although the above are our own most common reasons, I’ve put together the complete list of reasons why your wood burning stove keep going out.
Many of the reasons why a wood burning stove keeps going out also applies to why a wood burning fireplace would keep going out. If you’re looking for reasons why your fireplace keeps going then please read on as you might find some of the information to be of use!
Setting Up The Fire Incorrectly
Setting up the fire correctly and getting the fire going well is essential to having a long, hot and well-burning fire.
A common issue when starting a fire is putting logs into the stove that are too large. Larger sized pieces of wood should only be used when the fire has been going for a while, and when there is a hot bed of coals to sustain bigger logs in the fire.
Adding bigger logs can smother the fire during its early stages, leading to the fire in your stove going out.
Large logs will struggle to catch fire in young fires. Even if larger pieces of wood do catch alight, they might burn inefficiently and you’ll struggle to keep the fire going in your wood burning stove.
To set up a fire in your wood burning stove correctly:
- Start with a few crumpled pieces of newspaper (newspaper works best) and lay them on the bed of your stove. The newspaper should be crumpled enough so that air can still get in between the pieces.
- Lay dry pieces of softwood kindling over the newspaper in a crisscross pattern.
- Put smaller logs on top of the kindling, also in a crisscross pattern. Try to use softwoods over hardwoods as they will light better and get the fire going much more quickly.
By leaving gaps between the newspaper, kindling and logs you’re helping to maximize the airflow when the wood catches alight and the fire starts roaring.
Be sure to use plenty of kindling when setting up the fire, as lighting a log with a match is really quite hard! You’ll need to wait for the fire to heat up before adding larger bits of wood.
By starting your fire small and slowly building up the larger sized logs you’re helping to setup your stove up correctly for a long, hot and successful fire. This will help prevent any issues that would cause a fire in your wood burning stove to keep going out.
Adding Too Little Wood To The Fire
Adding too little amounts of wood to the fire, or not often enough, can cause the fire to burn out.
Once the fire has got going, you should aim to keep a flame visible at all times. Just as a fire needs oxygen to survive, a fire needs fuel; in this case its wood. A lack of wood to burn will eventually lead to a fire that goes out.
Softwoods such as Pine will burn quicker than hardwoods such as Ash, meaning that you’ll have to add logs to your stove more often if burning softwoods. As softwoods burn quicker than hardwoods, they’re great for using at the start of the fire to get it going quickly. Hardwoods can then be used to provide more heat over a longer period of time (per piece of wood).
1 – 2 pieces of wood should be added to the fire each time, and should be added when the fire has subsided but not gone out.
Adding Too Much Wood
A wood burning stove fire can be smothered and go out if you’re adding too much wood at a time.
Each wood burning stove has a maximum fuel capacity, and therefore a maximum heat output. Larger sized stoves will generally give out more heat as they can hold larger amounts of wood.
Adding too much wood to the fire, especially if compacted into the fire when placed, can smother the fire, causing it to go out. Sufficient space should be left between each log so that air can flow around the pieces of wood.[However, too much of a gap between the pieces of wood and the potential for heat to be transferred between the logs will be greatly reduced. The ability for a new piece of wood to catch alight will therefore to be lowered.]
Adding too much wood to your stove at any one time can also cause the issue of ‘overfiring’.
Overfiring is when your stove exceeds the maximum allowable operating temperature. If the temperature within your stove is too high for its design, the components can deteriorate at a much higher rate, or can be permanently damaged.
A damaged stove can also cause be another reason why your fire keeps going out.
Every wood burning stove is different and you may be adding too much or too little wood at a time. By using your stove you can learn how much wood to add at any one time, while ensuring maximum heat output for every piece of wood used.
Using Wet Wood
Putting wood into your stove that has too high moisture content is a common reason why a fire keeps going out.
As a result of high moisture content, wet wood is harder to light and harder to sustain in a fire. This is because it requires energy from the fire to burn off the excess moisture in the wood. The higher the moisture content, the more energy is required and the less efficient the wood will be at burning in the fire.
Using wood with a moisture content of over 20% may cause your fire to keep going out, especially during the earlier stages of a fire.
It’s therefore recommended to only use wood with a moisture content of 20% or less at all times. We now always make sure to check the moisture content of our wood using a moisture meter before it’s used in our wood burning stoves.
Burning wet wood also releases more smoke and creosote up the flue, which over time can build up and reduce the draw on your stove. A blocked flue with reduced draw can be another reason why your wood burner keeps going out.
A poor draw from your flue can cause your wood stove fire to keep going out.
A well-maintained and clean vent from the stove is required to ensure that a sufficient daft if available to fire. A good draw to a stove is essential in keeping the fire going strongly.
A poor draw will prevent waste gases and smoke from being sucked from the fire, and in turn prevent more air from being sucked into the fire.
Reasons for poor draw can include:
- A flue blocked or partially blocked up with soot, creosote, birds nests or other debris.
- A flue that is too small in height
- A flue diameter too small for the size of the fireplace or stove
- Cold air within the flue
- Windy weather causing a downdraft
Be sure to periodically have your flue cleaned to provide maximum draw on your wood burning stove and to help prevent the fire from going out.
The Door is Open Too Often
The door on your wood burning stove should always be shut while having a fire. A door that is opened too often, or constantly open, can cause the fire to keep going out.
Wood stoves are designed to burn wood with the doors shut so that only the vents are used control the airflow. This helps the wood burner to reach high enough temperatures to allow for secondary burn of waste gases, which in turn produces more heat.
With the door on a stove open, the fire can’t be as easily controlled. An open door will vastly increase the airflow to the fire, which in turn can cause the wood to burn at a greatly increased rate.
With an open door, you might find that you have to add logs to the fire more often than usual. It can be harder to sustain the fire while it’s rapidly burning through your supply of logs.
The door on your wood burning stove should be closed at all times, unless you’re adding further bits of wood to the fire, or when you’re lighting the fire and want maximum airflow to get it going.
The best time to add further bits of wood to the stove is when the flames are subsiding but haven’t yet gone out. This will help prevent you from constantly topping up the fire and upsetting the balance of the airflow on a regular basis.
The Door is Closed Too Early
A door that is closed too early can prevent the fire from starting well and cause it to keep going out.
The door on your wood burning stove can be kept open while the fire catches, and first bits of kindling and wood start to burn.
A door that is closed to early can smother an early fire due to lack of oxygen. Keeping the stove door open during the early stages of a fire helps with airflow, and helps to burn the initial bits of wood quickly.
Once the fire has sufficiently got going, the door should be closed.
If you’re finding that the fire keeps going out when the door is closed, try leaving the door open for longer before closing.
Once the door is closed then the vents should be used to control the airflow for the rest of the fire.
The Air Vents Are Closed
Once the fire has got going and the door has been closed, the air vents on the wood stove should be used to control the airflow to the fire.
If the air vents on the stove are closed or not open enough, the fire can be starved of oxygen and can be a reason why the fire keeps going out.
The air vents should never be closed unless you intend to put the fire out.
Wide-open vents will provide maximum airflow to the fire and cause the wood to burn faster. The primary/bottom vents can usually be closed after the fire has got going well enough without putting the fire out.
The secondary/top vents can then be used to help control the flow of oxygen to the fire. These vents can be slowly closed down as the fire progresses to help provide maximum heat output, while also minimizing the amount of wood used to sustain the fire.
Closing Down The Air Vents Too Soon
Closing down the air vents too soon into the fire can cause the fire to go out.
As with having completely closed air vents, the fire can be starved of oxygen if too little airflow is provided early into the fire.
Once your fire has going, you can feel the heat radiating from the stove and see the hot coals, you can manually adjust the air vents to control the supply of air to the fire.
Depending on your model of stove, you can usually close the bottom vents and use the top vents to the control the rate at which the wood burns.
Again, closing these vents too quickly into a fire can cause it to go out. Each wood burning stove is different and so it will take time to understand how to use the vents effectively.
Poor Ventilation Within The Room
A poorly ventilated room can be a reason why your fire keeps going out.
The fire in your wood stove requires oxygen to keep burning the wood. The more air supplied to the fire, the faster the wood will burn.
If the fire is being starved of a fresh supply of air then it can impact how well the fire is maintained. Even if the air vents on the stove are wide open, too little airflow into the fire may cause the fire to subside and go out.
Your flue will suck waste air and gases out of your stove, and this air needs to be replaced by air within your home. If there is a lack of ventilation within the room, negative pressure and a vacuum can be created, potentially leading to the fire going out.
To ensure adequate ventilation for your room:
- Keep doors open to the rest of the house.
- Open any vents in the room to the outside.
- Crack open a window in the room a few centimeters (if required).
The Stove Is New
Every new wood burning stove has a ‘break in’ period, when the paint on the stove must be cured. Every stove is made and operates differently, and so each stove will have their own break in procedures.
If your stove is new, don’t overload it with logs. It’s likely that you’re first couple of fires will need to be small before you build up to larger sized fires.
If you’re stove is new, consult your manual for recommendations and guidelines on how to use your stove for the first couple of fires.
The Damper is Closed
A damper may be located above the stove, at the base of the flue.
If you’re damper is closed, or too far closed, it can prevent the byproducts of a fire from leaving your stove and cause the fire to keep going out.
In some cases, the damper can be closed between fires to prevent warm air from leaving your home and being replaced by cold air from the outside.
The damper should be completely open before a fire is started. As we want the fire to catch and progress quickly, a wide open damper will help improve how quickly smoke and gases from the fire are removed from the stove. This is will in turn help suck more air into the stove to feed the fire.
The damper can be slowly closed off as the fire progresses in conjunction with closing off the air vents to help control the draw on the fire and how fast the wood burns, while also maximizing heat output.
If the damper is closed when the fire is started then it will cause the fire to keep going out. Furthermore, if the damper is closed off during a fire then it can also cause the fire to go out.
By using your wood burning stove you can learn to understand how to use the damper to control the fire and how your specific model of stove performs at its most optimum.
Too Much Ash
It’s important to have a reasonable depth bed of ash within your stove before starting your fire, without there being too much that it impedes the supply of air to the fire.
Too much ash can restrict the airflow into your stove and cause the fire to go due to lack of oxygen.
The bed of ash should be kept to a couple of centimeters in depth. Any deeper and the lower vents on your stove can become blocked.
Too Little Ash
In contrast to having too much ash in your wood burning stove, having too little ash can be a reason why your fire keeps going out.
A bed of ash helps when starting a fire and to insulate the hot coals of wood and improve the heat output for lighting further bits of wood as they are added to the fire.
How To Keep A Log Burner Going
– Build the right fire with newspaper, kindling and smaller pieces of softwood.
– Add the right amount of wood to the fire in line with your stove’s fuel capacity.
– Only burn well seasoned or kiln dried wood with low enough moisture content to be able to burn efficiently.
– Ensure that the stove and flue is properly maintained, and cleaned in line with recommended guidelines.
– Don’t leave the door open during a fire, or don’t leave it open to long when adding further pieces of wood to the stove.
– Understand how to use your air vents to control the airflow to the fire.
– Ensure adequate ventilation within the room by opening doors, vents and windows if required.
– Break in your stove in line with the recommendations if the stove is new.
– Don’t leave the damper closed when lighting the fire, or close fully close it during a fire.
– Keep on top of how much ash is in your stove.