If you use wood heat one of the first things you need to do is learn how to start a fire in a wood stove! This seems obvious, but it is surprising how many people struggle with this.
Lighting a fire takes some thought and practice to do it quickly and right. You don’t want to be hunched over in front of your wood burning stove blowing on smoldering coals, waiting for that flame to ignite. If you learn how to start a fire in your wood burning stove, your experience will be much more pleasurable and you won’t have to bother with chimney cleaning so often, for sure. Find out more…
The easiest way to start a fire is to use the hot coals that remain from the previous fire, but this is obviously not always an option, so this article deals with starting from a cold, dead stove. You want some wood heat, and you want it as soon as possible!
We will assume that you have necessary items on hand, if you do not, take the time to get them and be prepared. This is half the battle. Without the right things on hand, you will end up frustrated and waste time.
How to start a fire in a wood stove—what you need
- Paper or birch bark. Since not everyone has access to birch bark, we will use paper for our fire. Make sure it is plain old
- newspaper, not glossy, colored magazines or flyers. They do not burn well.
- Corrugated cardboard or paper eggshell cartons.
- Dry kindling, the size of a pencil or your finger. The drier, the better.
- Small pieces of firewood, preferably with splinters hanging off.
- Dry full-sized firewood
The best way to do this is to store up the items during the entire year and keep them separated and available during the heating season. The time you spend saving these supplies will greatly reward you later on. Once you know how to start a fire in a wood stove, you can do it quickly and easily.
It makes little difference if you have a cast iron, heavy gage steel stove or fireplace insert, the principles are the same. And you don’t need many wood stove accessories to do the job right either.
That’s it. You do not need special fire-starter anything, though it might help. I really don’t know, because I have never used anything other than the 5 items mentioned above.
Whatever you do, NEVER use gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel to try and start a fire in your wood stove. This is a terrible idea and very dangerous. Don’t even consider it for a second.
How to start a fire in a wood stove—step-by-step
Make sure your vents are open, your damper open and the ashes cleared away for the air to reach the fire.
Crumple up the newspaper, maybe 2 or 3 sheets worth. More is better, and you are not hurting the environment anyway because the paper gives off the same gases whether it burns or decomposes.
Lay the newspaper in the wood stove and then add some torn up strips of corrugated cardboard or the eggshell cartons. Place them evenly so they have a chance to ignite. In other words, don’t just randomly cram them in or bunch them up. Take a moment to think about what the fire would like.
Now lay the kindling on top of the paper and cardboard in an even manner.
Now lay the bigger pieces of firewood kindling on the little pieces in an even manner.
Save the full-sized pieces for later.
With the vents open, the damper open, and the door partially shut, light the newspaper in several areas. Depending on the draft of your stove and chimney, you now either shut the door, or leave it open partially. This takes some experience because the air flow is do different from wood stove to wood stove. What you want is enough air to burn, but not too much so that the fire burns too fast. The goal is to get the kindling burning.
Once the kindling is leaving some red-hot coals, add the full-sized firewood and let it burn for a few minutes. Now that the full-sized wood is burning well, gradually shut the draft and damper. Let it get quite hot, in the burning range on your stove-pipe thermometer, before shutting the draft and damper down more.
That’s it. Now you know how to start a fire in a wood stove.