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Lighting your Wood Burning Stove

How to correctly light a wood burning stove.

A common question we get here at Flames is how to correctly light a wood burning stove.  There is a common misconception that it can be a tricky business and in fact, some people are put off buying a wood burning stove for that very reason.

So, let’s put the record straight.

There are two key elements to success.  One is to have well-seasoned wood (which means properly dried) and the second is to ensure that your stove and chimney are in good working order.  Let’s assume they are and get to the nitty gritty of how to successfully light a wood burning stove.

It’s usually a good idea to have a bed of ash already in the stove, as wood burns best on this insulating layer.  You don’t need a lot –just a nice thick layer, if there are more than a few inches remove it.

Next, a good fire needs oxygen to burn and so make sure you open up the stove’s air controls (your manufacturer’s guide will show you where these are and they are easily accessible). Many controls will have a plus or minus or a triangle symbol on – in which case move the control to the plus sight or to the large end of the triangle.  Some stove models also have a flue dampner (a rotatable metal plate inside the flue pipe) and if so, open that with the handle.

It’s always best to use firelighters to get the fire going and you can buy these from most supermarkets, but if you don’t have any to hand, you can use scrunched up newspaper.  After the firelighters comes the kindling, which is laid on top of the firelighters. Dry softwood is best and keep them quite small about 10 -20 mm.  Dried pinecones also burn well and give off a lovely smell.  Pile the kindling on top like a little bonfire.

Next comes the moment of truth – the lighting.  Light the firelighters or newspapers at the bottom and close the door of the stove and sit back and watch the fire take hold.  You may have to wait a good few minutes before the kindling is burning and at this point add a few logs onto the fire but be careful not to smother or crush the flame.  Also remember to wear appropriate safety gloves!

Once a large log has caught, which could take anything up to 15 minutes then you can turn down the stove’s air controls.  Turn the bottom air controller down first, then adjust the top one and finally adjust the flue dampner too.

In another half or so you should have a fabulous fire burning away in your stove – lovely.  Eventually, the fire will die down and it’s time to add more logs, remember to open the door slowly and adjust your mechanisms again and repeat the process.  It’s easy when you know how.

The video below from leading Scandinavian manufacturer Contura is also well worth watching.