How to Light a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove

Written by todd young
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How to Light a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove
Starting a fire in a wood-burning stove is not difficult. (fire. image by Yuri Bizgaimer from

Once you learn how to do it, starting a fire in your wood stove will generally be quick and easy. Knowing how to properly start a fire in your wood stove will enhance your enjoyment and the usefulness of the stove. It's also important to know how to light and maintain a fire properly to avoid damaging the wood stove.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Newspaper
  • Dry kindling or cardboard
  • Seasoned firewood
  • Matches or a long lighter

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  1. 1

    Find the place where air enters the firebox. It is normally near the bottom of the firebox. Fully open the airflow. Providing an initial ample oxygen supply is necessary when starting the fire. While you do this, place your hand in the empty stove. If the air is cold, this is a sign of a back-draft caused by downward pressure from a heavy column of cold outside air filling the chimney. Open a door or window to the outdoors to help correct this.

  2. 2

    Place some wadded newspaper or cardboard in the firebox. Studies have shown cardboard often is better than newspaper for starting a fire, according to the University of Missouri Extension Service. On top of that, place some kindling. Lay two small, seasoned split logs in the firebox parallel to each other on top of the newspaper and kindling. Since heat rises, the most easily ignited materials should be at the lowest level of this initial stack, so that the starting flames will be heating the higher materials as they begin burning the lower materials. Place these materials close enough together so that the fire will have no problem catching them in succession, but not so tightly that you impede air flow in any way.

  3. 3

    Ignite the newspaper or cardboard, using either a match or a long grill-lighter. A match produces a flame easily and is very reliable. A lighter can hold a flame longer than a match can, but is not as reliable because it can run out of fuel.

  4. 4

    Add more logs judiciously after the kindling has caught and is beginning to catch the initial logs. Do not attempt to add larger logs until the kindling has burnt for three to five minutes and you feel the fire is established. Keep the air flow open until the fire is burning well, then use it to regulate how hot the fire burns. Large logs can help cool a too-hot, fast fire and will hold the fire longer than smaller pieces will.

Tips and warnings

  • The method you choose to stack the wood directly affects how your fire burns. If the wood is loosely stacked with large gaps, the fire will burn more quickly because air can reach more wood. Keeping the logs tight together will keep the fire burning longer and slower by restricting air access.
  • If you have trouble using the newspaper and cardboard to light a fire, try using a fire-starter stick. These sticks catch fire easily, and can hold the flame easily to ignite the kindling.
  • Never use lighter fluid, gasoline, charcoal starter or any other petroleum product to aid in starting a fire. Doing this is dangerous.
  • Give your fire sufficient oxygen. When a fire in a wood stove is deprived of air, it increases creosote build-up in your chimney. Creosote must be cleaned from the chimney from time to time to prevent the possibility of a chimney fire. Keeping a low draft also makes your stove less efficient.
  • Be sure to check for back draft. If there's a back-draft problem, the potential exists that a hot back draft could cause smoke to fill the room or even cause a fire. If you have a back-drft problem, have an expert check that your chimney is properly constructed.

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