How hot can wood stoves get?

A log of wood smouldering away in a stove brings life, warmth and a nostalgic, old-fashioned comfort to your home. Models vary, so determining the maximum temperature a wood stove can reach is not an exact science. Cast iron stoves tend to radiate heat much more evenly than steel ones.The answer partly depends on the quantity and quality of the wood you use and on how you operate your stove.

Air flow

Wood-burning stoves direct more heat into the room than would be the case if you burned the same fuel on an open fire, where a lot of heat escapes up the larger chimney. You'll get more heat from your stove by adjusting its vents to create greater air flow. To start the fire, open the vents above and below the fire box. Close the bottom vent once the fire is burning well, to ensure greater heat.


Dry wood burns more efficiently. You should be able to peel the bark away from thoroughly dried wood, which should also have cracks in it, which are about the thickness of a coin. Logs placed at the back of the stove will burn hotter than logs placed near the front. Soft wood, such as pine, flares up quickly, but hard wood, such as oak, burns more slowly and reaches higher temperatures.


If your stove burns at too low a temperature, the smoking wood deposits drops of black, tarry creosote inside the chimney flue. A build-up of creosote can cause chimney fires. You can monitor your stove's temperature by attaching a magnetic thermometer to it. The Inferno Stove Top Meter, for example, registers temperatures between 40C and 500C (100F and 900F). The meter describes 200C to 300C (400F to 600F) as the ideal conditions for avoiding creosote.

Typical temperatures

Advice published by Colorado State University in 1981 and revised in 1993 states that the outer surface of a wood stove regularly reaches 232C (450F). Stove installation firm Landyvent reckons the body temperature of its Ecco stove is typically 200C (392F). Inside a wood stove, the temperature is normally around 537C (1,000F) but it can reach as high as 1,093C (2,000F) if a chimney fire breaks out.

Chimney fires

Stove suppliers Greymetal describe the optimum stove temperature as between 115C to 245C (240F to 475F). Its website warns temperatures above this risk damaging your stove or starting a chimney fire. If the chimney catches fire, you hear a loud roar like a jet engine. The stovepipe glows red hot and sparks shoot from the chimney. Shut all the stove's vents to starve the fire of oxygen. Get everyone out of the house and call the fire brigade.

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About the Author

British writer Martin Malcolm specializes in children's nonfiction. His books include "A Giant in Ancient Egypt" and "Poetry By Numbers." His schoolkids' campaign for the Red Cross won the 2008 Charity Award. A qualified teacher, he has written for the BBC and MTV. He holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of London.