Last updated on November 24th, 2021
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I remember when I got my first wood-burning stove. I had access to free logs so it was a no-brainer for me, and there is no better feeling than sitting in front of a wood-burning stove. The problem comes when you have to actually light it. It never quite seems as easy to light it as you think it would be, especially when you are lighting it for the first few times and are new to using a wood-burning stove.
I now have a Burley wood-burning stove and it is supposed to be the most efficient wood-burning stove on the market. However, all stoves work in the same way, so this guide will be useful for anyone.
I will get to the upside-down method in a moment and show you step by step, how I light my stove and show you the results by the minute.
If you want to make your wood-burning stove even more efficient, then I advise you to invest in the Valliant stove fan, which I write about here, in my best stove fan review. It distributes the warm air much more evenly around the room and is powered by the heat from your stove. The link does open in a new window so you can carry on reading this guide.
Before lighting your stove
Before lighting the stove, there are a few things you need to know. The first is to only use seasoned or kiln-dried logs. By law, these should have less than 20% moisture in them and this is for good reason. You will never get your fire to burn efficiently if you use firewood that is not seasoned and it is also much more difficult to get the fire started.
I have a separate guide advising on what moisture content a log should be. It also shows you how to know if your logs are seasoned using a moisture meter, as well as without a moisture meter, using what is known as the blow method. I also talk about how to season and store firewood yourself.
How to traditionally light a fire in a wood burning stove
So traditionally, the way you light a wood-burning stove is to use kindling to form a fire stack in the shape of a pyramid with either some newspaper or a firelighter in the centre. Once the kindling is burning well this warms the flue and then you can add a large piece of firewood.
The problem with this is that the paper can burn too quickly and not give the kindling time to catch fire. You also need to open the stove to place the log in there, which will then let the heat out that has been built up inside the stove. Overall, a lot of people have issues lighting a stove this traditional way and sometimes have issues getting the main log burning.
This brings me to the upside-down method.
How to light a stove using the upside-down method
Now, this method is a real game-changer. I really don’t know why everyone doesn’t teach this method but I suppose we like traditions. However, this is the only method I use, I have never had an issue lighting a fire and the fire always catches very quickly.
First, a little word about firelighters. I have found that the best ones are Natural Eco Wood Firelighters that are made from wood wool and wax. The stove will light very easily and much better than other alternatives I have tried.
Also, I prefer to always leave a couple of inches of ash in the bottom of the stove, this protects the stove but also helps the fire burn better. This is actually recommended by most stove manufacturers too.
Step 1 – Setting the main burning logs
Firstly, lay two logs/firewood in the centre of the stove (as shown above) and add one firefighter in the centre of the logs. Don’t be tempted to add more than just one firefighter as it’s not needed and you will simply be wasting them.
As the fire burns downwards, it will light these two logs.
Step 2 – Adding the kindling
Next you stack your kindling as shown in our photo. Place them in rows of three but spaced and then add the next layer in the opposite direction and the layer after this in the opposite direction again.
I have tested this with a different number of layers and some people might think that it is a lot of kindling. This is a little trial and error depending on the size and thickness of your kindling. Usually, if I have thick kindling, I might use just 2 or 3 layers. However, if I had thin kindling I might go as high as 4 layers. The idea of sacking the kindling is that the heat will warm the flue which is important.
Step 3 – Adding one final burner log
Now, this option is the tweak to the method that I have mentioned. You don’t need to add this third log, but I find that if I do, I don’t have to add any wood to the stove as soon as I would have if hadn’t added this third log. Anyway, you can try with the log on top of the kindling or choose to add the third log once the fire is going well. Both methods do work well.
Step 4 – Open air vent fully
Now, this step is incredibly important, make sure that the air vent, usually located at the bottom of the stove is fully open. On my stove, this means moving it to the right, however, it can be different on other stoves so check your stove instructions. This gives the most airflow which helps the fire start easier.
Now light the firefighter, I always make sure I leave a gap between the kindling so I can easily light it with a lighter as shown above.
Step 5 – Leave the door ajar for a few minutes
Now close the door making sure to leave it slightly ajar to allow more air into the stove while it gets going. My door has a second door catch to leave it slightly open and most other stoves do too.
Step 6 – Watch the kindling start to burn well
After 2 or 3 minutes the kindling should be burning well.
After 5 or 6 minutes the fire should be burning well with the kindling helping to light the two bottom logs and the top log.
Step 7 – Close the door fully and lower the air vent about 50%
Now close the door properly and partly close the air vent, I usually close mine by about 50%, but again it could be different on other stoves. If your fire starts to smoke more, then open the vent a little more. What you are looking for is just clear flames and very little or no smoke.
The fire should now be burning well, just add new logs as the fire burns down and experiment with how much you can close the air vent to slow the burn but still give the most heat output. This is when it burns most efficiently.
Thats it for this guide, you can see my recommendation of the best ash vacuums in this guide, which will make cleaning a stove so much easier.
If you need to clean the glass I also have a step by step guide on how to clean the glass with ash, soap and water, and a newspaper. Trust me, it is super simple and effective!
If you do have access to free or cheap logs then seriously consider a log splitter and splitting your own logs as this will save you a ton, you can see my recommended log splitters here, which is much safer and easier than using an axe.
Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API