When you get your wood-burning stove, you will likely be excited to fire it up and make the most of it. But lighting a fire successfully is something that has gotten even the most intrepid and competent explorers and adventurers wound up.
However, there is some good news. Lighting your stove isn’t as challenging as getting a fire started on a survival mission. That being said, there is a knack to it and while you will pick it up over time, it is a good idea to learn the basics for a great shot at a hot, bright and welcoming fire.
In this guide, we will be giving you all of the information you will need on how to light a stove, the best materials to use and what problems to expect.
There is nothing more annoying than getting your wood burner up and running only to discover that the fire goes out pretty quickly, leaving you cold and in the dark.
However, the issue can normally be easily resolved and while many people think that throwing more wood onto the fire will bring it back to life, the problems might actually lie elsewhere.
If this problem sounds familiar, there are some things you should check before convincing yourself that you are simply unable to maintain a fire!
Not Building The Fire Properly
Starting a successful fire isn’t something that you can do in a hurry. This is something that a lot of people don’t realise when they purchase a wood burner and one of the most common causes of a fire that won’t get going. In short, you need to be patient.
When you first start the fire, you cannot add huge logs and expect them to burn. They simply will not catch fire effectively. To get things going, you will need to light some kindling; this can be smaller, lighter pieces of wood or even bits of old paper.
Doing this gives the fire a chance to get nice and hot. If it is too cool, adding the larger logs will only serve to put it out.
Once the fire is hot and toasty, you can then begin to slowly add the larger logs. Again, patience is key and you should add one log at a time, giving it a chance to properly catch fire, before stressing the fire out by adding any more.
Furthermore, you don’t want to overload the fire. Two logs will be more than enough to maintain a fire for a decent amount of time. Only when the fire begins to dwindle should you add another log. If you keep opening the door, this will affect how the fire burns and potentially slow it down to the point where it stops.
The Stove Or The Chimney Is Dirty
Wood burners work very well when there is a layer of ash at the bottom. We would suggest no more than an inch. If you exceed this amount then this may affect the supply of air to the fire and this can cause it to go out.
For this reason, keeping your stove clean and well-maintained is essential. But the problem may not necessarily be in the stove itself.
Many people install a wood burner without first cleaning their chimney. It is best to hire a chimney sweep to do this and this job is even more important if your chimney has not been used for a long time.
The job of the flue is to allow dirt and smoke to be removed from the fire. Over time, soot and debris will build up inside and this needs to be removed. For this reason, you should have your chimney swept at least once a year.
Furthermore, if your fire does keep burning underneath a blocked chimney, this can serve as a fire hazard.
There Are Draft Problems With The Flue
The flue must have a good draft in order to draw air and smoke out of the fire if it does not, this can either cause the fire to perish or send billowing smoke all around the room; nobody wants that!
There are many reasons why your flue may be experiencing draft problems but most commonly this is because the fire is not hot enough. This points us back to an earlier point about building the fire so that heat can develop.
Your chimney might be too short and this can also cause draft problems. When you have your wood-burning stove installed, you should always check that you have the correct type of chimney.
Environmental problems can also affect the flue’s ability to draw out smoke. This is normally down to the weather. When it is cold outside, the chimney may struggle.
Incorrect Air Supply
A fire needs air to burn but how much air it needs will vary throughout the duration of the burn. To begin with, you will need to have the air vents fully open as the fire will need lots of oxygen to get going.
When you have got your fire started, you will then need to close the air supply off gradually. However, it should never be completely shut off as this will cut off the oxygen supply and the fire will go out.
Conversely, if there is too much air, this might cause the fire to burn out of control.
What Fuel Should I Use?
One of the most common problems that can cause what should be a roaring fire to become more like a cool pit of lightly charred wood is that the wrong fuel is being used.
In a wood burner, you could be forgiven for thinking that any type of wood will work well, but this is not the case. It is vital that you use a hardwood as this will provide a much longer burn time.
You should also make sure that you are using seasoned wood. No, it has been sprinkled with salt and pepper, this is just a term for wood that has been allowed to thoroughly dry out. In some cases, this can take up to two years.
Wood that has high levels of moisture will smoke a lot and will not provide you with a good burn. Not only will this mean that your home is not adequately warmed but this level of smoke is also terrible for the environment; not to mention illegal in some areas.
There are many great options when it comes to choosing a type of wood. Typically oak will give you the hottest, brightest and longest fire but you can also use any of the following for something just as successful.
While hardwood is best for your fire, using softwood as kindling can give your fire a great opportunity to get off to a good start. Once the fire is established, you can then begin adding larger, hardwood logs.
What If I Have A Multi-Fuel Stove?
Wood-burning stoves are great but some people prefer a multi-fuel stove, especially if they live in a smoke control area.
These stoves are typically a little easier to light but one of the main considerations is to think about the air supply in relation to the type of fuel you are using. Different fuels will need different levels of air and this may take some time to get used to. The more you burn your stove, the more you will become familiar with the right air flow at the right time.
In terms of getting the fire started, you should place your chosen fuel inside the stove and use a firelighter on top of this to get the flames going. You can place kindling on top of the firelighters and more fuel if you wish.
Maintaining your fire will be similar to using a wood burner in that you will need to consistently add more fuel so long as you want the fire to keep burning.
When you first get your wood burner or multi-fuel stove, lighting a fire may be a little tricky and it can take some getting used to. But this doesn’t mean that it cannot be done.
Many new stove owners make some simple mistakes and rectifying these will often solve your problems and leave you with a wonderful glowing fire.
Always be sure to use the correct fuel and take the time to build your fire properly. Investing this effort at the beginning will give you a great burn and a long-lasting fire. Other things such as airflow and the cleanliness of your equipment should also be considered.