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How to light a fire in your Wood-Burning or Multi-Fuel stove

How to light a fire in your Wood-Burning or Multi-Fuel stove

How to light a fire in your Wood-Burning or Multi-Fuel stove

It doesn’t matter what sort of stove you’ve got. The tips that follow will stand you in good stead for lighting inset stoves, multi-fuel stoves, wood burning stoves, large stoves and small stoves.

At one time, knowing how to light a fire quickly was fairly essential to your survival. Nowadays many people, especially those who didn’t grow up with an open fire or stove in their family home, simply don’t know the best way to light a fire.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. All our ancestors did it without any bother, so it’s just a case of educating yourself about the best way to get those flames going.

A good workman can blame their tools

Yes, lighting a fire is the exception to the old adage that a good workman never blames their tools. When it comes to lighting a fire, what you’re using makes all the difference.

You’re not preparing for a week left to your own devices in the Amazon; you’re trying to make you home cosier. So don’t make life unnecessarily difficult. Make sure you use only wood that is dry and preferably has been seasoned over a period of at least a year. Similarly, coal that is wet will take much longer to light.

These basic preparations will make starting a fire much easier.

Get cleaning

The sort of cleaning you do before lighting a wood-burning stove is the best sort of cleaning job: you only have to do half a job. Leaving a little bit of ash is the most efficient way to light a wood-burning stove, but you will need to empty most of them to avoid blocking the circulation of air.

Multi-fuel stoves are slightly different. Coal burns better with an air supply from below, so make sure that the ashes are completely emptied to allow the air supply from below the grate to ignite the fuel.

Open your air vents

It would be pointless to clear all the ash to help the air circulation and then keep the vents closed. Opening the air vents ensures the good supply of oxygen needed to get your fire going.

Give yesterday’s newspaper a new lease of life

Some people say crumpled up into balls is best, others swear by strange folded up knots. Either way, newspaper is the best way to get your fire going. Anything between four and eight sheets should do the trick, but you can experiment to see what works best for you. Whatever your preferred method of compressing the newspaper, place it in the middle of your stove’s firebox. You can add firelighters too at this stage should you wish, but trying your luck with just the newspaper is the most efficient way to light a fire.

Add kindling

Kindling is essentially very small pieces of dry wood. You use very small pieces of wood to start the fire because they burn much more easily than big pieces of dry wood. Scatter a handful of wood on top of the newspaper. Some people like to place the kindling lying across the newspapers in different directions, while others build a wigwam-like structure over the top of the newspaper.

Light your stove

The moment of truth. You’re trying to create a hot core in the centre of the fire bed that will spread outward and upward. Each stage - the paper, firelighters, kindling, and ultimately the fuel – is the next step towards building up the core temperature. Light the newspaper in a couple of places.

Once the paper is burning, close the door of your stove. Some wood-burning stove manufacturers will suggest leaving the door ajar to increase the air supply. You can experiment to see what works best for your stove.

The purpose of the exercise is to create a fire that is powerful enough to light your fuel, but also to quickly heat the firebox so that your stove begins heating the room more quickly.

Add your fuel

Once the fire is roaring and the kindling is beginning to char, you can add your main fuel to the fire. That’s likely to be small logs at this stage, although it might be coal if you’re using a multi-fuel stove. Don’t overload the firebox at this stage while the fire is still getting going and leave gaps to ensure you don’t smother the air supply to the burning kindling.

Close the door again and – unless you’re using a multi-fuel stove – close the bottom vent, leaving the top vent open. The bottom vent will need to remain open if you’re burning coal.

If everything has gone to plan, your stove should now be looking the part.

The main thing is to experiment and have fun with your stove when lighting it. Try to refine the lighting process using as little paper, firelighters and kindling as possible. This will help you find the most economical way of lighting a stove.


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Showing 1 to 20 comment(s) of 26

Gr8Fires 2017-10-24 10:05:17
@ Alan Linforth Hi Alan, Yes, that can happen on occasion. If that is the case for you, fitting a
damper section in the flue will give you more control over the draw: Thanks, Gr8F

Alan linforth 2017-10-22 08:39:08
Can a chimney over draw which will burn wood far to fast even when all draft s are shut down
my stove seem to burn far to fast especially when windy

Lilian Reed 2017-05-01 08:32:03
complaints from neighbor re smoke in their bedroom..............just had it for 2 weeks think I used
a unseasoned log, but Oh! I felt so bad, therefore " ordered a MOISTURE monitor

lilian reed 2017-04-25 13:12:19
loved reading your helpful articles

Gr8Fires 2017-03-27 10:30:23
@ Julia Vince Hi Julia We'll see what we can do. In the meantime, here's an article on the topic: It's
definitely easier to achieve with smokeless coal because that burns slower and is easier to slumber.
The bed of ash you mention generally refers to allowing ash to gather on the flat surface at the
bottom of a wood-burning stove firebox (which, unlike multi-fuel stoves, don't have grates and
ashpans). Thanks, Gr8Fires

Julia Vince 2017-03-23 05:02:46
What I'd really like to see is a video of what to do in the evening with my multifuel stove (when
burning wood). It goes out at night. Have been burning smokeless fuel instead because that stays
lit. The smokeless fuel creats a lot of ash and is messy, having to be continually emptied. I read
that I need a bed of ash but it sounds quite technical and am not sure how to achieve it. The idea
of burning wood and only having to empty once a week doesn't sound feasible but very attractive.

LOVEJOY 2017-02-12 11:01:31
Hello, what a Gr8 site for information, so I shall add my 2pence ! I recently renovated a 1950's
Rayburn No.1 multifuel stove that was original equipment in a similar year cottage. What fun it is
trying to light it !! Sometimes it starts up in 15 mins, other times it's a real struggle - I use
scrunched paper, kindling, firelighters, and various Ovals, tried Thermaheat from the local
garage, Blaze from B

mar mach 2016-10-30 19:12:20
Burning newspaper can fly up the chimney and block it. So avoid it. My chimney sweeper advice and my

keith clark 2016-10-30 11:40:07
What a palaver !!! I simply use a firelighter costing under one pound a box of 16 with four or five
pieces of kindling wood on top then some quartered size logs and don't light it till everything is
in place shut the door , open the bottom air vents fully and wait for the fan we have on top to
start turning showing the stove is hot then shut the air vents completely this slows down the burn
rate so that the room remains warm till we go to bed this is of course for those who only use their
stove in the evenings

Gr8Fires 2016-05-05 08:47:25
@ Paul Handley Hi Paul, Here's an article on paint coming off: Is it
definitely paint and not soot or tar that's been left inside the firebox? Thanks, Gr8Fires

Paul Handley 2016-05-01 09:24:20
I have recently had installed a castec norvik 5, on about the 5th or 6th time I have used it, the
paint has started to come away inside, where the main part of the fire be, us this normal?

Kay Wawn 2016-02-09 07:12:37
Cooking on top of the slow combustion stove some of which now include an oven, is a plus whilst
heating the house ie double purpose stove.

Gr8Fires 2015-05-18 12:36:23
@Gary Finch. Hi Gary, It could be that you're not burning seasoned wood (i.e. the moisture content
is too high. Read more: Another
possibility is closing the top air vent when the stove is in use (Read more: Or it could be
that the logs are sitting against the glass.

Gary Finch 2015-05-12 21:38:14
I have to clean the glass on my burner after every use. What am I doing wrong or is this normal?

Gr8Fires 2015-02-16 10:58:52
@lyn allman Hi Lyn, It shouldn't really be anything to do with the vents. The answer might be one
of these things:

Gr8Fires 2015-02-16 10:55:51
@ T Culmer. It wouldn't really be fair of us to critique an existing installation without having
full knowledge of the situation and having seen everything up close like the installer has, but
speaking generally, a chimney cowl can help with a sluggish draw:

lyn allman 2015-02-15 21:21:39
when my daughter opens the door to put coal or wood on a lot of smoke is coming in the room should
she open the vents before opening the door or closethem

T Culmer 2015-02-11 19:43:24
We had a Hetas engineer line our chimney and fit an Arrow defra multi fuel stove. However when the
weather is cold, it is as if there is a plug of cold air in the flue and the fire will not draw
pouring smoke back into the room. We have taken to pre heat with a blow torch. However we haven't
lit the fire for a few days and now even the blow torch can't get the air moving upwards. We have a
modern house with the brick chimney on the outside of the wall. Once the fire is going, it draws
really well. We asked for the chimney to be lined and insulated. As it is a Defra stove and the flue
was quite small, it has been fitted with a 5" liner. As. I said we used a Defra approved person, but
I am wondering if he has done what we asked. There is a shortage of Defra installers in our area, so
it is difficult a second opinion. Any advice would be gratefully received.

Gr8Fires 2015-02-03 10:36:53
@John Steeples. Hi John, Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, it's a bit like 'how long is a
piece of string?'. There are so many factors at play: what type of wood are you burning, how big are
the logs, how big is the stove, what is the moisture content of the logs, are you letting the
previous logs reduce to embers before refuelling? Typically, 1kg of seasoned wood will generate
about 4kW of heat output for an hour.

john Steeples 2015-02-03 10:20:23
I looked at your film excellent information you doing the right job, except for one and people email
you with the question you should always find a way of explaining to them My question was how much
logs put on a fire per day. Just imagine one winter's day to you modified to work well to keep the
cold out how many logs, fire in that one day Let's make it eight hours in one day. How many logs
we put on the fire

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