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
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.
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.
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.
John Edwards 2018-03-24 19:50:28
Very informative article, I live in an end terrace building, no chimney so I will have to past
through the outside wall,after the initial rise, fuel burning Would be wood, I would like it to
preheat the returning water to the central heating system, ( let's get the best value we can to off
set some off the cost*s)
Gr8Fires 2018-03-22 12:24:17
@ Jane Best Hi Jane It sounds like you're describing a riddling grate:
https://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2017/03/28/what-is-a-riddling-grate/ But there should be controls for
air vents somewhere on the stove. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Jane Best 2018-03-21 12:31:25
Excellent demo! Been getting v. frustrated after years of wanting a log burner / multi fuel burner
but it seems to stuff out quickly - I've even left the door open a fraction to let air in. We don't
seem to have the air vents - rather a thing which 'shuffles' the base of the burner left and right
Gr8Fires 2018-01-13 11:56:33
@ Carol O Hi Carol Ideally, you'd want to season them for at least 12 months. Another option would
be to get a moisture meter and try to only burn logs in which the moisture meter is down to around
urning-stove/ Thanks, Gr8Fires
Carol O 2018-01-11 16:10:53
Great advice thank you. I'm having trouble as a newbie keeping my fire going - some nights it burns
hot and keeps going, other nights it flounders. I'm sure it's because I've foraged all my wood and
it is different kinds. When you say 'seasoned logs' - how long do you season them for and is just
putting them in a drying rack outside okay? I don't want to buy in wood... Also, one tip my father
gave me for kindling is to use fircones - I've tried it and that works great. They light easily and
burn for quite a while due to the resin in them. So, I'm not having a problem lighting the fire,
just keeping it going!
Peter McSweeney 2017-12-30 16:08:57
Not tried paper yet!but suspect it will have.extinguished long before the excel coal has
caught.Using recommended natural firefighters and what a pain it is to get the fire started even
resorting to bellows. The control knob at the bottom doesn’t seem to unscrew enough before it
comes off completely and the it’s a fiddle putting it back on.A glimmer of a fire takes up to an
hour to get going.My open fire was easier to start. The stove is a Fireline FX5W and I have to say I
am disappointed by its controllability,having seen a few other installations that are more
responsive.Door open or closed has little effect.Having said all this I have to say it’s easier to
light using just wood but the object was to use multi fuel on occasions.
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:
https://www.gr8fires.co.uk/0-25-metre-straight-5-inch-plain-black-flue-damper-section 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:
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:
http://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2016/03/21/why-is-the-paint-coming-off-my-new-woodburner/ 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: https://www.gr8fires.co.uk/articles/stoves-use-properly-dried-wood). Another
possibility is closing the top air vent when the stove is in use (Read more:
http://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2014/11/04/how-to-use-airwash-on-a-wood-burning-stove/). 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?