Fire starting is a crucial wood burning skill. There are two main goals during fire starting; not only starting the fire, but starting the chimney as well. Starting the chimney is a process of preheating the flue to induce draft which is the true engine that drives your natural draft appliance, allowing combustion and draft to efficiently reach self-sustaining levels.

Fire needs 3 things to burn:

  • Fuel
  • Oxygen
  • Heat

Make sure to start with quality well seasoned (dry) wood. Hard woods are preferable but regardless of the species wood that is cut, split and stacked in a manner that will allow air flow through the wood, out of the weather for a minimum of 10 months should be used.

Step 1: Stove preparation. Rake or clean ashes from the stove floor to allow the free flow of air to the fire. If ashes are removed make sure they are placed in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and placed on a non-combustible floor or set outside away from combustible materials. You can skip this step if a top down fire method is used. Open dampers and/or air supply controls to the fully open position.

proper arrangement of fuel to start a clean burning efficient fire

Step 2: Stack fuel in a cross-hatch pattern starting with large pieces on the bottom and ending with the smallest pieces and tinder on the top. (This method of top down fire starting preheats the flue above while simultaneously preheating the fuel  below, efficiently lighting a clean burning fire.)

Step 3: Light the fire from the top. This step may include actual preheating of the flue; use a small propane torch pointed at the front, top of the wood stove making sure to aim the torch in front of the baffle to induce a draft. When the torch is lit the heat rises forcing cold dense air out of the flue allowing warm buoyant air to carry the smoke up and out.

Step 4: Position the stove door slightly open so there is an approximate one inch opening. This allows combustion air to rush in causing turbulence which helps the mixing process between the fuel and air.

Step 5: Monitoring. Pay close attention to the stove while the fire gets going, especially while the stove door is open. Once full ignition is achieved and the fire is fully going close the stove door and adjust the air supply to achieve efficient burning.

Step 6: Add wood as needed.


Keep in mind there is a learning curve to starting your fire, especially if you are conditioned to light it one way, your way.