Easy fixes for lighting a wood-burning stove

Problems with heating often come to light in the autumn when you turn on your system, or light your wood-burning stove, after a summer break. Cast-iron or steel wood-burning stoves are an efficient way to heat your home and help create a cosy atmosphere. However, they can be tricky to light, especially if you're used to the push-button convenience of central heating.

Easy fixes for lighting a wood-burning stove

Build an effective fire

  • To light your wood-burning stove, empty and clean the ash pan and grate. Fully open the bottom air vent and the flue damper at the top (if present). The flue damper's job is to restrict the flow of the hot gases leaving the burner.
  • Scrunch five to 10 sheets of dry newspaper into loose balls and place these at the bottom of the grate. Top these with pieces of dry kindling, no more than one cm (1/2 in) in diameter — enough to form a small tepee, which will allow the logs to fall inward as they burn and feed the fire — and then lay a couple of larger pieces of wood on top.
  • Light the newspaper and close the door almost fully — a small opening will help the fire burn hotter. Don't leave the fire unattended while the door is open. Add larger logs only when the fire is burning very strongly.
  • Don't overfill the firebox — the flames and air should be able to reach every piece of wood.
  • Fully close the door and refer to your owner's manual for the best way to control air flow in the burner using the main air vent and damper controls.
  • Burn only well-seasoned wood that has been air-dried for at least one year. Burning damp wood is not only inefficient, but can release large amounts of soot and tar, which can lead to chimney fires.
  • Buy your wood from a reputable merchant.
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