How to Start a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove in 3 Easy Steps

how to start a fire in a wood burning stove


The Best Way to Light a Fire in a Wood Stove


Most people are not familiar with how to start a fire in a wood burning stove. They often know how to light a stove and maybe even they have experienced learning how to light a campfire if they have ever camped out or cooked out but lighting a wood burning stove is a totally new skill.

For most of us, learning how to start a fire in a wood burning stove is a much more complicated process especially the more modern types. It is not as easy as starting a fire in a gas stove or an oil stove either.

In fact, you have a few more steps to take before you can even think about lighting  a wood stove. You cannot use the same dry twigs and other materials that you would use for a campfire. You need real wood. This means that you need to do some  planning first. In fact, it would be a good idea to look up supplies of fire wood if you are not going to be cutting the wood yourself.

There are plenty of suppliers who specialise in fire wood supply and you will need to stock up on this in your home or yard to get started. Later on you can then decide if you plan to cut your own wood or continue to buy it from your regular fire wood supplier.

How to Start a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove Without Smoke

Many people store firewood outside as long as it is kept dry in a wood shed. The key to a good fire is good wood and wood which is seasoned which means it has dried out is the key with a low moisture content. In order to be able to get it burning correctly and catches fire quickly without causing lots of smoke.

The key to how to start a fire in a wood burning stove which applies to starting any fire is understanding a basic principle of physics called the triangle of fire.

If you recall basically what this means is that to start a fire you need 3 things:

  • Heat
  • Fuel
  • Oxygen

The Heat will be provided from a flame from your match or a from a lighter

The Fuel will be from your firewood and the kindling that you use

The Oxygen will be from the air in the room and within the wood burning stove

In a wood burning stove you will have the added issue of the access to air and the oxygen being more restricted. We will explain how to manage that later in this post.

Start by bringing the firewood from your outdoor woodstore inside to your wood burning stove storage area so it is all stocked up ready for burning.

It is a good idea to place your firewood indoor close to your stove so the heat can help dry and season your wood before it gets burned. Make sure that all the pieces of wood are dry before placing them in the fire else they may crack and pop in the heat plus it causes more smoke within your wood stove and the fire will not burn as clean causing more soot build up.

how to start a fire in a wood burning stove

First Step to Start a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove – Preparation

Once you have cleared away any remains from the stove from any previous fires in your wood burning stove, prepare the fire by arranging your kindling and firewood nearby in readiness for lighting.

The traditional tepee method uses paper and kindling at the centre and then small wood around the kindling to form a tepee shape.

This allows the flammable materials to sit tightly against each other without allowing them to move around. The principle when burning firewood is to start with smaller pieces to get them burning then add larger pieces.

This tepee shape works well outdoors but it cannot be used in your wood stove due to the height restrictions inside of the stove or the time it would take to keep tending the fire and building it up from this smaller size start if you could make it fit.

Second Step to Keep Your Fire Going in Your Wood Stove – Recommended Best Layout

Once you have the firewood ready, you can begin preparing the fire itself.

You will need:

  • 3 to 4 large pieces of firewood split logs sized for your wood stove
  • Half a dozen smaller pieces of firewood
  • Paper slightly crunched into a loose ball as a fire starter
  • Small pieces of cardboard 4 to 5 inches each or kindling wood
  • A lighter or matches

The best method recommended to start, is by building a base for your fire from the larger logs that you use as your regular sized firewood sized for your stove to fit inside your size of wood stove.

Start with two large pieces of firewood as the base of the fire lain flat at the bottom in a V-shape layer with the base pointing away from you. This V-shape gives lots of space in the middle to add our paper, kindling and lots of space around it for the air to flow.

Then add a second layer of small bits of cardboard over the paper and larger pieces of firewood to form a second loose layer. Spread out the cardboard pieces as kindling so that they are scattered in order to maintain an air flow around all the pieces.

Then add a third layer of  smaller pieces of firewood and stack these at right angles to each other to form the traditional stacked method. You will have to cut these into small bits inch or two-inch wide pieces of wood.

Then lastly add a final layer of a large piece or several large pieces of firewood on the top.

So what you should end up with is like a sandwich of large pieces of firewood with your kindling and smaller pieces of firewood in the middle.

But remember a loose sandwich so that the air can move between the items and layers of your firewood sandwich.

Make sure your stove controls are open if they have them and the stove damper is also open.

Begin by lighting the paper in multiple places to get it burning all over. This will then light the kindling and the flames from this will then light the larger pieces of firewood.

If you are using a wood burning stove that has limited access, you may need to use a long style lighter or a longer style wooden match to start the fire.

Third Step to Keep Your Fire Going in Your Stove – Manage The Air Flow

Once the fire has started, you need to manage the airflow as you can easily smother the fire. You need to maintain the balance of the triangle of fire so that there is enough oxygen to maintain the burning rate of the firewood burning correctly. Remember if there is not enough oxygen it will be like the fire has been smothered with an extinguisher and the fire will go out.

If your wood stove has a glass door leave the door slightly ajar so that it allows the air supply to be drawn into the fire to keep supplying oxygen to the flames of the fire.

We are looking to establish a back draft. A burning fire will draw air in towards the fire as it consumes the oxygen. Make sure your chimney stove pipe or air vent is open and have the draft going up and out. If not all the smoke will come into your home but when it is drawing air in it shouldn’t happen straight away.

Once the fire has been established you can close the door of the stove. For safety make sure you keep good visibility of the stove when the door is still open.

How to Start a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove Without Kindling

How to start a fire in a wood burning stove without kindling is the same process as above but you will need a substitute for the kindling in order to get enough flame to start the firewood to burn.

If you don’t have cardboard there are a number of alternative options you can use for kindling.

The traditional method was to create what were called feather sticks which were cut with a knife or an axe to create multiple splits in one end of your smaller pieces of firewood. These many splits opened the firewood up like a fan or feather. So that they have a greater surface area to be able to catch light and to be able to start burning more easily. It can be a dangerous job making these so take extra care if you choose these.

You can also select from the following materials as safer alternatives for kindling:

  • You can use traditional kindling from small twigs and smaller pieces of wood
  • The bark from a tree works very well
  • Tying several sheets of newspaper together into a knot will help increase the time it burns for
  • Pine cones and other cones can be used when they are dry
  • Readers have suggested enviro-logs as a good alternative.


As long as you know how to start a fire in a wood burning stove, you will never go wrong and you will enjoy the heat and energy savings that you get from your wood burning stove for many years to come.