Best Practices for Starting a Wood Fire

August 17, 2018
Do you have a hard time starting a fire in your wood burning insert, stove or fireplace?  In order to create fire you need three things, called the combustion triangle.  You need fuel (wood), air (oxygen) and heat (a spark or ignition), and without all three you can’t create fire. Next time you want to light a fire try following these easy steps: 

1. Open the damper if your unit has one, and the air control fully.  This allows oxygen to circulate through the firebox, and also helps create a draft more quickly to draw the smoke up and out through the venting. 

2.  Start with smaller pieces of wood(fuel) as they will ignite quicker and easier than larger pieces. It’s recommended not to use paper, newspaper or other products (especially cardboard); by avoiding the use of these materials you’ll avoid any smoke spilling into your room while lighting the unit!  If you do choose to use newspaper, try balling it up loosely so air can get in and around it, and place them in the firebox first with the kindling over it.  Make sure there is plenty of space for air to circulate around the kindling, which will help ignite the wood pieces.  A few small logs can be added to the top of the kindling, just ensure they are crossed so air can get underneath, and that they don’t crush the kindling.  Don’t load up the firebox with a bunch of wood, though! We want the fire to start and not smolder because there isn’t enough oxygen circulating around for combustion. Now light the fire and close the door, leaving it slightly ajar. Remember, with the door open slightly; be sure to keep an eye on the fire as it isn’t fully contained at this point!

3.  Once the fire begins burning well you can add more wood to the fire and close the door completely.

4.  After about 20 minutes, which will vary by wood type, or until the fire is burning well, adjust the damper and  air control to the proper levels.  Remember, more air = bigger fire but less burn time; less air = longer burn time but a little less heat. 

5. Now that the fire is started, enjoy the warmth! If you want to keep the fire burning for longer, add wood as it starts to burn down. If you’re looking for more heat and a bigger flame, open the damper or air control to allow more air flow into the firebox. Getting the right combination of fuel and air will create the longest burn times, best heat and highest efficiency. Be sure to refer to the units’ manual for proper operation.