Top Tips For Using A Wood Burning Stove

May 6, 2015

If you’ve recently joined the wood-burning stove brigade, there are two key tips that will ensure you get the most from your fire.

Buy kiln dried logs or Wood briquettes. Whether you’re the proud owner of a shiny new stove, or you’ve got one that’s been sitting in the front room for decades, there are a few things that you need to know to really get the most out of that metal box in the fireplace.

Don’t burn water

This is the most fundamental thing to get right when you’re burning wood. It might be surprising, but green wood (ie freshly cut wood)is around 50 per cent water. That means that for every kg of green wood you add to the fire, you’re effectively adding around 500ml of water. This means that you will need to make sure that your fuel has been dried properly. There are a few ways of doing this, but the simplest are:

Kiln Dried wood has a moisture content of typically 12- 18% moisture. Kiln Dried wood guarantees the moisture content. Typically you would use 6-8 times more green logs to get the same heat output as from a kiln dried log. If you don’t use Kiln then consider Seasoned Wood. If you’ve got the space to dry your logs properly, then this is an option, but do bear in mind that it will take a while. As a minimum, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve given your logs at least one summer to dry properly (two is better).

Manage the air

As far as your stove is concerned, air comes in two flavours. Primary air feeds the bed of the fire, and secondary air feeds the flames above it. Nearly all the energy from wood comes from burning gases released when it is heated – which means that secondary air is much more important than primary. The golden rules are:

  • Never completely close the secondary air vent. Never (I really mean it). It’s the easiest way to create soot and tar and completely coat the glass on the front of your stove with gunk (a technical term).
  • Don’t leave the stove door open, after you have established the fire in your stove. You are crippling your stove’s efficiency and allowing all the lovely warm air in the room to shoot off straight up the chimney.
  • Remember you’re always looking for a hot, fast burn, as this will be the cleanest, most efficient way of running the stove. A small hot fire is much more efficient than a large slow-burning one.

Firstly, lighting the fire is simple so long as a few basic rules are followed:

  1. The primary and most important rule is to use dry wood: preferably kiln-dried. Forget those bags of logs in netting on sale for €4.99 at your local petrol station – they’re most likely wet pine and will smoulder and smoke but never catch light properly.
  2. Select around 3 smallish logs and form into a V or U shape wall with the opening out front. Build a little nest inside the walls using some dry kindling stacked over a burning firelighter. If you use our Kiln-Dried kindling you will only need the tiniest chunk to get the kindling going
  3. Leave the air vents open on your stove until the fire is fully burning. Likewise, leave the door of your stove slightly open until the fire is established.
  4. Once the kindling is burning nicely start to add in some small logs, preferably ones where the bark is coming free (like our Ash logs) as these catch light quickly.
  5. Good airflow is essential so don’t overload with too many logs; leave gaps between them so the flames can spread. Build the fire slowly. If it looks like it’s faltering add in more kindling and nurse it better. After about ten minutes your log fire should be burning nicely with your surrounding V or U shaped wall also starting to burn well. Close the stove door and sit back and enjoy.

Once it’s flaming nicely, close the door and the use the air vents to regulate the fire.

Never buy wood by weight, as this can mean that you are paying for water. Always buy logs by volume.

A last thought on perfect fires is not to poke a wood fire too much. The burning coal fire needs to be opened up with a poker from time to time. This gets air into the embers and breaks up any clinker that is forming. But the wood fire is more of a thoroughbred and, much as it is fun to give the fire a good poke and watch the sparks fly upwards, the fire doesn’t like it!

Secrets To Starting Your Fire

Like all Good Recipes- the main thing is to use the best ingredients. With our Kiln Dried you are guaranteed the logs will be dry.

For more on Lighting Fires check out The Wood Fire Handbook by Vincent Thurkettle