Just a few additions to the already good advice.
Get a pair of wool lined leather gloves as used in foundry work. You can
lift a burning log if you have to in an emergency. They are even thicker
than welding gloves. At some point in your wood burning career, you will be
thankful for having them.
Pay attention to what happens and repeat the good stuff, not the bad as it
will become apparent that it will not work.
Never try to burn one log even if you only want a small fire. You need at
least two to keep a fire going. Be generous with the kindling. Trying to
scrimp only makes for more aggravation in the long run. Lay some crumpled
paper, then some small kindling, then some larger, then two or three logs
about 2" to 4" dia. If you feel a cold draft coming down the chimney, light
a sheet of paper and hold it near the flue opening. This will help it heat
and reverse the direction of the airflow. Otherwise just light the paper.
Keep the door open for a while until it is burning well. Guard for sparks
Now that things are starting to burn, watch the two larger pieces of wood.
Notice how the flame goes back and forth between them? As the log heats, it
gives off gasses and it ignited by the other log. They feed on each other.
Now you add two more pieces, but still not huge logs. Get them going, then
add the larger pieces. Keep the vents wide open until the fire is going
good and the logs are heated. Then you can fill the stove and close the air
to maintain the temperature you desire.
To prevent the stove pipe and chimney from getting coated with creosote,
burn the fire hot twice a day. I like to load up the stove and run it about
wide open for a short time. When the cast iron top is 800 degrees, I'll
damper it down to the usual 400 that it runs at.
OK, you been doing this for a few days and think you are pretty good about
it. The stove is loaded up for the night, air is adjusted just right. Oh,
you want to peek inside? NO ! ! ! Don't open the door. You have 50 pounds
of hot wood in there, ready to burn, but right now the oxygen is limited.
Open the door and WHOOOOSSHHHHHH, you have one hell of a roaring fire.
Over time you will learn how much wood you can put in and how long it will
burn. You get feel for it from experience. After a couple of weeks,
remove the flue pipe and see if you have any buildup. Check the thimble and
feel into the chimney for creosote. That will give you an idea of how long
before you need to sweep.
Various posters have made very good suggestions...
Just a point in this one when starting from a cold stove.
Check for the direction of the draft *before* you start filling the firebox
with paper/kindling/split stuff. In case you do have to use the method
described above to get the draft going up the chimney, it might take a
try or two to get things flowing in the correct direction.
If the draft is coming down the chimney:
Roll up a regular sized newspaper sheet (the kind when spread out is about
24" x 26"-30") diagonally. With the damper fully open, if there is one,
light the rolled up newsprint on one end, and put it up the chimney. Keep
a hold on the other end of the roll. As the rolled paper is burnt up, push it
up a bit more to keep the flame as high as you can get inside the chimney
Have second rolled up "tube" at the ready in case the first one is
consumed before the draft changes direction.
Depending on the force of the downward draft, and it appears to be a
function of the difference of the air temp inside and outside, it might
get a little smokey until the draft is going upwards.
By not having the firebox already filled with fuel, you get more
maneuvering ability during the reversal of the draft exercise, plus
removing the risk of the fuel starting in the firebox prematurely (ie,
the draft is still going in the wrong direction)
Think thrice, measure twice and cut once.
Sanding is like paying taxes ... everyone has to do it, but it is
You've got a lot of good advice, some misinformation.
It sounds like you have a standard air-tight stove. Steel
or cast iron? most are steel. First get one of those cheap
oven thermometer intended to stand up. Set it on the top of
the stove next to the pipe. Another thing, look at your
single wall stove pipe and see where stuff would run if it
dripped down the pipe. If at each joint the upper pipe goes
in the bottom pipe, that is correct. If it is the other
way, get it changed because some time, stuff will drip down
and it will run out on the pipe.
The air supply (the screw caps) do different things on
different stoves. Sometimes when you have two screw caps
side by side they both do the same, just gives more air to
open both. Your stove could be different, but the bottom
screw cap is always the air.
When you start a fire crumple up several newspaper sheets
and put them in first, then add kindling, small sticks and
then bigger sticks on top of the newspaper like you would
build a log cabin. The bottom vent should be at least 1/2
open. Crumple another sheet of newspaper lay to the side or
on top of the pile, and light both. Shut the door. If
you get smoke into the room then you need to start the fire
with more newspaper to get the stove to draw immediately.
After the stove is going, go outside and look at the
chimney. Lots of smoke means that you need to open the air
control more; when burning correctly you should see very
little smoke. However, it may smoke for a bit every time
you add wood. Use any kind of wood you like, just be sure
it is dry (seasoned well).
You thermometer should run about 350 to 400. 500 is very
hot for a steel stove, so turn the air down. Depending on
the wood, stove placement, amount of wood burned, length of
stove pipe, etc., creosote build up may or may not be a
problem. Buy a brush and poles and clean the stove pipe to
avoid fires. I cleaned mine every two months when burning
our stove every day (often let it go out at night) during
six months. Some people need to clean theirs only once a
year. If you do get a chimney fire, you will hear it,
immediately close the air valves tight to cut oxygen to the
As one person pointed out, you need to keep a layer of ash
(about 1 inch thick) covering the bottom to protect the
bricks and improve the fire burn.
I too have just started heating my house with an air-tight wood insert
and everything is going great, but I looked down the chimney and
noticed a thin layer of hard/glazed creosote. We've only been burning
it for about three weeks (24/7) and I can't say for sure if the stuff
was there before we started running the insert (I knew I should have
checked), but I do recall there being glaze on the smoke chamber
before they installed it. We had a chimney sweep inspect the chimney
at the beginning of the season (before the insert was installed) and
he said it did not need cleaning yet, but he rendered it unsafe
because of cracked fire brick...that's why I bought the insert.
We have a "positive connect" to our existing 8x13 masonry fule tile
chimney which is code (we have a permit) in our area. Is all this
cause for immediate concern? The research I did on the web says the
"glaze-type creosote" is the most dangerous...should I just breakdown
and pay for a direct connect installation ($2,000+)? Like most, I
don't have a plethora of money, but my family's safety comes first.
There's no problem with draft and I have been able to use the controls
to good effect. The firebrick looks like the original color and the
glass is clear. In the beginning it did get a little brown but it
cleaned itself after my fire-making improved. I've been burning white
oak that has seasoned for less than one year and sometimes smells
sweet when I re-split it into smaller pieces. On the other hand it
does not sizzle a great deal and I have been keeping a nice bed of hot
coals and there is very little smoke during operation.
How much creosote is too much? The rule of thumb I read was more than
1/8 inch and it's time to schedule a cleaning. At the top of the
chimney there's a paper-thin buildup of that glaze stuff...am I
stressing over nothing? I need to be sure, because I want to sleep
well at night. I've read the Chimney Sweep's horror stories and they
freaked me out!
Get it cleaned. Have the sweep inspect the chimney as he cleans (he should
anyway). He can let you know if the build-up is too bad. In normal use, I used
to clean my chimneys at the start of the season, and halfway through if there
appeared to be any build-up. The one time I ignored that, I was sitting in the
LR with my (now) wife and her daughter when the chimney lit off. Amazing
sight. The yard was a bright orange and flames shot out the top of the chimney.
The fire department was there in about an instant, it seemed. The reason I
hadn't cleaned that chimney was simple: old, stone, no liner and I knew damned
well it was going to fail with no other source of heat in the house. And I was
rentiing from a nice couple who weren't about to spend an extra dime on the
One consolation: once the chimney fire was out, the chimney was clean.
If God had wanted me to touch my toes he would have put them higher on my body.
That's quite a story! The Sweep is on the way...I think I'm going to
get the positive connect (SS liner to the top) so I can sleep well,
get the best performance, etc. Does anyone know where I can get a
temperature sensor for this kind of setup? I can get a magnetic type
that sits on top of the stove, but it seems like "exahust temp" is
more appropriate. This is a non-catilytic stove.
Wood stove sellers, maybe other stores, have a magnetic type
that attaches to the stove pipe. About 2 feet up from the
inlet is a good spot. Otherwise set on the stove next to
the stove pipe.
Chris Snyder wrote:
Hmmm. This post and the answers got me to thinking. Something that is
always dangerous. Grew up with a wood stove and am still using wood. Thing
is I'm so use to doing it, that it require effort to actually expalin it.
Noticed you got a lot of good advice. One thing though. Make sure to get
the chminey cleaned yearly.
I've been heating with wood for 15 years with several stoves and a found a
few things common to achieve success.
Dry wood is essential - green or unseasoned wood will burn but the stove
settings and efficiency will be far different. Dry wood will allow you to
close the vents a bit more. I burn only northern hardwood species.
The stove needs a source of combustion air. In a small or tight structure
the fire will starve for air. Competing air exhausting devices (fireplace,
bath and kitchen fans) will kill the draft. My answer for this on the
current stove is a duct that carries outside air right to the stove intake.
Both of the last two stoves worked best with a layer of ash on the bottom.
IMO, this plugged some hard to find airleaks and made the burn rate
variable, not just hot and hotter!
The current stove (2 story inwall masonry chimney) likes a flue temp at the
stove outlet of ~400 degrees F. If you can see through the steel pipe, the
fire's too hot!
Running a fire hot daily (with dry wood) for 15 minutes or more reduces the
chance for creosoting and chimney fires. It will also heat up the flue
enough to provide the needed draft. Extended open burning will warp the
iron if not lined with brick.
Efficiency-wise, you're better off with wood that is split smaller and
short, hot fires. Personally, I favor extended burn times and thus use
larger pieces. Over the course of the winter, I may have to restart the
fire 3 or 4 times total.
The settings that you use will depend on the stove design, and how the air
is supposed to circulate within. If you have a damper within the stove for
downdraft, opening it initially will allow a free burn.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.