Wood Stove 101: How to Build a Fire in a Wood Stove


Starting a fire in a wood stove can sometimes be a struggle. The solution to this problem may be in better building your fire or using proper, seasoned firewood. We can help teach you how to build a fire in your wood stove. Typically, most people build a fire with a bottom-up method, placing smaller pieces of wood and kindling beneath larger logs with the goal of having the smaller pieces light the larger logs. However, building a fire top-down, the opposite way, is substantially better. While seeming counter intuitive, if you give the top-down method a chance to build a fire, you will find it much easier to start your wood stove fire.

The Best Way to Build a Fire in a Wood Stove

In building a wood stove fire with the top-down fire method, larger pieces of wood are first placed on the floor of the wood stove fire box, with smaller pieces of wood, kindling, and newspaper on top. Take a match or lighter to the newspaper, and the fire will burn slowly into the kindling and to the larger logs underneath. It may take a few tries to build a fire with the top-down fire in order to get it just right, but the result is a cleaner, easier, and by far the best way to build a fire in a wood stove.

Step-by-step instructions are below for help on how to build a fire in your wood burning stove with the top-down method.

How to build a fire: top-down

1. Set larger logs on the floor of your wood stove firebox.

In beginning to build a fire, it is necessary to begin with a solid foundation of wood. The pieces should be at least 3 – 5 inches in diameter.

to build a fire large logs

2. Set a 2nd layer of medium logs atop the larger logs in a crisscross fashion.

It is best that the medium logs are approximately 50%-75% of the size of the larger logs.

to build a fire medium logs


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3. Place a third layer of small logs atop the medium logs in a crisscross fashion.

The small wood pieces should be approximately 1-2 inches in diameter.

to build a fire small logs

4. Set fine kindling on top of small logs.

Typically, we place wood splits, heavy duty cardboard, or both.

to build a fire kindling

5. Place newspaper knots above the kindling splits and cardboard.

Newspaper knots work great for this step. Tear a sheet of newspaper, twist it together to create a rope-like piece, and tie into a knot. Place three or four knots above the kindling evenly throughout the width of the fire box.

to build a fire newspaper knots


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6. Ignite the newspaper

If your stove has a damper or combustion fan, be sure those are open or on high. Ignite the newspaper knots. This can be done quickly with a long match or stick lighter.

to build a fire light

7. Enjoy your fire

The newspaper knots will burn and spread to the kindling, climb to the small, medium and large logs below. Now it is time to enjoy beautiful flames. You now know how to build a fire in your wood stove like a pro.

A wood stove with beautiful flames greatly improves the experience in your home. To see our modern wood stoves with a massive glass viewing window and ever clean glass, head over to our Nova page. For additional tips on how to build a fire in a wood stove and other ideas for your wood stove, read the rest of our Wood Stove 101 series. Thank you to woodheat.org for great information and pictures.