Why Can't I Light My Wood Burning Stove?

Why Can't I Light My Wood Burning Stove?

Sometimes a wood burning stove can be hard to light / get going.

What's even more concerning is once you eventually get the stove going, smoke can fail to exit up the flue into the outside atmosphere. This can result in smoke entering the room!

This is a particularly frustrating issue, especially If your log burner appears to be in perfect working order, or has previously worked fine.

So what's the cause of this issue? Why is this happening to my stove?

It's all about the outside temperature!

One cause of this elusive issue is actually nothing to do with the stove itself - It's all about the outside temperature!

If the outside temperature is higher than the inside temperature, the usual upward movement of air and gases that traverse upwards through a stoves flue system can reverse. This causing air to travel back down the flue and into the stove.

In spring and autumn, the outside air temperature can suddenly increase. This can cause the outside temperature to be higher than inside a home.

In summer, the long hot days constantly warm a home over time. This results in a home almost always being warmer on the inside than the out.

In the winter, heating the home results in a warmer inside than out.

How can I check if this is happening to my stove?

The easiest way to check if your flue is in reverse is to try the following method.

Before you start a fire, open your stoves door and put your hand inside the firebox. Can you feel a draft coming down from the flue into the stove? If there is any doubt, try lighting a match and see if the flame is drawn into the stove or pushed away. If the flame flickers away from the stove, you have a reverse flue problem. 

Another trick is to use your nose. If there is a stale, sooty smell in the room, this means you are overdue a chimney sweep! Unkept chimneys full of soot and other deposits result in a reverse flue.

My wood burning stove has a reverse flue, what do I do next?

If you have done all the tests and you suspect that your wood burning stoves flue is in reverse, here's a great fix.

Set the fire's controls to the lighting position and light two pieces of paper inside the firebox of the stove- let them burn to heat the air. Burning paper produces very little smoke, but enough heat to help reverse a flues air flow.

Another trick is to try a hairdryer, blow torch or electric heat gun to heat the entry of the flue inside the stove's firebox. Make sure there is no ash present, as the air blowing around can cause quite a mess!

Once the flue begins to warm up you should then go ahead and fully light your wood burning stove.

If none of the above is working for you, another tip is to open a window or external door before preheating. This will ensure the warmer air from the outside moves into the room, creating less of a disparity between the original cooler inside air and warmer outside.

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  • Matthew Wigglesworth