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Sonoma County Gazette
clean wood burning

Proper Wood Stove Technique

Dec 29, 2017


by Larry Williams

If by this time in the season when you open your stove’s door and smoke pours into the room, the chimney system needs sweeping! With long cold seasons, as this one is, sweeping the chimney 2 times a season is somewhat common. 

Don’t ignore this: a clean chimney = good chimney draw (the pull of heat up the chimney) = good heat into the room.     

Here are some Do’s & Don’t’s on stove operations, all of which increase heat output or reduce creosote buildup ( cool smoke condenses and forms creosote, which gunks up chimneys AND burns in chimney fires):


  1. Properly installed and maintained wood stove and chimney system.
  2. Lot’s of dry kindling, using 6 to 10 pieces stacked onto one crumpled sheet of newspaper.   
  3. DRY FIREWOOD!! **
  4. Swept chimney system.
  5. No bigger than 6” diameter logs.
  6. Daytime- shorter, intense fire better than long-slow burns.
  7. Overnight fires - on good bed of coals, load up stove and allow to burn until stove top thermometer reads 300*, before banking down for the overnight burn.
  8. Put tomorrows wood to burn around the stove today to reduce moisture content and bring it to room temperature.
  9. DRY, intermediate sized wood (2x2 or 2x4 size) put on top of established burning kindling, let burn before loading large logs.
  10. Water filled stove top cast iron kettle to re-humidify room air from the dry wood heat.


  1. Don’t leave door open for that “blast “ of heat; you wouldn’t bake a cake that way, so leave the heat in the stove to burn properly.
  2. Don’t ignore worn stove/door gaskets; allows fire to get air even though you cut back the air control.
  3. Don’t load up 8”-12” diameter size logs; smothers the fire and center of log can’t get hot enough to burn.   
  4. Don’t allow ashes in stove to build up; past 1/2”(minimum), ash insulates and cuts heat transfer into your room.
  5. Don’t be careless with ash disposal; coals can stay hot for multiple days when buried in ash.   

When heating with wood burning stoves, everything physical is heated: the walls, furniture, floors. Takes a bit of time to heat up, but once heated doesn’t take much to maintain the heat. Central heat ONLY heats the air, and your body/senses feel the differences.

**Green wood loses moisture cell layer by cell layer; can be 8 to 18 months to cure properly, depending on wood type (hard woods take longer than soft) and conditions. Cured wood gotten wet can be put around the stove 1 to 4 days and the water can wick out. If burning it you hear HISSING, the wood is way too wet!

Burning green or wet wood can lose up to 40% of the heat value of the wood AND generates damp/cool smoke i.e. a creosote producer.

Hope these tips help in your stove operation and enjoyment.


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