4 tips for a woodburning stove

4 Tips for a wood burning stove.

Winter #1 When I moved into my house 6 years ago. I didn’t know what the large black box metal box was in the kitchen. I knew it was ugly, and it took up too much room. That space could be used for something practical like cabinet space or extra seating…Then I realized what is was… a terrifying-i’m never- going-to-use-this- wood stove. After all, I had a 1 and 1/2 year old boy who was not so good at listening, and I preferred to keep out of the ER. Not to mention, I didn’t want to burn down the house while we were all sleeping. So it sat there all winter, a silent monster watching me cook all our family meals. We paid $1,200 in fuel oil to heat the house over 4 months.

Winter #2 The next season, I had to reconsider my stance. MAYBE I could try and see if this would work. I wasn’t very optimistic, I mean, Our house is old, (like 100+ years) has 2 stories, and the windows are drafty on a good day. But baby was a slightly better listener, and $1200 in heat was not in the cards so I lit my first fire. To say it went badly, would be an understatement. I used a few pounds of paper, with some logs, and it never did get started. But try try again, and eventually I got the whole paper, small sticks, bigger sticks, THEN log thing under control.

So I got the whole staring a fire thing down, but regulating a constant temperature in the house, and keeping a fire going all night was another challenge. I would have it so hot in the kitchen I literally made my taper candles fall over into an “n” shape. It got so hot, the kitchen windows would be wide open-snow flying in- all the while upstairs would still be cold. I was up with a newborn every few hours, so at least I was up anyway to put more logs in at night, but still, the wood burning stove was my nemesis. An alway greedy, unpredictable, enemy that had an insatiable appetite for logs. Heat bill $600

Winter 3: I found my new best friend the damper. There was these two little knobby things in the door of the wood stove.. I hadn’t thought much of them..probably should have paid more attention… they just screw in and out in order to let more air into the stove, or you can screw them closed so no air at all can go in. These dampers are kind of a big deal… and I finally mastered the art of the wood stove! I can keep the temperature an even 72 degrees! I can sleep all night without putting in more logs! I don’t have to spend a fortune on fuel oil! I can even cook on it! The black metal monster is AMAZING! Fuel oil $200

Winter 4: New found confidence from winter #3 and I was determined to heat the ENTIRE winter on logs. To make sure that I kept my goal $0 went into the fuel oil tank. Ill admit there were a few nights of -0 weather that I really wanted to check into a hotel…. But we did it! All winter on logs harvested from dead trees right here on OUR farm. There is a sense of pride in knowing that I CAN do it. And if I can do it… You can too!


  1. Take you time when building a fire. It is much easier to take a little extra time stacking correctly, then it is to try and light a fire the second time. I start with paper trash (cereal boxes ect.) then small sticks, larger sticks, small logs, once it is going nice and strong add on the big guys. Having to relight means trying to move hot, not quite lit logs to try and add more paper material. I do this more often than I would like to admit. It is not fun.
  2. Use dry logs. Dry logs start easier and burn hotter. You can use a wet log on during an extended absence or night time for a longer not-so-hot burn.
  3. Use a trio log formation. Two on bottom, one on top. Make sure air can get around all the logs.
  4. USE THE DAMPER. Open damper means lots of air and a fast hot fire. If you are trying to heat the room up quickly open them up. If you want a slow cooler fire close them up. If I am leaving the house for a few hours or turning in for the evening, the air gets shut off and the logs burn slow enough to last through the night. I have enough embers to get it going again with minimal effort again in the morning.

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