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How to operate a wood stove

Updated October 2021


Wood stove 101: The do’s and don’ts of how to operate a wood stove

Using a wood stove is not difficult if you follow the following 5 steps. (We link to other non- commercial websites for more information.)

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1 . Use dry wood
Tip: Use a moisture meter to ensure its 20% moisture content or less. To get an accurate reading don’t measure the end; split the wood first, then measure the freshly exposed side.

2 . Split and cover your wood early
Tip: Learn how to prepare firewood. Plan on 6 months minimum for soft wood in very dry climates and up to 2 years for hard wood in humid climates. For oak on the east coast, 1 year is usually not enough.

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3. Start fires quickly with lots of dry kindling
Tip: Use firestarters if necessary and practice a top-down fire. Most people do not use enough kindling.


4. Give your stove plenty of air
Tip: Make sure your air control is fully open to start the fire. Resist the urge to damp it too far down. Smoldering stoves cause excessive air pollution and give the technology a bad name.


5. Check and/or clean your chimney regularly.
One rule of thumb is to clean it after each cord of wood, especially if the wood isn’t fully dry.
Tip: Hire a CSIA certified sweep and learn from them. Ask questions!

Don’t ...
  • Ever burn garbage, colored paper, treated wood or driftwood

  • Leave the door of a wood stove open (other than a crack for first 10 minutes)

  • Stack your wood or put furniture too close to the stove

  • Use a stove or fireplace that is smoking up your house

  • Let your stove smolder overnight

Best Practices
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