Why Does My Wood Stove Smoke When I Light It?

KristinaW

Member
  • #1
I've owned a wood stove for two years now and it seems that every single time I light it, smoke billows back into my house, filling my home and making it stink. I have to open the windows and the doors, just to get the smoke out. It's getting kind of old. It really does happen pretty much every time I light it. It's so bad. And the reason I'm writing this post right now is because the temperature is dropping outside and I just tried to light a fire. Yup, smoke everywhere. All my windows are open and it's about 30 degrees out there.

What I'm finding is that after lighting a piece of paper inside the firebox, it's slow going. Additional paper catches and that's when the smoke starts. Last year when this happened, I'd close the front door and boy was that a mistake. The fire went out, the paper smoldered, and there was no other option but to open the door again in an attempt to light the paper again. But by this point, the smoke was so thick that it just poured out of the stove and into the room. My smoke detectors would go off and everything. Since then, I've begun using a propane torch to light my fires and now the smoke just comes out of the stove for about 30 seconds. I keep the torch going to generate lots of heat inside the firebox and it eventually creates a draft to go up the chimney. Then, once that happens, I wait a few minutes before closing the front door and I'm good to go.

What I'd really like to do is eliminate all smoke from coming out of the stove. Does anyone have any suggestions?
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #2
Your issue is lack of draft. Basically, for any smoke to go up your chimney, you need a flow of air to be going up the chimney as well. For that to happen, you need a temperature differential between the firebox and the chimney itself. As it stands, you've got a cold firebox and a cold chimney. When you light the stove, you've got a big air dam and nothing is moving anywhere. The trick to fix this issue is to somehow warm up the firebox so its temperature is warmer than the chimney. That will make any air inside it want to flow upward and outside.

Here's the solution to your problem. Before you light a fire in your wood stove, open the front door for 30 minutes. This ought to warm the inside of the firebox up enough for air to begin flowing up and out of the chimney. Then, once that happens, you can load the stove and light your fire. If you'll notice, right now you're actually creating a draft from the heat of your torch. So there really isn't too much to it. It's not like you've got a very stubborn air dam or anything because the air is eventually moving. You'd simply like it to move a bit earlier than it currently is.

If you find that the draft doesn't begin by itself from opening the front door and letting the inside of the stove warm up, you can try burning a fire starter block or a wax log to get things going. To test the draft, light a match and blow it out. As it's smoking, hold it near the entrance of the stove. See which way the smoke blows. If it goes up into the wood stove, then you're good. If it blows back at you and into the living space, you need to get that draft going by burning a starter log or something like that. Remember, paper smokes. Those was starters are pretty good at not smoking. Pick up a carton of them if necessary.
 

CraigHardy

Member
  • #3
And for the love of everything that is holy, make sure you are using nice dry kindling and not trying to start a fire with wet or unseasoned wood. If that's the case, you'll never get your fire going no matter how much draft you have.

Here's a tip too. During the winter months, you may have what's known as the chimney effect or stack effect going on in your house. This means that your entire house has a negative air pressure because any heat that's inside wants to rise and go out tiny crevices in your upper floors and roof. Old windows and lack of proper caulking cause this. Anyway, because your house might essentially be a vacuum, it's going to be really challenging to get a draft going in your wood stove. And actually you may never get one because your house may be pulling the air down your chimney to pull out of the upstairs windows. The trick is to open a window while trying to light your fire. The open window will negate the negative pressure and that will help tremendously.
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #4
I've done some quick YouTube research for you. Here's what I found. Basically, don't add any wood to the firebox before you get your draft situation squared away. Simply crumple up two or three pieces of newspaper and light them inside the stove. You may get a hint of smoke at first, but those big flames the paper creates will quickly move a nice draft up the chimney. Add some pieces of cardboard if necessary until you can feel that your inside chimney pipe is warm or hot to the touch. Then add your wood and paper and all that afterwards.

Alternately, you can hold a torch for about three minutes inside the stove, pointed up the chimney. This will give the warmth that's necessary for a draft.

And finally, and this one is a bit weird, but you can cut out a piece of cardboard so it's just a little larger than the stove door and so it fits right over the opening of your stove when the door is open. Cut a hole the size of a hairdryer at the middle of the cardboard. Then, place the cardboard over the open door space and hold a hair dryer up to the hole and turn it on. Let that heat go up the chimney for a few minutes and that should start a draft for you.

The problem is that you've got cold air in the chimney that's just sitting there. The taller the chimney and the more bends it has in it, the worse this problem can be. By adding smoke free heat to the firebox, you'll move that cold air right out.
 

CaptainDan

Member
  • #5
How to Light a Wood Stove/Fireplace & Never Smoke Up the House


How To Stop Smoke When Lighting a Log Burning Stove

 
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