Wood Burning Practices

Burning seasoned firewood and following good burning practices is essential to reducing smoke from wood burning. Smoky fires affect the health of your family, your neighbours, and your community. Not only that, smoky fires also waste fuel, as the smoke represents unused energy.

Choosing a Fuel

Many different tree species can make good firewood. The key is to ensure that the wood is adequately dried.

To prepare the wood:

  1. Dry for at least six months and keep it sheltered from the weather
  2. Burn wood with less than 20% moisture content. Wet wood produces far more smoke
  3. Split pieces to a maximum of 10-15 cm in size to maximize the surface burn area to increase efficiency

Only use paper and dry kindling for starting fires.

Use Caution

  • Do not burn wet, green, painted, or pressure treated wood.
  • Burning waste like garbage, plastic, and treated or painted wood is illegal in B.C.
  • Burning coal in a wood stove is illegal. Doing so may produce excessive and highly toxic emissions, and cause a fire hazard as it burns hotter than wood.
  • Driftwood is covered in salt and burning it releases sodium and chlorine ions. The chlorine ions can lead to formation of toxic compounds such as dioxins and furans. Burning salty driftwood also corrodes your stove and venting system.

Starting the Fire

Put crumpled newspaper in the stove (don't use coloured or gloss paper) and place 10 to 15 small pieces of finely split dry kindling on top of it and behind it. Open the air supply vent wide. 

Light the paper in several places near the air inlet. Leave the stove door partially open until the fire is going well, the chimney is primed, and the combustion chamber and air supply pipe have been warmed up. Do not leave the stove unattended during this time. 

When the flames from the kindling just begin to subside, add at least three small pieces of firewood, and be careful not to smother the fire with the new pieces. Gradually increase the size of the pieces as the coals build up 

Maintaining the Fire

Keep careful control of the air supply: fuel needs much more air for the first 10-15 minutes to complete combustion, and less when the wood is well charred

Loosely stacked pieces burn quickly because air can reach all the pieces at once

Never add just one or two pieces of wood, three or more are needed to form a sheltered pocket of glowing coals that sustain the fire

Monitoring the Fire's Performance

The fire is burning well when it burns brightly with lively flames and some smoke is visible when you light the fire, but once the fire gets going the smoke is almost invisible.

The fire is not burning well when it has dull, steady flames or there is excessive smoke.

Overnight Fires

When you use your wood stove as an overnight heat source, it's important to load it properly to avoid a smouldering fire, which produces significantly more smoke and pollutantion.

To build a long lasting overnight fire:

  1. Rake the coals towards the air inlet and use larger pieces of wood placed compactly in the firebox behind the coals
  2. Place the pieces close together to prevent the heat and flame from penetrating the new load, saving the buried pieces for later in the burn
  3. Open the air inlets fully for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the load and its moisture content
  4. Reduce the air supply in stages to the desired level when the outer pieces have acquired a thick layer of charcoal

The charcoal insulates the rest of the wood and slows down the release of combustible gases. This allows you to turn down the air control and still maintain a clean-burning fire.