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How To Keep A Wood Stove Burning All Night In 4 Easy Steps

There is nothing worse than waking up to a cold house with a wood stove fire that is all burned out.  Maybe it burned for a few hours after you went to bed but barely a single ember is left by morning. 

For me, it was a constant struggle to stoke a wood stove in such a way that a fire lasted all night.  It never failed, come morning, my wood stove was hardly warm to the touch and I would need to relight the fire.  At some point along the way, a few pros showed me what I was doing wrong. 

Looking back, it is almost embarrassing how easy it is to keep a wood stove burning all night.  The recipe is simple and almost fool proof.  Now that I’ve figured it out, why not learn from my mistakes?  This article is the only guide you need to keep your wood stove burning longer throughout the night without fail.  Best of all, it only takes 4 easy steps to get it right.

4 Steps to build a long lasting fire in a wood stove

Before we get started, I need to point out that every wood stove is different.  Therefore, you should use the steps of this guide as a foundation to get longer burns in your particular wood stove.  Don’t be afraid to tweak the details if something doesn’t work right for you.  

Step 1:

Prepare a hot bed of coals in your wood stove.  If you want a fire that burns throughout the night, you’ll need to set the stage right.  That means building a hot fire with plenty of glowing coals.  It’s this bed of coals that is the foundation of a long burning fire.  To do that, ensure you remove excess ash with only a small amount remaining.  Then, build a fire with well season wood using any method you prefer.  

In general, starting with dry, hot burning kindling will prime the stove pipe so it drafts properly.  Then, add progressively larger wood until you work up to large splits about the diameter of your thigh.  At this point, you’re beginning to nurture a good bed of coals and your wood stove is nice and hot.  

Depending on how you have it dampened, it may take 1 to 3 hours to get to this point.  If you’re planning to start a fire right before hitting the sack, consider using a top-down  approach to building a lasting fire.  However, you can’t beat a well tended fire that’s burned throughout the day when it comes to keeping a wood stove burning all night.   

Step 2:

Position the bed of coals towards the front.  If you nailed the timing, your last log should be reduced to large red hot coals just before heading to bed.  Open your wood stove door and position all the coals towards the front half of your stove using a poker or shovel.  Doing so creates a spot behind for you to place the next stack of wood.  You don’t want to place the logs on top of the coals or all the wood will ignite at once and burn too fast.

You need a sizable pile of coals to make this work though so don’t wait to long and let it all reduce to ash.  The placement of your coal bed also depends on how your stove is designed.  However, most wood stoves have air flowing from the front to the back. Hence, putting coals up front towards the door keeps things burning the right way.

Try experimenting though.  Maybe in your stove, putting coals to one side lets you eke out an hour or more of burn time for the night.  Either way, the idea is to ensure that the coals can only burn the wood from one side.    

Step 3:

Add several large pieces of firewood behind the coals.  With your bed of coals sitting comfortably towards the front, it’s time to add all the wood for the night.  Make sure your firewood is well seasoned and dry.  Otherwise, you’ll get a smokey fire that won’t heat your home.  

It’s important to use fairly large logs for this step.  Log rounds work okay but large splits are better for maintaining a long slow burn.  Use pieces about the size of your thigh as reference.  How many pieces of firewood you need depends on the size of your wood stove.  Typically, 4-6 pieces is enough.  Just don’t over fill it (see below to find out why).  

Place the logs behind the bed of coals, parallel to the front of your wood stove.  For those of you with deep, narrow stoves, try placing logs lengthwise behind the coals instead.  Pack the wood in a tight formation and don’t criss-cross any logs.  The goal is to create a tight bundle of wood with as little space between them as possible. 

Step 4:

Close the door and dampen down the air flow.  With your bed of coals in the front and a tight stack of wood just behind, the coals should be able to slowly consume the logs throughout the night. 

Once you add the firewood to the wood stove, close the door and with the damper open, let the first log catch fire to ensure a thorough burn.  Since your wood stove is well prepared and fully warmed, it should burn now that it’s time to dampen it down.  If you don’t limit the air flow, the whole stack of wood inside will burn fast and hot.  

It takes a little experimentation to know how much your stove can be dampened down before smothering the fire.  To start, I recommend going to full close and then backing off a touch.  One quarter open on the damper is usually plenty.  You know things are going good when there is little to no smoke and you have nice slow, rolling flames biting at the logs.

Your fire should now be ready to burn throughout the night without stoking until morning.  It may take some experimentation to dial in the number of logs or the right setting for the damper.  But after a few nights of trying, you should have it figured out for your stove.  That’s really all there is to it.

What kind of wood burns longer

When it comes to long burns that last through the night, the type of wood you burn is arguably more important than how you prep your wood stove.  Not all wood is created equal.  Every tree species has a different BTU density.  In other words, some wood burns longer and produces more heat than other kinds of wood.

Typically, hardwoods like hickory, oak, cherry and maple burn longer than softwoods such as fir, pine, spruce and cedar.  This is because hardwoods are more dense and therefore have more fuel for the fire to burn.  

That being said, it’s also important to understand that rounds and split logs burn differently, regardless of the species.  Splits have much more surface area for flames to envelop whereas full rounds with bark are naturally flame resistant.  So, it stands to reason that you’ll get the longest burn time from a round of hardwood than any other kind of wood.  

Keep in mind that burn time and heat output are not always correlated.  A smoldering hardwood round that produces little flame and lots of smoke is not going to produce much heat.  Most of the potential BTU is lost as smoke.  A chunk of pine might burn faster with less smoke but you will have captured most of the heat energy available.  

In either case, always burn fully seasoned firewood with a moisture content between 15-20 percent to get the most efficient burn possible.  Make sure to check out my article on how to tell if your firewood is properly seasoned.

Can you put too much wood in a wood stove

Packing your wood stove full of wood to make it last all night seems like a logical strategy.  But is it possible to put too much wood in a wood stove?  

Yes, you can overload a wood stove with wood.  A packed stove can’t get enough air to breath so it smokes and smolders until it’s finally smothered.  On the other hand, an overfilled wood stove with ample air flow can burn too hot.  Over firing in this way causes damage to your stove and increases the risk of chimney fires. 

Therefore, when learning how to get longer burns in a wood stove, work your way up to larger loads before jamming logs into every nook and cranny.  In most cases, 4-6 average sized splits is all you need to get a lasting burn for the night.  If you are worried about it, try using a couple rounds instead.  Log rounds have more volume with less surface area so they burn a little slower. 

Is it safe to leave a wood stove burning all night

The idea of leaving a fire unattended while you sleep is a bit nerve racking if you are not used to doing so.  I certainly would not recommended letting a fire burn throughout the night in an open fireplace but wood stoves are different.

You can safely let a wood stove burn all night.  The fire is fully contained inside when the door is shut so there is no risk of escaping embers.  In addition, a properly functioning wood stove does not release harmful levels of carbon monoxide.  The biggest risk is creosote build up in the chimney so inspect and clean it often. 

Anytime you are burning long, low fires more creosote will develop in the chimney and in the fire box.  If you notice that the glass door blackens quickly, you are likely burning inefficiently.  Try not to dampen down your night time fire too far.  You need to strike a balance between burn time and efficiency to maximize heat output while minimizing creosote development.

As a final note of caution, make sure you know how your wood stove behaves throughout a burn cycle.  Make sure the dampers and air flow controls function properly.  While it is a big steel box designed to burn, avoid ripping hot fires.  This is called over firing and causes damage to your wood stove and increases the potential for chimney fires.

Final thoughts

There are many other ways to get a wood stove to burn longer but this method is definitely the best I have tried.  Again, you may need to tinker with the exact details of the process in order for it to work in your stove.  In the end, the goal is to get an all night burn.  Follow the tips in this article and you won’t have a problem staying toasty warm until morning.