There are many ways to light a fire in a wood heater. There is no one right way to do it and I am sure that all the wood heater owners out there will have their own individual ways of lighting fires that have developed over the years.
This is one way to light a wood heater. Ensure that the heater firebox is not full of ash – remove ash if necessary using a suitable metal container. If the heater is a multifuel heater where the only air supply is from beneath the heater grate then you will need to make sure that the grate is clear from ash and that the ashpan is empty (or at least that the ash in the ashpan is not obstructing the air flow to the fire).
Open the bottom air vents of the heater and open the flue damper if you have one. Some people use firelighters but old news paper is free. Start with some pieces of newspaper and scrunch them into loose balls. Use about 8 full sheets of newspaper to light the fire. It is possible to use much less paper, but if there is no need to conserve your newspaper supply then you might as well be assured that the fire will light by using a little bit extra. Pile the balls of newspaper in the centre of the firebox.
Get some kindling. If you do not have some already prepared then use dry seasoned pieces of firewood. Softwoods or light hardwoods are best or if you have a supply of wind blown twigs, even better. Lay a good pile of this kindling on top of the newspaper in different directions – rather like the game pickup sticks. The idea is that air and flames should be able to get to each piece of wood. Now lay a few larger 30mm and 40mm square pieces on top.
Light the newspaper in a couple of places at the bottom and when they are going close the door of the heater.
Once the wood has caught alight and the fire is going well inside the heater you can put some larger pieces of wood into the firebox. Place them gently on top of the fire. Do not fill the firebox with wood – I would recommend burning around 3-4 large pieces of wood at a time. At this stage you can turn the air supply down a little but aim to maintain good flames whilst not letting the fire smoulder.
If you have air vents at the top of the heater then close down the air vents at the bottom and open those at the top. You may need to do this gradually as the fire develops.