A common question amongst wood burning stove owners is just how much ash to leave in your wood burning stove. Well if you’re reading this, then you’re in luck. I’ll answer the question of just how much ash you should be leaving in the base of your stove. I’ll also provide some real life tips and example photos to help you on your way.
I’ll also dive in quickly into the reasons why having a bed of ash in your stove is important.
Why having a bed of ash in your wood burning stove is important.
I really won’t spend a long time telling you why having ash in your wood burning stove is important, because the answer is pretty simple.
You should always aim to light a fire on a bed of ash for two simple reasons:
- Ash helps to insulate your fire, and it basically retains a lot of heat. This means that your fire will light quicker, as heat gets distributed to other logs. Your fire will also burn hotter right from the start.
- Having a bed of ash between the bottom of your fire box and your fire also helps to protect your wood burning stove as it acts to insulate it (to a small extent) from the roaring fire above .
There you go, so this is why having ash in your wood-burning stove is important. Simple.
Just how much ash should you be leaving in your wood-burning stove?
The general answer most people give to this question is very straightforward. You should aim to leave around about 2 cm (approx. 1 inch) of ash in your wood burning stove. Now this is only a rule of thumb though, as the exact amount of ash you should leave is dependent on your wood burning stove design.
What do I mean by this? Well it’s actually quite straightforward.
You see, wood burning stoves are designed with a lot of thought given to airflow.
Airflow is important because it is essential for your wood-burning stove to operate correctly.
If you leave too much ash in then you can prevent it from properly circulating within your stove and you’ll end up with a smokey fire. This isn’t good if you’re looking to keep your wood burning stove in good condition and working well.
To find out just how much ash to leave within your stove, you can do two things.
First, you can look at your manufacturer’s instructions. This is pretty boring though and you may not actually have these instructions to hand…
The second, and perhaps better method, is to look at the firebox grate of your wood-burning stove.
You see those gaps? Well, they’re not there for decoration. They are there to ensure that air circulates around any wood that you’re attempting to burn.
For me, I use the gaps in my firebox grate to give me a really simple visual indication of when I’ve got too much ash in my wood burning stove.
If the ash level rises up to or above the central hole, then I use that as an indication that I should empty out the ash in my wood burning stove.
Don’t get me wrong, I very rarely actually empty all of the ash from my wood-burning stove brackets (unless it’s summer time – in which case I completely clear it).
I still make sure to leave a bed of ash in my stove, but for me it ends up being around 1-2cm deep – rather than the common rule of thumb of 1-inch.
I find it by using the box grate as an indicator, then I consistently have well burning fires.
There you go – told you it was straightforward.
How often do you need to empty out the ash from your stove?
Well, again, the answer is simple – as soon as the ash starts to cover up the holes your firebox grates. For me, this is about once every two or three fires depending on how long they’ve been burning for. Obviously, if I’ve kept a fire running for a full day there’ll be more ash to get rid of.
How to remove ash from your wood burning stove
Ok, I know what you’re thinking – you’re not stupid, and don’t need instructions on how to get rid of ash from your wood burning stove…
Well, I agree.
But I’m not intending to bore you with those sorts of instructions. But, I do want to share my way of emptying ash from my wood burning stove. Why? Because I think it’s pretty neat.
First of all, I use two “tools” – the first is a pretty busted up plastic dust-pan. The second is an ash hoover.
Now, both tools are pretty much essential for my method. During the winter months, when my fire is pretty much lit most evenings, I don’t really like the hassle of vacuuming out my fire on a regular basis.
So, instead, I get myself my beaten up dustpan and do one scoop. That’s it. Then I put that scoop in a bin (or find another use for left over ash), and what’s left in my wood burning stove is enough to provide me with a good, thin bed of ash.
Then, about once a week, I’ll vacuum around my rope seals (again, an important part of stove maintenance).
Obviously, I don’t do this when the ash is still hot or warm – that would be stupid.
Avoid leaving wood ash in your stove when you’re not using it!
I want to finish this article about how much ash to leave in your wood burning stove by making an important point.
You should try to avoid leaving any significant amounts of wood ash in your stove when it’s not in regular use.
This is not because the world will end if you do, but it’s one of the things that can significantly affect the life of your stove over time. Wood ash, by its very nature, is extremely “bitty.” By that, I mean it’s made up of lots of little “bits”…
When your stove is not in use, you should aim to leave the door open a little to promote air flow and reduce pressure on your rope seals.
If you leave ash in while you do this, then the ash “bits” will work themselves into all of the nooks and crannies of your wood burning stove.
This may be your rope seals, air flow holes, door handle slots – wherever.
Now, again, it’s not the end of the world – but if you make it a habit to clean out your stove in spring, then you’re reducing the chances of a gradual hidden build up of ash that could cause issues later down the line.
Well, there’s not much to sum up for this article, but here are some key “takeaways:”
- Having a shallow bed of wood ash in your wood burning stove is important if you want to have easy to light fires.
- You can easily see if your ash pile is getting too high by using your firebox grate as a guide.
- Use a dustpan to scoop out your ash as a method of retaining a decent amount of ash for your next fire.
And that’s it. I can’t quite believe I bothered to write a whole article on this topic… still, hopefully, if you’ve made it this far you’ve found it useful!
Do check out the other articles on this site if you’ve enjoyed it – I’m not some mega website. It really is just me, Bert, sitting down in the evening and typing. And it’s weirdly cool when people find this site and like what I write! Check out my article on keeping your woodburning stove glass from turning black, if you’re interested.