6 Reasons Why Your Wood Stove Can Only Burn With The Door Open

Blocked flue

In my experience, this is the most probable reason why the stove would choke as soon as you shut the door. This could be anything from the inside of the chimney being covered with soot, or blocked off cap.

If you have a new stove and flue install, you should probably look into the next ideas instead…

What to do about it? Well, you have to get the chimney cleaned, that’s all! You may do that yourself, but as always, it’s best to hire a chimney sweep who can do the job correctly; he can also inspect whether there is any damage to the structure while he’s at it.

The way i understand it is if there’s a significant amount of blockage in the chimney, that will reduce the amount of airflow that can pass through it effectively.

And that’s why the wood burner is only able to operate with the door cracked open, as it introduces the necessary amount of oxygen.

The air intake

If you got the flue cleaned out and ready to go, and still see this same problem happening, there may be something going on with the damper control…

And it makes a ton of sense how this could be the actual culprit – the damper regulates the amount of actual fresh air that gets into the wood stove. Block it off just a bit too much and you have a fire starving of air.

Now if you got the control way open and still see the burn die out as soon as you close the door, the damper may be locked up.

You can dig into the assembly yourself if you feel confident enough, but the goal here is to rule out any possibility of the air intake being faulty.

The wood is wet!

If you know me well enough, you know how worked up i get when i hear of somebody burning firewood that is not dry enough…

There are a million things that can go wrong when using such wood in a stove, and one of them is certainly the topic of this discussion.

Firewood must be lower than 20 percent in moisture content to burn right. If it’s any higher, you shouldn’t be surprised that it goes out, unless you keep the door cracked by an inch or two.

But it is very hard to figure out how much moisture is in the wood by eye. You have to get a moisture meter to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

The General Tools MMD43 on Amazon (link) is one of the better choices you can get, check it out.

Once you get one, don’t just stick it into a piece and call it a day! Take an axe, split the piece of wood you have in half and measure the freshly split side only. This will give you a great estimate on just how dry is the pile you got.

Again, if it is any higher than 20 percent, you have to stack the wood and let it season for more. If it’s anywhere near close to 30 percent, this can take a while.

If you don’t want to get this device right away, try purchasing a bundle of already dried firewood you can get in stores, gas stations.

Try making a fire with that stuff. Still no luck? Read on…

Are you building the fire the right way?

I’m being serious right here. You may be just doing the whole fire making process entirely wrong.

The secret to producing a good burn inside of a wood stove is starting small. You can’t just chuck in the largest pieces and expect it all to burn great.

First goes in the smallest splits, with some kindling. Then you add some larger pieces on top, and finally once it starts to get going, you go for the bigger stuff.

This wonderful YouTube video shows it all:

More potential reasons…

The chimney is not high enough. The taller the chimney, the better it draws air. Have a read about it here.

It may be too warm. By that i mean the outside temperature – draft works with the temperature difference between the outside air and inside. So if you try to light a stove when, for example, it is 50 degrees (10 C) outside, you may stumble into issues when maintaining a steady burn. In other words, you may need to wait until it gets just a bit colder…

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  1. Had a new wood stove insert installed. I don’t think they hooked up the air intake to the existing hole outside. Fire goes out unless I keep the door cracked open. Air intake when open only trickles. When I close it and the door even with a long substantial hear going, the fire will quickly reduce to coals and then go out. Is this normal?

    1. It’s possible that the air intake was not properly connected to the outside hole, as you suspect. It could also be that there is a blockage in the air intake or in the chimney, preventing proper airflow.

      I recommend contacting the company or technician who installed the stove insert and requesting a follow-up visit to check the air intake and chimney.

  2. Thanks for all info.
    Can the weather, the pressure, have an influence on how it draws. Normally my fire burns good but some days I pull my hair out.

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