Fireplace set for top-down lighting

The Top-Down Method: A Brilliant Way to Light Your Wood-Burning Stove

Lighting a wood-burning stove can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. 

Enter the top-down method explained to you by Swept. Chimney Sweeping Services – a technique that not only simplifies the process but also enhances the efficiency of your stove. In this guide, we'll explore the steps to master the top-down method and ensure a hassle-free and satisfying experience.

Why the Top-Down Method?

The traditional bottom-up method involves placing kindling and newspaper at the bottom of the stove and stacking larger logs on top. While this method can work, it often requires more attention and maintenance. The top-down method, on the other hand, is a more fool proof approach, promoting efficient and clean burns. Here's why:

Efficiency: Lighting the fire from the top generates the most heat in the shortest time to encourage the flue to draw. It also allows the heat to gradually descend, igniting each layer of wood in its path. This results in a slow and even burn, maximizing the stove's efficiency and producing less smoke.

Less Smoke, More Heat: The top-down method produces significantly less smoke compared to the bottom-up method. As the fire burns downwards, it heats up the wood below more efficiently, leading to a hotter fire and a cleaner burn.

Reduced Maintenance: Once the fire is lit using the top-down method, it requires less intervention. There's no need to constantly tend to the fire or add more wood immediately, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the warmth.

Step-by-Step Guide to the Top-Down Method:

Prepare Your Materials:

  • Quality firewood: Use seasoned hardwood for the best results.
  • Kindling: Small, dry twigs or branches work well.
  • Newspaper: Crumple a few sheets to use as the initial tinder or use fire lighters.

Clear the Stove: Remove any ash or debris from the previous fire, ensuring proper airflow.

Add Larger Logs: Place larger logs at the base of the stove.

Place Kindling on top of the logs: Lay a small bed of kindling at the top of the stove. Make sure the pieces are dry and well-arranged to promote good ignition. Use a criss-cross stacking formation

Light the Newspaper or fire lighters: Place a few crumpled sheets of newspaper or fire lighters at the top of the stack and light them. The flame will gradually work its way down to ignite the kindling and larger logs.

Close the Door Gently: Once the fire is established, close the stove door gently. This helps control the airflow and encourages a slower, more controlled burn.

Enjoy the Fire: Sit back, relax, and let the top-down method work its magic. You'll be rewarded with a beautiful, efficient fire that provides both warmth and ambiance.


Mastering the top-down method for lighting a wood-burning stove is a skill that pays off in terms of efficiency, cleanliness, and overall enjoyment. By following these simple steps, you can create a fire that not only warms your space but also does so with minimal effort and maximum effectiveness. So, the next time you cosy up by your wood-burning stove, consider using the top-down method for a truly delightful and stress-free experience. Contact Swept. Chimney Sweeping Services with any queries.

Written by Gary Walker 
Gary, owner of Swept. Chimney Sweeping Services in Huddersfield, is a HETAS trained and approved chimney sweep, co-founder of GD Logs (, and an award-winning direct marketing expert. Raised on a small holding with a passion for wood burners since the 80s, Gary is City & Guilds NPTC qualified in Chainsaws and Tree Felling. He advocates for sustainable heating fuels and possesses a passion for wood burning stoves. 

Read our next blog: How often should I get my log burner swept?

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