Why the Top-Down Fire Starting Method Is Best For Wood Stoves

Example of the top-down fire lighting method using Lekto Natural Firelighters

There are many different ways to start a fire, but not all of them are equally good.

You’re probably familiar with the tepee (aka triangle) method. Many people also swear by the grid or Jenga tower arrangement. Both of these methods suggest starting with kindling and some firelighters. And it is only once the fuel is burning that you can add your main fuel to the fire. This is hardly convenient.

If you’re a camper, you’re probably also familiar with the lean-to, cross-ditch, and pyramid methods. These don’t require a two-step process, with you having to wait to add your kiln-dried logs and briquettes. But while they work great outdoors, they’re not suitable for indoor use in wood stoves and log burners.

This is where the top-down method comes in. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned wood heat user, this is the absolute best way for you to start a fire in your home. It’s an excellent technique that is perfect for most fireplaces, open fires, and wood stoves.

Take 5 minutes to read this article and you’ll master this method in no time!

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Benefits of the Top-Down Fire Lighting Method

So why is it that wood fuel experts recommend using the top-down method? Here are a few reasons:

  • It’s a 100% hands-off, one-step process. Unlike other popular fire-starting approaches, the top-down method is a one-step affair. This means you don’t have to stay near the stove and wait for your kindling to catch fire before adding your logs or briquettes.
  • It’s super easy and virtually foolproof. There’s nothing to go wrong. Simply follow a few simple steps and you’ll get a fire going every single time.
  • It helps your fire succeed by enhancing airflow. Thanks to the gaps left between the kindling, your fire is guaranteed to have an ample supply of air.
  • It pre-heats your stove and reduces smoke production. Start a big fire in a cold stove in the winter and you’ll wood fuels will start to smoke and your glass with turn black with soot. Why does this happen? Because of the temperature shock experienced by your cold stove when it is hit by a large amount of hot air. The top-down method eliminates this shock by adding in heat slowly and pre-heating your stove.

As you can see, the top-down fire lighting approach will save you time, as you won’t have to check back later to ensure your fuel has caught fire. You will also notice that very little smoke is produced, as the fire burns cleanly from the top of the stack. 

This method will also improve your overall wood fuel burning experience, as the top-down fire preheats your flue and warms the chimney without the obstruction of layers of wood fuel on top of your fire.

How to Build a Top-Down Fire

Creating a top-down fire in a wood stove is super simple. You’ll want to start by placing larger logs at the bottom, followed by smaller logs, kindling, and finally, a Natural Firelighter on top.

What Do You Need to Start a Top-Down Fire?

Here are all the tools and wood fuels you'll need to start a fire using the top-down method:

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build a Fire Using the Top-Down Method

Here’s how to build a top-down fire in a wood stove:

  • Step 1. Start by placing your main fuel at the bottom of your wood-burning stove or log burner. This method works well with kiln-dried logs (be they made of birch, oak, or ash), Hardwood Heat Logs, Pini Kay Eco Logs, and most other briquettes.
  • Step 2. Add your kindling. Stack kindling in a grid shape on top of your main fuel. Make sure you leave a bit of space between the pieces to let the air flow around and through them. Once you’re more comfortable with the method, you can also experiment with arranging it in the form of a pyramid or simply pile it up on top of your logs.
  • Step 3. Place a few firelighters on top of the shape. If you’re using Lekto’s Natural Firelighters, one or two pieces will more than suffice. If you’re using regular firelighters from your local supermarket, you may want to use three to four pieces.
  • Step 4. Set the firelighter ablaze. After a few seconds, the firelighter will start burning nicely. After a minute or two, it’ll set your kindling ablaze. Your kindling, in turn, will eventually set your main wood fuel on fire.
  • Extra tip: Remember to adjust your stove’s air intake after 10 to 12 minutes as less air is needed once your fire is blazing. If you’re using quality firewood or briquettes, the emanating smoke will be a pleasant white or light grey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the top-down fire-starting method?

The top-down fire lighting method is an effective, one-step technique for starting a fire. Place the logs you want to burn at the very bottom, place smaller logs on top of them, followed by wood kindling, and a firelighter on top. Once this is done, simply light the fire lighter to start the first.

Why is the top-down fire method so popular?

This method is commonly recommended by experts because it’s foolproof, easy to learn, and helps lower the amount of time you spend starting a fire.

How do I build a top-down fire in a wood stove?

Start your logs or briquettes at the bottom, place kindling below, and place a fire starter on top. Light the fire starter and the fire will make its way downwards on its own.

What are the benefits of using Natural Firelighters for a top-down fire?

Lekto Natural Firelighters are twice as large as conventional chemical firelighters. As a result, they produce a lot more heat and can burn for as long as 10 minutes. This makes them a perfect choice for the top-down method as it requires plenty of heat to start.

This article was updated on December 2023.