wood-burning stoves tips and checks

Wood Burning Stove Tips and Checks

If you already own a wood-burning stove, you want it to last for years and keep your home warm and cosy.

To do that, you’ll need to maintain it properly and look after it. But how? Well, Plumbworld has put together some vital and handy tips to keep your wood burner in top condition. The same goes for maintenance checks that you can do ahead of autumn and winter.

We’ll cover everything, from cleaning to safety tips. There’s no getting around the fact that a wood-burning stove does require some additional maintenance. Some of these you’ll be able to do yourself, others will require professional help.

Read on to find out more about wood-burning stove maintenance tips and checks…

Cleaning Your Wood-Burning Stove

Let’s start with the most obvious maintenance task and one that you can do yourself - cleaning.

A dirty stove can potentially make your room messy, we know you don’t want that. However, keeping it clean will make your wood burner more efficient and can even increase the lifetime of your stove. This will save you money in the long term.

Read more: Wood Burning Stove Buying Guide

Here are some useful tips to take on board when it comes to cleaning your stove:

  • Get into a regular cleaning pattern; daily, weekly fortnightly or monthly would be recommended.
  • Clean more regularly in line with how much you use your stove. For example, as you use the stove more in winter, you should clean it more often.
  • Only burn dry wood in your stove. Avoid using painted or varnished wood, it’s often been treated with chemicals.
  • You need to be prepared to clean the exterior, interior, the flue and the glass door of your wood-burning stove. Each will require slightly different methods.
  • When not in use, leave the stove door slightly open to allow a flow of air through the system, which helps stop corrosion.

Some essential equipment you’ll need for cleaning your wood burner will include newspaper or old sheets to cover your floor, gloves, a small brush, a small ash shovel, metal ash container and a spray bottle.

Cleaning the Inside

Aduro 1-1 Black Freestanding Wood Burning Stove 6kW Eco Design - 132-50215

Of course, you must always make sure that you wait for the fire inside the stove to cool before you empty the ash. 

Important: Wear protective gloves when cleaning the inside of your stove.

Use a small spade to move the ash from the fire into a metal ash container, or a metal bucket. Never use anything plastic to store the remaining ash, you could easily cause heat damage. When moving the ash, be careful not to spill it and gently slide the ash off the spade at the bottom of the bucket or container. Do not just dump the ashes in the bucket. 

Once you’ve placed the ashes in the metal container, take it to a safe place outdoors and keep it there. When we say ‘safe place’, we generally mean away from any bushes, trees or any material that is flammable. Your ashes will still have temperature in them. Leave the ashes for over 24 hours before you dispose of it in your garden to cool properly.

Important: Do not store ashes inside, they can cause carbon monoxide to build up and eventually spread through your home.

Clean and Check the Glass

Mendip Christon 750 Freestanding Wood Burning Stove 8.7kW Eco Design & DEFRA

Even though most wood-burning stoves operate a system which keeps the glass clean and secure, you may still see instances of cracks emerging.

Cracked glass on your wood burner door is not only dangerous but it will also reduce the efficiency of your stove and increase your fuel bill. As soon as a crack is visible on the stove glass, no matter how small, it has been compromised and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

For cleaning, most modern stoves are fitted with an air wash system to keep the glass clean. If your stove doesn’t feature this, clean your glass daily with a specialist cleaning product made for use on stoves. Another option is to use an old newspaper or cloth dipped in malt vinegar and wipe the surface.

Important: Don’t use an abrasive product to clean the glass as this will cause permanent damage.

Cleaning the Outside

This is generally quite a straightforward job compared to what you’ve had to do so far, with no additional equipment needed.

Cleaning the outside of your stove can be managed with a standard hoover and using any soft brush attachments to remove traces of dust or ash. Do this regularly to prevent any build-up that might potentially damage the exterior of your stove or your flooring. Always use a dry cloth to clean the exterior, never a damp cloth. This can cause rust to form.

Cleaning your Flue or Chimney

Henley Lisbon 700 Charcoal/Black Glass Inset Wood Burning Stove 10kW - ST091

This is the first job we come to that will need professional help unless you have a lot of drain rods and know the layout of your chimney.

This is a tricky job but is incredibly important. A build-up of soot in the chimney or flue can mean that the smoke isn’t expelled properly, and could come back down. Any blockages can lead to potentially fatal gas escaping into your room. Thankfully, carbon monoxide metres are now commonplace and should be in every home that has a stove.

Tip: Burn your stove hard for at least 30 minutes every day, particularly in winter to help keep the flue clear. You will need to clean the excess soot from the chimney.

When it comes to sweeping your chimney, the general consensus dictates that you should have your chimney cleaned at least once a year, if not twice. This is to make sure everything is working properly. If issues are found at a relatively early stage, they can be rectified. however, those left until late can eventually cause serious damage.

Important: Failing to sweep a chimney can lead to a build-up of creosote and subsequent risk of chimney fires. It also reduces the efficiency of your stove.

A professional chimney sweep will provide important advice and confirm the required sweeping frequency for your usage. They must also smoke test the flue or chimney to ensure the safe release of flue gasses to the outside air. They may check ventilation, distances to combustibles, fuel storage and carbon monoxide alarms.

Check for Rust

Mendip Somerton II Side Glass Wood Burning Stove 7kW DEFRA Approved

This is unlikely to be a problem you will encounter with a modern stove, but it’s worth mentioning and be aware of nonetheless. 

If you do spot any rust, it’s always better to act sooner rather than later to nip the problem in the bud. You can rub the rusted area with wire wool and then reapply stove paint to get your stove looking as good as new.

One way to avoid rust forming is during the summer months. It’s unlikely that you’ll use your stove on a regular basis, so it can be relatively easy for condensation to emerge within your stove. This will eventually prompt rust to form. Therefore, ensure there is a constant airflow in and around your wood-burning stove to avoid condensation and protect against rust. 

To do this, keep your stove door slightly ajar when it’s not in use. Be careful not to open it too much to avoid placing excessive pressure on the hinges.

Repaint your Stove

While it’s unlikely to happen suddenly, the outer coating of your stove can be worn away and will need to be repainted.

When you consider the heat created by a modern wood-burning stove, you can see why the outer coating will eventually start to age and become a little worn. This is a consequence of the constant heat thinning and drying out the paint. 

The underlying body of the stove is extremely durable and a simple repaint over the summer months, when you’re unlikely to be using your stove very often, is best. Use specialist stove paint to not only bring an ageing stove back to life but ensure heat efficiency.

Check your Stove for Gaps

Mendip Christon 550 Freestanding Wood Burning Stove 4.8kW Eco Design & DEFRA

Most traditional wood-burning stoves are manufactured from cast-iron but while it’s very robust, it is made of various panels which are joined together and sealed. 

The downside is that, over time, you may start to see gaps emerge between these panels which will leak heat, reduce output and increase your fuel bills. Any gaps need to be sealed with fire cement immediately.

Check your Stove’s Fire Rope

Similar to gaps in stove panels, this issue could lead to heat being leaked, so you must check the fire rope around your stove’s glass door.

The fire rope plays a vital role by creating a barrier between your room and the stove combustion chamber. As soon as the fire rope begins to deteriorate, heat will be leaking into your room in an uncontrolled manner. The deterioration will only get worse so it is advisable to act sooner rather than later. Fire rope and glue are cheap but play a crucial role.

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