Maintaining a Wood Burning Stove: How to Keep It Running Smoothly

Wood burning stove Penguin Idris

The Basics Of Wood Stove Maintenance

Maintaining your wood burning stove is important for giving it a long life and getting the best from it. It’s easy to get into a simple routine of cleaning and maintaining your stove which will give you the most from your investment in such a beautiful addition to your home.

Firstly, regularly cleaning your wood stove is essential. You should routinely remove excess ash from the firebox, always leave about 25mm of ash in the stove base as wood burns better when sat in ask, remove ash from the flue and chimney to stop it from obstructing the airflow and causing a potential fire hazard particularly if you have a rear flue connection on the stove. This not only improves the efficiency of your stove but also reduces the risk of creosote accumulation; creosote is a highly flammable substance that can lead to chimney fires. It’s also important to inspect and clean the stove’s glass window. This gives you a clear view of the flames, and allows you to monitor the fire easily and make sure it’s burning properly.

Secondly, choosing the right fuel and storing it correctly add to your wood stove’s health. Using seasoned hardwood with low moisture content is perfect for efficient wood stove running and reduced creosote buildup. Storing wood in a dry, covered area protects it from moisture, ensuring it burns cleanly and produces less smoke. These maintenance practices not only extend the lifespan of your wood burning stove but also improve its energy efficiency meaning cost savings for you. Regular wood stove care will not only keep the stove operating effectively but also give you a safer and more environmentally friendly heating experience.


Cleaning Your Wood Burning Stove

Cleaning your wood stove thoroughly involves several steps to keep it safe and make sure it’s performing well. Here’s a detailed guide to wood stove care:

  • 1. Cleaning the Glass:
  • a. Allow the stove to cool completely before starting cleaning
  • b. Most dirt can be removed with a damp cloth, if not use a specialised stove glass cleaner
  • c. Use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to scrub the glass gently, removing any residue
  • d. Wipe the glass with a clean, damp cloth to remove any remaining cleaner
  • 2. Cleaning the Interior:
  • a. Wear gloves and a dust mask for protection
  • b. Remove ash from the firebox, making sure there are no embers
  • c. Use a small brush and dustpan to clean out loose debris and ash
  • d. Vacuum the interior with a stove-friendly vacuum or ash vacuum, paying attention to corners and crevices
  • e. Inspect the door gaskets for any wear and tear and replace them if necessary
  • f. Check the baffle and firebricks for damage and replace them if needed
  • 3. Cleaning the Flue and Chimney:
  • a. Schedule an annual professional chimney sweep to remove creosote buildup and inspect for any blockages or damage
  • b. Install a chimney cap to stop debris, animals and rain from getting in
  • c. Inspect the chimney pipe for any signs of rust or damage and replace if necessary
  • 4. Cleaning the Exterior:
  • a. Allow the stove to cool completely
  • b. Wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth to remove any dust or ash
  • c. For enamel surfaces, use a mild soapy water solution to clean
  • d. For cast iron surfaces, consider reapplying a thin coat of stove polish after cleaning to protect the finish

wood burning stove

Extra Stove Cleaning Tips

  • Never use abrasive cleaners or steel wool on the glass or any part of the stove
  • Check and clean the stove regularly during the season to prevent excessive buildup
  • Store wood in a dry place to minimise moisture and reduce creosote formation
  • Removing ash and checking for creosote buildup is essential, as it can easily lead to chimney fires if left unchecked
  • Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific cleaning instructions tailored to your wood stove model

Choosing The Right Fuel

Using the right type of wood is important for ensuring your stove burns efficiently and cleanly. The choice of wood significantly influences combustion, heat output and the overall performance of your stove. The two main factors to consider are the type of wood and its moisture content.

Types of Wood For Your Stove

Hardwoods such as oak, ash and birch are denser and burn more slowly, providing a longer-lasting and more consistent heat output. Softwoods like pine and fir burn more quickly, generating intense heat but requiring more frequent reloading. A mix of both can be good for a balance of heat and longevity.

Moisture Content

Burning well-seasoned wood with a moisture content of around 20% or less is the best choice. Seasoned wood ignites more easily, produces less smoke and generates more heat. It’s perfect for clean wood burning. Green or wet wood not only burns inefficiently but also leads to the formation of creosote in the chimney, posing a fire hazard.

Tips On Choosing And Storing Your Wood

  • Make sure wood is properly seasoned with a moisture content of around 20% or less, allowing it to dry for at least six months to a year in a well-ventilated, covered space
  • Use a moisture metre to check the wood’s readiness
  • When storing wood, stack it off the ground to stop it from absorbing moisture, and cover it to shield it against rain
  • By carefully choosing and storing your wood, you’ll maximise your wood stove’s efficiency, minimise the risk of chimney fires and have a cleaner and more environmentally friendly stove

Annual Servicing and Inspections

An annual professional inspection and wood stove servicing are essential for keeping your burner in top condition. A certified chimney sweep can thoroughly assess critical components, such as the chimney, flue and internal parts, to find any potential issues or safety hazards. Professional inspections are crucial for detecting creosote buildup, which, if left unchecked, can lead to chimney fires. Also, sweeps can assess the condition of gaskets, firebricks and other elements that might be making your stove less efficient. Regular servicing makes sure your stove operates at its peak performance, maximising heat output while minimising the environmental impact. Investing in this annual checkup not only addresses potential safety risks before they become an issue but it also extends the lifespan of your wood stove. An annual professional inspection will give you peace of mind that your stove is safe and clean to use.

Recognising Common Issues

There are a few common issues to be aware of with wood-burning stoves, and recognising them early can stop further damage. One frequent problem is the accumulation of creosote in the chimney, which can lead to reduced airflow, reduced stove efficiency and even the risk of chimney fires. Signs of excessive creosote include a dark, tar-like substance inside chimney walls, a pungent odour and visible smoke while the stove is in use. A build up of creosote is normally a result of burning damp wood or labouring the stove. Another issue is a damaged or worn-out gasket, which can cause air leaks, hindering the stove’s ability to control combustion. You should inspect the gasket for any signs of fraying or gaps, especially around the door and replace it quickly if necessary.

Knowing when to call a professional for wood stove repairs is crucial to address issues beyond basic wood burner upkeep. If there is a persistent smoke issue, difficulty starting or maintaining a fire, or if the stove shows signs of damage like cracks, it’s time to consult a professional technician. Unusual noises, like rattling or banging, could indicate loose or damaged parts that need expert attention. If there is evidence of chimney fires, like a loud cracking or popping sound, you must get professional help immediately and address potential structural damage. Regular professional inspections, at least once a year, are recommended to catch and resolve issues early.

Enhancing Stove Safety

There are extra safety precautions you can take when using a wood burning stove, beyond basic stove maintenance. Install carbon monoxide detectors to alert you to any potentially deadly gas leaks, as wood stoves can produce carbon monoxide during combustion. Make sure your home is properly ventilated by keeping air vents open, so you have good airflow to stop the buildup of indoor pollutants. Additionally, have a professional chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney annually to reduce the risk of chimney fires caused by creosote buildup. Maintain a safe clearance between the stove and combustible materials, such as furniture or curtains, and use a heat-resistant barrier if needed. These precautions create a safer environment for enjoying the warmth and comfort of your wood-burning stove.

Professional Help for Your Wood Burning Stove

Just some regular cleaning and checks as well as choosing and storing the right wood can make your wood burning stove experience so much better and safer. Getting expert advice from Iron and Wood can help extend your stove’s lifespan and make sure it’s operating safely and efficiently. Take advantage of their expertise to resolve small issues before they become big problems.

Love your wood burner for years to come. Reach out to Iron and Wood for expert advice and high-quality wood burners.