How to Maintain a Wood Stove

In order to keep your woodstove from becoming dangerous to you and your family and to keep it from causing damage to your home, it needs to be regularly and thoroughly maintained.  The size of the stove and the chimney and how often the stove is used can play a factor in determining the intervals between cleaning, but twice each season that it is in use should be considered your minimum.   Be careful and never attempt any maintenance like this unless the stove is cool.  Follow these simple methods to keep the source of your winter warmth working the way it should.

Maintaining the Chimney

If at all possible hire a chimney professional for this part as it will involve purchasing specialized brushes and cleaning rods and will require to put yourself in danger by spending time on the roof of your home.  Get quotes from local chimney sweeps and compare these to the price of purchasing the necessary equipment.  If after doing this you still choose to do this yourself make certain to take steps to do it safely.  Depending on the severity of the buildup professionals will often apply chemicals to help breakdown the hardened or “glazed” creosote in a chimney.  While, as a homeowner, you may not be comfortable with and may not have access to these kinds of things, there are “Chimney Sweeping Logs” that are impregnated with chemicals meant to do the same thing.  Do yourself a favor and make this job as quick and easy as possible by doing this before you find yourself exerting more effort than is necessary while on your roof.

  • Measure the size of your chimney flue and purchase the appropriately sized cleaning brush and corresponding extension rod(s)
  • Lean the rod up against the house near the spot you intend to set your ladder or have someone available to hand it up to you.  Do not attempt to climb the ladder while holding the brush
  • Slide the brush down flue moving it up and down and in a twisting motion.  Do this until debris stops falling.

Some chimneys have an opening on the outside of the house specifically designed to catch the debris and buildup that you just removed.  If this is the case, after waiting for any dust to settle, carefully empty and clean this chamber.  For chimneys without this convenience you may have to remove the flue where it exits the stove and pick out any additional debris from the stove itself.

Maintaining the Glass on a Wood Stove

The glass on the door of your woodstove is obviously not ordinary glass.  It is both thicker and tempered differently to withstand extreme temperatures.  Companies you may recognize for other household items like CORNING, produce PYROCERAM a which is widely used in woodstoves.  Others, like NEOCERAM and SCHOTT ROBAX also produce this type of glass.  As some of these companies have specific “do’s and dont’s” when it comes to cleaning, try to find out which brand your stove was built with.  Take these instructions as general rules unless otherwise directed by manufacturer recommendations.   As mentioned above, do not attempt to clean the glass while it is still hot or while the fire is burning.

  • Use a combination of ammonia and vinegar in a spray bottle to break down the foggy build up.
  • For stubborn or sticky spots, use this combination sprayed on your rag and then dipped in ashes from the stove.  This will act as a light abrasive to get the gunk moving while not damaging the glass.
  • Again, depending on manufacturer recommendations, a good old fashioned “scraping” may be in order.  Something flexible like a putty knife is less likely to damage the glass than a painter’s tool or a razor.
  • You may also consider commercially available cleaners or degreasers provided they can be used indoors safely and will not damage the glass

Whatever method you end up using, take care not to compromise the integrity of the glass.  Careless scraping or scouring may damage the glass.  Once damaged, this glass is not easily repaired or replaced and depending on the age of the stove, may not be available at all.

Maintaining the Stove Itself

The stove itself is likely as tough as a tank.  If installed properly, maintained regularly and not used for burning things other than wood,  it should be pretty much bullet proof.  But since you have already taken the time to get up on the roof, clean the chimney, empty the debris and worn out your elbow cleaning the glass…you might as well take a good look at the rest of the unit.

  • Check vents for debris or blockage.
  • Keep ashes from piling up
  • Examine the hinges and seals around the door(s) to ensure that soot or flaming debris does not escape.

We all know that there can be more than one right answer to any question.  Use good sense, practice safety and follow any available manufacturer recommendations to ensure that your woodstove provides you with safe and worry-free service.

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