The cold winds of winter are just around the corner, and nothing beats the comforting warmth of a wood-burning stove during those chilly nights. But before you light up the first logs of the season, it's essential to ensure your stove is ready to operate efficiently and safely.

Here's a comprehensive guide on wood-burning stove maintenance from the Direct Stoves team to help you prepare.

A thorough stove examination

After a summer of sitting idle, ensuring your stove is in top condition before using it for the winter is paramount. A detailed examination will not only promise a better performance but also ensure your safety. Here are the key areas to focus on:

Door seals

The door seals, also known as gaskets, ensure that the smoke and heat from the wood are efficiently channelled through the chimney. If these seals are worn out or do not fit snugly, they can compromise your stove's efficiency and let smoke leak into your home.

Learn more: Common Causes of Stove Smoking and How to Prevent It

How to check door seals

Close the door with a piece of paper placed at various points around the seal. If you can pull the paper out with ease, it's a sign the seal isn't tight. It might be time to replace the gasket.

Stove glass

Your stove's glass window isn't just for viewing those mesmerising flames – it also plays an essential role in stove safety. Cracks or chips can be potential weak points, leading to breakages in the future or affecting the stove's efficiency.

Read more: Why Stove Glass Blackens and How To Get the Most from an Airwash System

How to inspect stove glass

Use a torch to inspect the glass closely. This will help you spot any minute cracks or chips that might not be easy to see in standard lighting. If you find any imperfections, replace the glass to prevent potential hazards.

Examine the interior

It's easy to forget about the inside of your stove, but it's just as crucial as the gaskets and glass. Over time, the interior walls can deteriorate or accumulate residue that can hamper the stove's efficiency.

How to check the interior

With the stove cool and unused for several hours, open the door and check the interior walls. If you notice excessive build-up or if the fire bricks lining the stove appear crumbly or damaged, consider cleaning or replacing them. Note that tiny cracks in firebricks are normal and usually not a cause for concern.

Learn more: What to Do About Cracked Firebricks

Check for rust and external wear

Rust or wear on the external body of the stove can be a sign of water infiltration or age. Not only can this compromise the appearance of your stove, but it can also be a sign of structural issues that must be addressed.

Protecting the exterior

Regularly wipe the exterior with a dry cloth to remove moisture or dust as part of your wood-burning stove maintenance routine. If you notice any rust spots, it's worth contacting your stove's manufacturer to determine the best course of action. This may be covered by your warranty, depending on the cause.

Inspect the stove's feet and base

The feet and base support the entire weight of the stove and, over time, can wear out or become unstable. A wobbly stove can be a safety hazard.

How to check the feet and base

Periodically push gently against the stove to see if there's any movement. If the stove wobbles or doesn't sit flat, it might be time to tighten the feet or check the integrity of the base.

Read more: How To Clean & Maintain Your Wood Burning Stove

The importance of a clean chimney

A functioning and safe stove requires a chimney in good working order. This vital conduit ensures that your stove's smoke, gasses, and small particles are safely directed outside, away from your living space. But like any system, it can face issues over time. Before you use your stove again for the winter, checking (and potentially sweeping) the chimney is an essential part of wood-burning stove maintenance.

Why it matters

Over time, as you burn wood, various residues like soot, tar, and creosote accumulate on the inside walls of the chimney. Not only can these decrease the efficiency of your stove by narrowing the passage for smoke, but they can also pose serious fire hazards.

  • Creosote build-up: This is a dark, sticky substance that is highly flammable. It can ignite if allowed to build up in thick layers, leading to chimney fires.
  • Health implications: A blocked or partially blocked chimney can cause smoke to flow back into your home. This can result in carbon monoxide build-up, an odourless gas with serious health consequences.

Annual cleaning

At Direct Stoves, we always recommend cleaning your chimney at least once a year, ideally before winter sets in. A professional chimney sweep will clear away any soot and creosote build-up, leaving your chimney ready to go for the winter months. What's more, they'll also check for any blockages, such as debris or birds' nests, and remove them.

Learn more: Why You Need to Sweep Your Chimney

Flue inspection

The flue is the inner lining of your chimney, and its integrity is essential. It protects the brickwork of the chimney from the corrosive by-products of combustion. Also, it provides a smooth channel for smoke to escape.

During your annual chimney cleaning and wood-burning stove maintenance routine, request a detailed inspection of the flue. The sweep should look for any cracks, gaps, or signs of wear. Consider repairing or replacing the flue liner to ensure safe stove operation if any damage is discovered.

Checking for structural damage

The exterior of your chimney can also face wear and tear. Cracks, loose bricks, or a damaged chimney crown can allow water to seep in, leading to further deterioration.

At least twice a year, preferably before and after winter, visually inspect your chimney's exterior. If you spot any issues or are unsure about the chimney's condition, consult a professional.

Cap it off

A chimney cap is a protective cover placed on the top of the chimney. It prevents rainwater, birds, and debris from entering, which can cause blockages or damage.

If your chimney doesn't have a cap, consider installing one. If it does, check its condition during your biannual exterior inspections to ensure it is secure and undamaged.

Making safety a priority

High temperatures, flammable material, and indoor confinement make safety a paramount concern when using a wood-burning stove. With a proactive approach to stove safety, you can enjoy the winter warmth without undue worries.

Maintain a safe perimeter

A burning stove radiates immense heat, which can inadvertently cause burn injuries or ignite flammable items. Establish a non-combustible zone around your stove based on the manufacturer's guidelines. This means keeping furniture, curtains, and other flammable materials at least one metre from the stove.

Read more: Storing Firewood Near Your Stove: How to Make Sure It's Safe

It's a good idea to regularly inspect the area around your stove, ensuring no items have been left too close. Consider marking or designating a clear zone to remind household members of the safe distance.

Monitor carbon monoxide

When wood burns, it releases carbon monoxide (CO), a colourless and odourless gas. CO can build up to dangerous levels in confined spaces, with inadequate ventilation or a malfunctioning stove.

CO alarms are designed to detect elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the air, sounding an alert to warn occupants. Ensure a CO alarm is installed in the room where your stove is located, and test it regularly. It's a small investment that offers peace of mind and protection.

Learn more: Do You Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Ensure adequate ventilation

Proper ventilation ensures that the combustion gases from your stove are expelled efficiently, and fresh air is circulated around the room.

For stoves to function optimally, they need a consistent supply of fresh air. This helps in efficient combustion and also ensures harmful gases are quickly dispersed. Make sure that the room with the stove has adequate ventilation. If you've recently added insulation or sealed doors and windows to conserve heat, check that the room doesn't become too airtight.

Learn more: Log Burner Ventilation: Why Do I Need an Air Vent?

Handle ashes carefully

Ashes, even those that appear cold, can retain heat for long periods and reignite if they come into contact with flammable materials.

Use a metal container with a tight-fitting lid to collect ashes. Place it on a non-combustible surface, away from wooden structures or flammable materials. Allow ashes to cool for several days before disposing of them.

Make it a routine to clear out ashes from your stove, following the recommended safety precautions. This not only enhances safety but also promotes better combustion.

Learn more: How to Properly Put Out a Fire in A Log Burner

Caring for your hearth

The hearth – the floor on which your wood-burning stove stands – is often overlooked amid stove maintenance. However, checking before using your stove in the winter is just as essential. 

This platform is usually made of stone, tile, or other non-combustible materials, which is pivotal in safety and aesthetic appeal. A well-maintained hearth not only safeguards your floor from sparks, heat, and debris but also improves the overall ambience of your stove setting.

Regular cleaning

As with any part of your stove system, the hearth requires consistent cleaning to keep it in top shape.

Depending on how often you use your stove, ash, soot, or wood debris might accumulate on the hearth. A regular sweep prevents build-up and ensures the area remains clean.

Learn more: Wood Burning Stove Hearth Buying Guide

Inspect for wear and tear

Despite their robust nature, hearths can show signs of wear over time, especially with frequent stove use.

Check your hearth for any signs of cracks or damage before using your stove in the winter. Even minor fractures can become problematic if left unattended. If you notice any signs of wear, get professional advice. Depending on the material, you might need to repair or replace a hearth section.

Winter is closer than you think – and it's time to prepare the home for warmth and comfort. By taking some time to inspect, clean, and maintain your wood-burning stove, you ensure many cosy nights ahead.

Looking to upgrade your stove in time for winter? There's still plenty of time – check out our wood-burning and multi-fuel stove ranges. Whether you're looking for increased efficiency or better features, you'll find what you need at Direct Stoves.

Plus, we offer free delivery to the UK mainland, 14-day no-hassle returns, and a range of finance options to spread the cost.

Any questions? Contact our friendly customer service team at [email protected] or call 0161 516 5139. You can also visit our showrooms in Cheadle, Bromsgrove, and Stockport.