Looking after a stove

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I have previously commented that owning a wood burning stove is a bit like getting a dog. (See this article from the Independent). Both need looking after, feeding, regular attention and proper treatment. Although this comment was made several years ago, I would still agree today.

First and foremost, I (like everyone else in the industry) would strongly recommend that you get your chimney swept at least once a year. This will help to ensure that your flue systems remains clear of soot and tar, allowing your fire to maintain a good draw and preventing chimney fires. It may seem expensive and unnecessary to have this carried out annually, but trust me, it is a false economy not to do it.

In addition to an annual sweeping, I would also recommend that you carry out a thorough service of your stove about twice a year. Remove any debris from above the baffle plate, examine register plate and flue pipe seals and re-joint if necessary, and inspect the door seals and replace these if needed. At the same time, give the firebox a good clean out and check that your firebricks, baffle and grate are all in good condition.

I observed in the Independent article that despite the high efficiency of today’s wood burning and multi fuel stoves (often over 80%), many customers come to us primarily for the comfort a wood burning stove can offer, as well as the focus that it provides for a room. People look to enjoy their stove.

With this in mind, it is also important to keep the stove looking good. Stove polish is really the best thing to use to blacken the body of the stove, and can often even be used as an alternative to re-painting your appliance. Hotspot sell a type which you can use like shoe polish: just rub on and polish off.

To clean the glass, a neat trick is to dip a piece of damp kitchen towel in soft wood ash and use this to wipe away any black marks. This works quite effectively, but doesn’t polish it up as effectively as stove glass cleaner does. There are many different types of glass cleaner on the market, but the one by ACR is a favourite among our installers, as they find the foaming action wipes away even stubborn soot marks easily and effectively.

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What to expect the first time you use your stove

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Over the years I have fitted a wide variety of stoves into many different homes. Although each installation is naturally quite different, there are many aspects of having a wood burning stoves which customers often don’t expect.

When lighting a new wood burner for the first time, people are often surprised that the fire can fill the room with smoke. They worry that the appliance has not been sealed properly or that there is something wrong with their brand new stove. Yet most of the time this is actually nothing to worry about, as it is actually the high temperature paint on the stove curing with the heat. Although many new stove owners may have heard about this, they may not expect the quantity of smoke which can be produced. I have in the past seen a large living room filled with fog!

To help this process, when the stove is used for the first time, people should allow a hot fire to build up over a long period of time. Very dry, seasoned wood should be used to create this. Using dry wood will also help to prevent tar building up in your chimney and ensure that the stove glass remains clean: even the most sophisticated airwash systems fail to work if wet wood is used on a fire.

For optimum burning, I would recommend using wood that has been seasoned for more than twelve months, and has a moisture content of less than 18%. How do I work out the moisture content of wood? I use one of these. Using your eyes also works though – look out for deep cracks in the wood and bark that peels away easily.