Reasons for regular maintenance of stoves and the risks of neglect.

Any kind of appliance that does something with moving parts and especially those exposed to high temperatures , will need to be maintained regularly.
When it comes to maintenance people can normally be divided into three kinds:
1. Those that know , understand and appreciate the situation and whom will maintain their devices/appliances.
2. Those that know but think they can ‘risk it’ one more time.
3. Those who are just simply not aware. [Installers to blame here?]

Once you own a wood burning stove you become responsible to ensure it works safely , burns cleanly and hopefully lasts as long as possible. Unfortunately , many stove owners are unaware of the basic requirements needed to ensure it all keeps working correctly.

Wood burning stove maintenance

Stove maintenance can be broken down into three distinct sections. Much of the daily maintenance can be handled by the owner but some of the more complex maintenance will require professional help.

  1. Regular owner maintenance checks and stove servicing.

Ensure the stove is cold with no burning embers before undertaking any of the tasks below which are mostly straight forward , once you get used to them.

  • Clean out the ash on a regular basis. (This may seem obvious but it’s often overlooked and the old adage of a little ash in the fire bed for burning wood is often abused.)
  • Regularly check all controls for smooth movement.
  • Burn only seasoned or kiln dried wood that is the correct size for the firebox. Burning wood that is low quality or high in water content will damage your appliance and liner, may cause a chimney fire and is a nasty air pollutant.
  • Check firebricks for cracks monthly.
  • On a 1-3 monthly basis, the baffle plate should be removed and the flue way checked for soot build-up and potential blockage. If you are not confident with removing and replacing the baffle , get your chimney sweep to show you how or do it for you.
  • Clean the glass. If you cannot see the flames then you do not know how well your fire is burning. Remember moderate flaming combustion is what you need.
  • The last part of owner maintenance is planning regular expert maintenance from your local experienced chimney sweep.

2. Chimney sweeping

Regular sweeping of the chimney is imperative to the correct and safe functioning of all solid fuel appliances. Chimney sweeping is a profession that requires a diversified knowledge skill set , the correct equipment and a lot of experience.

It is widely accepted that all chimneys should be swept annually as a minimum. Some chimneys require sweeping twice per year and rarely some even more frequently, depending on use and a variety of other factors. A professional chimney sweep will also provide important advice and confirm with you the required sweeping frequency for your usage , which with a lot of other information will be recorded in his notes too.

3. Solid fuel servicing

Solid fuel servicing is often an unknown variable when people purchase stoves and similar appliances. Whilst it is true that many stoves often last a very long time, it is also true that their internal components often do not. Owners are often surmised to find many of these items are NOT covered by guarantees and are classified as consumables by manufacturers.

The internal stones and grates of an appliance should be designed to survive the rigors of use however they do decay, wear and occasionally break. Repeated opening and closing of doors degrades rope seals which will eventually require replacing. Controls and hinges can become loose or seize with time. Castings and the main body of the stove itself can warp or even crack.

Door Glass can be broken but more often becomes scratched or milky with use and replacing it is not as straightforward as replacing the glass of a house window. The glass used in stoves is often a clear pyro-ceramic which is held in place with heat proof fixings and sealed with a specially sized fiber glass rope. It is specially treated and pre-cut with beveled or smooth edges to prevent early failure

Many owners find it most beneficial to find a professional sweep who also undertakes servicing as this can save time , money and gives peace of mind. Experience is very important when servicing is involved as there are so many appliances , that only time and practice can teach.

Potential risks of maintenance neglect

There are many possible risks to the stove user who avoids or neglects the necessary maintenance and sweeping intervals:

Carbon monoxide poisoning even death
Chimney fire
House fires
Invalidated warranties**
Invalidated home insures**
Shortened appliance lifespan **
Greatly increased running costs
Excessively polluting our air quality
Angry neighbours

*** These risks are very real and significant ***

If you are unsure of what you must do yourself then call your local chimney sweep and ask to have your stove swept , while he is there you can ask for his advice. Although the advice in this post is good general advice please note it is not specific to your particular appliance.

You must take professional advise specific to your particular installation
So Make sure your installer educates you at the time of installation !!! You must also read and follow the guidelines set out by the appliance manufacturer in the instruction manual. You should also be aware of your home insurance company policy regulations and or small print.