Wood Stove Maintenance Checklist
Wood stoves require an added amount of maintenance from the homeowner. There’s a big reason for this. Burning wood is a dirty business. It produces ashes, and creosote at a greater amount, when compared to burning most fossil fuels. So, here are some yearly items to examine regarding your wood stove. This checklist should be reviewed prior to the start of the regular heating season, in late summer or sometime during the autumn.
You Can Still Use Your Non-EPA Certified Wood Stove
Check for a label on your stove. If it was manufactured since 1988, it’s probably certified by the United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The label on your stove will indicate if it is EPA-certified. If you own a non-EPA-certified wood stove, you’re fine. Contrary to comments written online, the EPA isn’t out to stop you from using your wood stove. There are 9 million out of the 12 million wood stoves used in the U.S. that don’t have EPA certification. The EPA is just updating standards on the sale of new wood burning stoves starting in 2015 to make them burn 80 percent cleaner than existing stoves. The key point is to realize that all wood stoves require regular maintenance. An added emphasis to maintenance should be addressed if you own a non-EPA-certified wood stove.
The Nitty-Gritty Wood Stove Inspection
Once you know the certification of your stove, here is the heart of your stove’s inspection:
- Gaskets – Every wood stove is built with a door through which you insert your wood fuel. Doors come with a braided, rope-like gasket. In time, this gasket becomes loose, or completely burned off. Poke at the gasket. If it easily comes loose, buy a replacement fiberglass gasket and some gasket cement. Pull out the old gasket, cut new gasket material to the proper size, apply the cement and pop your new gasket into place.
- Hinges – Check all hinges on these same doors. Usually, the hinge is nothing more than a pin that the door swings on. If they’re severely worn, replace them with replacement hinges from the wood stove manufacturer, or from a hardware store.
- Glass – Tempered glass is used in wood stove doors. Inspect it for cracks. If cracked, replace it with tempered glass from the manufacturer. If the glass is black, clean it. Glass that blackens in one day indicates poor fire conditions, such as burning green firewood, or not allowing enough oxygen into the firebox during combustion.
- Metal Fatigue – Check the structural integrity of the metal in the stove. This is especially important for a non-EPA-certified wood stove that is probably of a pre-1988 era. Look for cracks, especially in welds and seams. To do this, place a trouble light inside the fire box of the stove. Close all air vents. If you see light, you might have a crack. Inspect even further, if you see light. Your stove is not rendered useless with cracks, especially if the stove manufacturer is still in business. Often a quick online check can result in parts to rebuild a wood stove, thereby eliminating unwanted cracks.
- Fire Bricks – Most wood stoves use fire bricks in the fire box. They crack with excessive heat. Sometimes, it’s just their time to crack. A cracked fire brick allows heat to penetrate metal beyond the brick, which can lead to metal fatigue described above. Fire bricks are cheap compared to the price of a new stove. Loosen the fire brick retainer, remove the old broken bricks and replace them with new fire bricks. Never replace them with building bricks. Always use new fire bricks.
- Air Controls – Carefully turn or slide adjustments and watch to make sure all air control mechanisms are free from wood chips, ash or residue. Fix any fatigued parts to ensure that air controls work freely.
- Secondary Air Holes – Check secondary air holes built into your stove to allow air flow. If necessary, clean all of the air holes with a wire brush. When secondary air holes fail to allow air through, secondary combustion is limited and chimney creosote builds more easily.
- Baffle Warp – Most wood stoves employ a metal or cast iron baffle above the fire box. Check to see if the baffle is warped. If so, replace it with a new baffle from your stove’s manufacturer.
- Thermostat – If your wood stove uses a thermostat, make sure it operates freely and works properly. If you suspect an issue, replace it. Preventative maintenance is wise, especially with an old wood stove.
- Stove Pipe & Damper – Inspect your stove pipe for rust. Steel wool will clean minor rust. If you find major rust, replace the pipe. Disassemble the stove pipe sections and clean soot and creosote from its interior with a stout wire brush. Inspect the damper for warpage and replace, if necessary. When reinstalling stove pipe, place a bead of high-temperature silicone caulk on each joint. Secure each stove pipe joint with three or four sheet metal screws once the pipe is lined up in a straight fashion.
- Chimney – Clean the chimney at the start of every fire season, no matter how clean you think the chimney is. Creosote always builds up inside chimneys. Animals and birds might have made a nest inside. Always perform chimney cleaning. Inspection and cleaning should be performed regularly throughout the burning season, too.
Enjoying the thorough warmth of a wood burning fire from your wood stove is extra warming when you possess the peace of mind knowing the stove is safe. The only way to ensure safety with your wood stove is by performing an annual inspection. Be safe and accomplish a thorough inspection each year of your wood heating appliance.
About the Guest Author: This post was written by the good folks at Wood-Furnaces.net, who are resellers of MagnuM wood stoves, as well as a host of replacement parts and accessories.