Preparing Your Wood Stove For the Off-Season
As the weather starts to warm up, the use of your wood stove will decline. Although there may be a few chilly weeks left, it is not too early to start thinking of end-of-season maintenance that every wood stove should receive after a busy, cold winter. Just as you service your car annually to keep it functioning properly & efficiently, it’s important not to skip annual cleanings and maintenance of your wood burning stove for the same reason.
Once you’ve extinguished the final fire of the season, follow these tips for preparing your wood stove for next season.
1) Clean your stove.
Once the ashes and stove has cooled down, remove any debris that is left inside the box. Scrub off any deposits that have developed on the baffle (the “ceiling”) and around the chimney opening with a brush or vacuum and take care to replace these baffles back in their proper position. Remove the ashes from the ash pan or bottom of the box. Place them in a metal bucket in case there are any burning embers left in the ashes. If your stove features a glass door, use wood stove glass cleaner to wipe down the door and remove any film that has formed. Wipe down the outside of your stove with a damp sponge or cloth to wipe of any ash & dust that has settled. If you have a cast iron stove, you can use stove polish to restore some of that original shine.
2) Inspect your stove.
Thoroughly examine your stove and all its components to look for any cracking or signs of creosote buildup. Check the door gaskets to ensure that the seal is tight. A piece of paper inserted between the door & stove should not be able to be pulled out when the door is closed. If the door’s seal is not tight enough, it will cause excess air to enter your stove. Excess air will cause a loss of combustion control. Replace the door gaskets if your seal is not tight enough.
Look on the insides of your stove and check for cracks in the firebrick or on the baffle. If you notice any cracking, contact your stove dealer to schedule an appointment.
Examine the stove pipe to ensure that it is in good condition. The area of most importance is where the stove pipe connects to the chimney. If you notice any corrosion, breakages, or holes developing, the pipe will need to be replaced before you light another fire in the fall.
3) Get your chimney professionally cleaned & inspected.
The chimney system of any wood burning appliance, whether it’s a fireplace, stove, or insert, will develop deposits of soot and creosote that can cause safety and odor issues. Excess creosote can result in a chimney fire that is so intense that it will destroy your chimney. Hiring a chimney sweep, or service technician to perform a thorough inspection and cleaning will ensure that your venting system is working properly. They will check for cracks, leaks, corrosion, and warping that could lead to a carbon monoxide leakage, clean out any creosote buildup or obstructions in the flue. Creosote buildup is extremely flammable and may create an unsafe operating situation if left uncleaned from season to season.
If your stove is decades old it may not be EPA certified. You may want to consider swapping out your non-EPA certified stove for a new EPA certified model that are clean burning, highly efficient, and produce better heat output.