Make your woodstove last for generations

July 28, 2015

Doing simple, regular maintenance on your woodstove will make it more efficient and extend its life. Here's how to get the best use out of your woodstove and have it last for many years to come:

Make your woodstove last for generations

Warm up your woodstove

Cast-iron stoves can crack if you build a raging fire in a cold one. Warm it up with a small fire first.

Clean your chimney frequently

  • How often you need to clean your chimney depends on how often you make fires.
  • It is important to clean your chimney because creosote buildup causes extremely dangerous chimney fires.
  • Woodstoves are efficient heaters because you can severely limit the air intake.
  • As a result, wood burns slowly without sucking a lot of air out of the room.
  • Unfortunately, a slow draft means the smoke has plenty of time to cool and solidify on the walls of your chimney.
  • So if you burn your woodstove throughout the heating season, have it cleaned at least once a year.
  • Don't be surprised if your chimney sweep advises an additional midseason cleaning.

Check the firebox liner

  • Your woodstove has an interior liner that does two things: It increases the stove's mass so it radiates heat more evenly, and it protects the stove's outer walls from getting damaged by high heat and logs banging against them.
  • The liner might be cast iron, firebrick or refractory cement.
  • To make your stove last for generations, check the liner for cracks before each heating season.
  • Replace any cracked brick or iron, or patch cracks in the cement.

Burn seasoned hardwood only

  • Burn only hardwood that has been seasoned for at least a year.
  • Green unseasoned wood contains up to 50 per cent water.
  • It takes a lot of energy to drive off this water before the wood can burn.
  • So green wood is hard to light, doesn't produce much heat and creates a lot of smoke.
  • The smoke solidifies in your stovepipe and chimney in the form of creosote that can ignite and cause a chimney fire.
  • More creosote means you'll need to have the chimney cleaned more often.
  • And if your stove has a catalytic combuster, as newer stoves do, low temperatures and creosote buildup can render it useless.
  • The problem with burning softwood like pine is a little different: Seasoned softwood — like construction scraps — is perfect for lighting your stove.
  • It starts easily and burns hot and fast. But once the fire gets going and you want to close up the stove for a slow, steady fire, don't feed it with softwood — the stuff doesn't produce that much heat, and you'll create the very same creosote problems as you do with green hardwood.
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