Wood Burner Stove Troubleshooting Common Problems & Solutions
The winter months are just around the corner and if you happen to live somewhere cold just now then it’s likely you’ve fired up your wood burning stove already or at the very least are planning to quite soon. After a period of non use it’s possible that getting that wood burner fired up won’t be straight forward and you could need parts and spares sorted before being able to use your wood burner. With that in mind we’ve rounded up some common problems to help you troubleshoot. Below you will find frequently asked questions relating to typical problems you might encounter when using a wood burner stove and their likely causes. Identifying the cause of an issue is half the battle won, knowing the cause will help you to correct it, whether it involves replacing a broken part, changing your fuel or giving your stove a good clean - there’s a solution to your wood burning stove problem, all you need to do is identify the cause of the issue first!
Common problems you may encounter when using a wood burning stove and how to fix them
What if fumes occur when the stove is running?
- Ensure the flue pipe is sealed
- Check the stove is clear at the throat plate and ensure there are no deposits which require clearing
- If you’re using wood, ensure the wood is seasoned - typically this process takes a year on newly felled trees, using damp or green wood generates steam and it produces a flammable acidic tar which will discolour the glass and can cause damage to the stove or flue
Why won’t the fire go out even after I close the air supply?
- Ensure the stove is water tight, if air can still get into the stove then the flames are still accessing oxygen to keep burning
- Check whether the door sealing rope and the ash collection drawer are intact and in the right position
Why is my wood burner smoking? / Why is smoke spilling from my wood burning stove?
- Let the wood burn down to the embers before you open the door and when you do open it, open it slowly
- Burning wet wood instead of dry wood can cause the moisture to turn into an acidic steamy gas which appears smokey
- Check for blockages or obstructions in the chimney / flue pipe that may prevent there being a sufficient draft to draw the smoke up and away
Why am I having troubling lighting my stove?
- Always follow the firing up procedures outlined in your stove instructions
- Ensure the throat plate is positioned correctly
- Check that there is sufficient draft in the chimney to encourage fresh air to be pulled up and through the fuel (fire needs oxygen to burn!)
- Make sure that the wood you are using is dry and not wet
Why does my wood burning stove smell funny when it gets hot?
- If it is a new stove then it is likely the smell is from the paint still hardening
- To get over this quickly you will need to get the stove really hot the first few times you fire it up (so be prepared to have it on a really hot flame and open your windows for ventilation if the smell is quite strong)
- Heating your stove up will help to cure the paint and essentially the paint will not be water-resistant until it has been made really hot a couple of times
- If however your stove isn’t brand new but has instead been dormant after a period of non use then the smell could be attributed to a build-up of dust and cobwebs etc which is normal after say a summer break etc
Why is the heat output poor on my wood burner?
- Ensure you are burning the correct fuel (ie; use only seasoned wood to avoid the steam issue mentioned earlier), check the flue pipe and stove flueways, check air intake, ensure the space below the grate bars is clear and no build-up of ash is touching the bars
- Ensure all nails are removed from wood as they can cause the grate-bars to jam and impede airflow into the unit
- The stoves function best when the firebox is full of fuel and the air control is set to nearly closed, this will ensure a steady glow and is more efficient than constantly refuelling little and often
Why has soot formed on the glass?
- Check the air supply is opened sufficiently
- Ensure you are using dry seasoned wood and that the wood you are burning is not wet (wet wood can cause toxic steam to release which can dirty your glass)
How do I clean the glass on my wood burning stove?
- Only attempt cleaning when the stove is cold (do not attempt if hot as injury is highly likely)
- You can wipe down the inside of the stove glass using a wet piece of newspaper between uses and always when the stove is cold
- For harder to budge marks on the glass just dip the paper in the wood ash to provide a gentle abrasive to help shift hard to move stains
- After you have used the newspaper to remove the main build-up of dirt on the glass you can use conventional stove glass cleaner to give the glass a final clean
What are the best ways to keep the glass clean on my wood burning stove?
- As mentioned above aim to regularly wipe down the glass between uses (but only do this when the stove is cold and not still hot as you risk injuring yourself and damaging your stove)
- Be sure to keep air vents open sufficiently during use so that the fire doesn’t smoulder and increase the likelihood of smoke building up within the stove
- This is a simple one but always aim to build fires towards the back of the stove so as not to concentrate your fuel too near the glass at the front
- Opt to use hardwood logs over softwood and only use seasoned dry wood, avoid using wet wood whenever possible. Softwood tends to have a higher sap content that can mean more steam and acidic tar build up which produces more soot
- Lastly - having hotter fires will help burn off any excess soot particles, less soot particles means less mess that is likely to dirty your stove and your glass
Why has the glass on my stove turned white?
- The glass has overheated - it’s rare but it does happen and you can easily replace the stove door glass with the glass often coming with special adhesive and sealing strips for installation
- This can be caused by the stove being heated up too rapidly or if the incorrect fuel type has been used
Why has the glass cracked on my new stove?
- If the stove is fairly new and you’re using it as per the manufacturer's instructions then it is possible there is a defect in the stove or the glass and you’ll need to speak with your dealer or whomever you purchased your new stove from
- Whilst the glass is removed from the door check the glass housing frame for any welding slag or other anomaly that may have caused the glass to crack. Welding slag is the solidified remaining flux after the weld area cools (they likely look like hardened blobs)
Why do I have water or steam in or around my stove and flue?
- Often this could simply be condensation from the flue pipe or chimney before you have fired up your stove
- If you are finding steam or moisture within the stove after you have fired it up then it could be from the wood itself. Using wet or soft wood as opposed to dry seasoned hardwood, using insufficient wood or setting too low a temperature can all contribute to there being moisture in your stove
Why won’t my wood burning stove draw? / Why isn’t it drafting properly?
- The stove or flue is too cold
- The weather is too windy or perhaps too warm
- The flue or chimney may be dirty and thus obstructing the ability to draw
- The room / home is too airtight thus preventing the stove its ability to draw
- Check that the air vents are open enough and that the damper is not closed (or not closed by too much)
- Ensure that the fuel you’re trying to light isn’t damp or wet. The optimum fuel for your wood burner should be seasoned dry hardwood
We hope you have found this article helpful to you getting the most out of your wood burning stove. At Buy Plumbing Online we also sell carbon monoxide detector alarms which are an absolute must have if you have a wood burning stove in your home. Do you have another query relating to your wood burning stove or maybe you need some help sourcing a particular part that you are having trouble locating yourself? Worry not! Our heating experts are here and can give you sound free advice and help over the phone - just give us a call on 01862 808040 and we’ll help in any way we can.