Wood Stove Maintenance: To Burn or Not to Burn

Be aware of the fuel limitations of your stove. Though some stoves are designed to burn both coal and wood, most wood stoves are meant to burn wood only. Do not burn driftwood, trash, treated wood, artificial logs, or any product containing zinc, sulfur, lead, or plastics as they will damage the catalytic combustor. Burning trash in a wood stove is dangerous for its potential to start a chimney fire, and also because the trash could contain plastics or other elements which emit harmful gases.It is best to burn only seasoned wood for maximum heat release, less creosote buildup, and economy. Avoid burning green, unseasoned wood which may contain up to 50 percent of its weight in moisture and needs to be burned off before the heat can reach your house. 

Wood Stove Maintenance: Chimneys, Flues, and Temperatures
A stack thermometer installed on the stove flue will give you information on gases leaving the stove. Monitoring their levels is important for efficiency and pollution control. 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit is an optimum range. Build small, hot fires for maximum burning of volatile gases and for fewer air quality and other safety problems. Your increased effort and attention are well worth the effort. Keep the stove's air-intake vents clear by removing excess ashes. This also lowers the level of oxygen required for an efficient fire. Observe the amount of smoke coming from your chimney. The less smoke, the cleaner the burning process.

Simplify Wood Stove Maintenance by Increasing Your Home's Efficiency
Your wood stove maintenance is directly affected by how much you need to use it. A stove that is used only once or twice a month will obviously require less maintenance than one that is used for several hours multiple times a week. Reducing the amount of heat that escapes your house as well as the amount of unwanted cold air that enters it will cut down on your wood stove maintenance needs, and decrease your overall heating costs. It helps greatly if your house is well-insulated, and window and door leaks are corrected with caulking, weather stripping, etc. 

Wood Stove and Chimney Inspections
It is strongly recommended to have wood stoves and chimneys inspected at least once each year by a professional stove dealer or chimney sweep. They should check for all signs of deterioration such as cracks, leaks, warping, baffle gaps, and creosote in the chimney. Chimney fires can be extremely devastating; getting regular inspections is a good way to reduce the risk of chimney fires and identify any existing problems. It is a good idea to get your wood stove and chimney inspected before the heating season begins so your stove will be in top working order for the cold months ahead.


Since gas fireplaces don’t have to contend with the mess of wood, ash, and general messiness of wood-burning fireplaces, they are much easier to maintain and keep clean. However, things like dirt and dust buildup can clog up ports of your gas fireplace. The wire connections of your unit can also become loose or dirty through the normal wear and tear of operation. Lack of proper cleaning and maintenance can lead to inefficient burning. As well, gaskets can wear out and possibly allow poisonous carbon monoxide into your home. 

An annual inspection, cleaning, and adjustment of your gas fireplace is recommended to correct and prevent these problems. There are many gas fireplace experts that specialize in just such maintenance work.

However, there are several things that you can do yourself.

Once a month, whether you have used your fireplace or not, clean your unit’s glass on both sides with a glass cleaner. This will help prevent the glass from becoming cloudy. If left uncleaned for a long period of time, this cloudy effect may become permanent quality of the glass, preventing you from enjoying the full effect of your fire.
While the glass door is opened, visually check and see if there is any dust, dirt, or spider-web buildup inside your fireplace. If so, gently clean the buildup away.
Then, make sure the glass door is fit securely. You can do this by checking all of the bolts that hold the door in place and making sure that they are fastened tightly. Replace or tighten any loose materials immediately. This will help prevent carbon monoxide from coming into your home while your fireplace is in operation.
During this monthly cleaning, check if the gasket is cracked or is missing pieces. The gasket should be located either on the glass door or outside around the firebox. Check your owner’s manual for the exact location. If the gasket is damaged in any way, get it replaced immediately.
Finally, if your gas fireplace is vented, check your unit's outside vent.  Scan and see if there is any debris like leaves or nests in or around the vent. If you do find something, carefully remove the debris to be sure that your fireplace runs smoothly. If the vent is damaged, be sure to replace or repair it


Annual Maintenance
Your pellet stove should be cleaned and inspected at least once a year, or each time you’ve burned a ton of pellets through it. You can inspect and clean it yourself by carefully following the owner’s manual instructions, or you can hire a pro from your local hearth dealer. In addition to cleaning the stove, he or she will inspect vital components like the auger, motor, hopper, switches, blowers, wiring, seals, sensors and exhaust pipes. 

Ongoing Maintenance
During the winter months when your stove is working hard, it needs some attention. On a regular basis, you should clean the ash out of the burn chamber area and the ash pan, scrape the burn pot, and keep vital components free of ash, such as the airwash system (if your stove has one) and venting. Your owner’s manual will have instructions specific to your stove. When the stove is completely cool, you can clean the viewing glass. Use a soft cloth and a glass cleaner specially formulated for wood or pellet stove glass. Don’t scrape the glass with any sharp objects! Scratches can compromise the integrity and strength of the glass. While working on your stove, we’d recommend wearing safety glasses and heat resistant gloves. Ashes can be a real fire hazard, so be sure to deposit them in a metal container with a lid and store it far away from any combustible materials. 

Pellet Considerations
We recommend using premium-grade pellets whenever possible. They’ll burn more efficiently and produce less ash than low-grade pellets, meaning you’ll need to clean your stove less often. If you aren’t sure how a certain grade of pellets will perform in your stove, buy a small amount (2-3 bags) and burn it through before stocking up. 

Follow these suggestions and your pellet stove should be operating at its best this winter!