Preparing Your Stove for Winter

 Wood stoves of course tend not to be used in the summer very much, so if that is the case with yours, here are some pointers on preparing to get it going again in the winter.

Winter safety
Make sure your stove is safe and efficient for the winter.

Winter Stove Safety

Some of these things are important for safety, so please do go through this stove checklist before your fires start up again.
Also make sure you do these checks on a (very) cold stove – best to do it before any fires are lit. If you left a vent or door open in the stove over the summer, so much the better (that helps keep moisture away and prevent any rust forming).

1. The Chimney

Your chimney and/or its liner need at least yearly sweeping to ensure it doesn’t build up tar and creosote. Not only will this reduce the efficiency of your stove, it poses a real fire risk and also increases the risk of Carbon Monoxide seeping back into the room. This happens with a blocked or partially blocked flue.

2. Stove Door & Rope

A tight fit and a solid seal are essential for the efficiency and safety of your stove. Check the door and especially the glass. This is a good time to clean the glass too, if it still has any smoke on it. You can clean stove glass well using newspaper and wood ash, alternatively specific stove glass cleaning products are available. If the door is removable, this can make it easier to clean. You can also check that you make sure plenty of air is flowing through the fire when you light it. Insufficient air flow causes all sorts of problems including soot build-up inside the stove, difficulty lighting fires, and the risk of Carbon Monoxide escape. Wet or unseasoned wood also causes soot deposits on the glass so make sure you order in good dry wood.
You should also check the stove rope at this point.
The rope is vitally important, both for safety and for efficiency. It creates a smoke seal around the door, ensuring that harmful carbon monoxide and smoke goes up the flue, and not into your space. The rope seal also ensures that the air feeds the fire through the air vents and not from the join between the door and the main body of the stove. This makes your stove much more controllable, and thus more efficient.
If it is obviously split, frayed or damaged at all, replace it immediately. You will need to remove the existing rope and make sure you clear away any old adhesive before glueing the new rope in place with specialist high temperature glue.
If the rope looks intact, you can check the seal by shutting a slip of paper in the stove door. When closed, the paper should be difficult to pull out. If it comes out easily then its time to replace the rope to maintain a good seal.

3. Stove Exterior

You can clean the stove and apply any touch up paint while it is still cold as part of the general maintenance.  Rust can cause problems, especially on cast iron stoves. Rub away rust with a wire brush or steel wool, and touch up with heat resistant paint or use black grate polish to restore the exterior.
Also inspect the stove pipe for any gaps where fire cement may be missing. As the metal of the stove and the stove pipe expands and contracts, it’s not at all unusual for the fire cement to loosen, crack and even fall out. If this has happened, it’s a very easy job to re-cement the joints with fire cement.

4. Firebricks

Firebricks protect the metal of your stove, and its surroundings, from excessive heat. It is really important to replace any broken or missing bricks immediately, because overheating the stove materials will wear it out, and if nearby objects or surrounds get too hot this could be dangerous. Missing pieces of brick can even cause the stove itself to crack. A crack in a brick is not such an immediate problem as the body of the stove will still be protected.

5. Fire Grates

Grates get worn out by the high temperatures they endure, and a distorted, ill-fitting or cracked grate can jam the stove. Make sure your is up to scratch, and if not, order a new one.