If you heat your house with wood, you need to maintain your wood stove, just as you would a regular furnace. If anything, wood stoves need more maintenance than a gas or oil heater, because wood heat isn’t as clean as petroleum-based fuels. Here is some general advice for keeping your wood heater in peak operating condition.
Wood Stove Door Gasket Replacement
Nowadays it’s unusual for a wood burning stove to be manufactured with a gasketless door, although some older designs are made this way. If your stove has a gasket, it will probably be made of fiberglass or asbestos and look like thick rope. Thicknesses vary, so if in doubt, pull the old gasket out of the door and bring it with you when you shop for a replacement. Wood heaters with a separate ash pan door might need a separate replacement gasket for that, too.
Many woodburning stove manufacturers sell door gasket replacement kits online. If the kit doesn’t include stove gasket cement, you’ll need to purchase some; or if you can’t find any, use a good quality silicone caulk.
Gasket installation is fairly simple. Remove the old gasket, including removing the wood stove door if that makes the job easier. Clean out the gasket channel, first with a screwdriver, and then with coarse grade steel wool. Once the surface is clean, cut the gasket material to a length slightly longer than the perimeter of the door so you can tuck in the ends next to each other. Apply a bead of silicone or gasket cement along the channel and press the gasket into the cement. Allow it to dry, reinstall the stove door if you removed it earlier, and use the dollar bill test to see whether the seal is tight.
Many woodstoves are manufactured with clear ceramic doors so you can see the fire inside. These glass inserts need their gaskets replaced from time to time, although not as often as door gaskets. This type of gasket usually comes ready-made from the manufacturer and has a built-in adhesive strip that you press into place. Handle the glass inserts with care and be careful not to overtighten their fasteners, as they can crack under stress.
Adjusting the Wood Stove Door
A loose door on your woodstove means poor efficiency and increased buildup of soot. A clever way to test the tightness of the seal between the door and the stove body is to let the stove cool down and place a dollar bill along the door seal. Close the door with the bill sandwiched in between and try to pull it out. If you can slide it out easily, the door is loose, and you need to adjust the latch. If that doesn’t solve the problem, the door gasket probably needs replacing.
Painting Your Wood Stove
Most modern wood burning heaters are painted with a high temperature coating that needs to be touched up from time to time. Spray painting gives a superior finish over using a brush. Let the stove cool down fully, then mask off anything you want to proect from overspray. Use a paint made especially for woodstoves.
If you stove has a shiny surface, it has been enameled at the factory and can’t be repainted. You can still touch up nicks and chips using an exact color match from the manufacturer.
Check Your Wood Stove Firebrick
Many cast iron wood stoves are lined with firebrick to make them more efficient. Some modern designs use a low-density firebrick that’s certified by the EPA to perform better than conventional firebrick. If you have one or more cracked bricks, be sure to determine which type your stove has before you go shopping for a replacement.
Check the Wood Stove Baffles
Some wood stoves have a series of baffles inside the firebox to direct the heat through additional combustion chambers and increase efficiency. Baffles get constant exposure to fire and can fail over time, so you should inspect them regularly for cracks and warpage. If you need to replacement, consult your owner’s manual, and obtain the correct parts from a specialty store or the manufacturer.
Inspect the Catalytic Element
Catalytic elements make your stove burn cleaner, which keeps your chimney clean and your neighbors happy. These elements are made to last about six years with proper care. Maintenance consists of removing the unit from your wood stove and vacuuming it or brushing it gently. You should inspect it at that time for missing pieces or discoloration.