With rising energy prices, woodburners have become increasingly popular and are seen as an environmental alternative to lighting a fire in a fireplace. Although an open fire looks pleasantly inviting, it may be as little as 20 per cent efficient, and with most of the heat going up the chimney, a draught is pulled through the room. In contrast, a stove is capable of achieving operating efficiencies of around 80 per cent.
Woodburners are just as much of a focal point since the flames are still visible. Generally this is through the glass front but some models allow the doors to be opened while the fire is alight.
Renovating a stove
To ensure a stove is safe and efficient, regular maintenance is key and, if it has been neglected, renovation is essential.
The first step is to check that all of the components work.
- Ensure that the door fits snuggly
- The hinges are not worn or misaligned
- That the latch is in good working order
- Check the fireproof rope seal around the door is not flattened or misshapen
To test, light a small fire inside the stove, close the door and move a candle around its edges. If the flame is drawn towards it, the seal has failed and will need replacing. On some stoves, misaligned doors can be adjusted.
Preparing the woodburner for renovation
- When the stove is cold, clear out the ash and brush all the surfaces, using a vacuum cleaner to clear the final dust.
- With a torch, carefully inspect the firebricks for damage
- Ensure all of the air inlets are clear.
- Clean the window with a stove glass cleaner or, if it is sooty from wood burning, use ash applied to a damp cloth.
- Cracked glass should be replaced immediately
Click here to see our step-by-step guide on how to clean your stove
Bear in mind that a soot or tar covered window can indicate that the stove is not burning efficiently.
Rust on a woodburning stove
Rust is a common problem with stoves and flue pipes, so dealing with it quickly is essential.
- Use medium-grade wire wool to remove rust
- Thoroughly vacuum away the dust and clean off any grease
- The surface should be finished either with a specialist brush-on or spray-on stove paint
- Alternatively, use traditional black grate polish. Spray paint gives the most professional look but needs careful application
- All areas around the stove and the glass of the door need masking using tape and paper or plastic
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and spray in a thin, even coat. The paint needs to be able to flex with the heat, so may crack and flake off if too thick.
If you are in any doubt about the condition of an old stove, always seek expert advice. Manufacturers, specialist suppliers and installers can usually help and may sometimes supply replacement parts. Where parts are broken, a blacksmith might be able to assist with repairs.
Chimney and flue safety
Research by the National Society of Master Thatchers has shown that more thatch fires are started by poorly installed woodburners than by any other cause. Raised flue temperatures and the increased burn periods that are common with stoves pose a real danger to any type of property if a chimney is defective, so it is essential to have any chimney that is in use swept and checked regularly by a professional chimney sweep.
When adding a stove, new or restored, ideally the chimney should be lined with a stainless steel flue that is properly insulated to avoid hot spots. A flue will improve the performance of the stove, as the liner has the added advantage of decreasing the chimney volume. This helps maintain a higher temperature so the flue gases rise faster, creating a more efficient draught. Less soot and tar deposits build up in a warm flue and condensation is less likely to occur, making cleaning easier.