Common Problems with Wood Burning and Multi-Fuel Stoves and How to Solve Them
If you’re not an expert in using wood burning or multi-fuel stoves, sometimes the problems or little quirks that happen from time to time can seem quite daunting.
More often than not, it’s very easy to solve whatever difficulty you’re encountering.
Here are a few common problems and some suggestions on how to overcome them.
Difficulty lighting the stove
In most cases, problems with lighting a stove are just down to not using the right materials or not preparing properly. Check out our article on lighting a stove for an in-depth guide to getting your stove going.
Difficulty controlling the stove temperature or overfiring
Believe it or not, your stove can get too hot. If you don’t control the temperature your stove can run so hot that it overfires or damages your stove.
A common cause is too much oxygen getting to the fire. Check all door and glass seals to make sure that’s not the creating the problem. Make sure you’re familiar with all the controls on the stove and proper operation as detailed in the instruction manual.
If it’s a boiler stove, check that the thermostat control flap is clear of debris. In extreme circumstances, consider having a flue stabiliser fitted.
Stove not burning well
The most common cause of this is using damp fuel (read our article on the importance of using properly dried wood).
Make sure you’re burning the type of fuel specified in the instruction manual for your stove (read our article on how to operate a wood burning stove to achieve maximum burning efficiency).
If you’re doing everything correctly, have a professional check your flue for a blockage or other problems.
Stove is smoking
Almost all stoves that are connected to a good chimney will never have smoke or fumes coming into the room.
Smoke in your room usually indicates flue problems. Often a lack of ventilation is responsible. Flues or chimneys need an air supply into the room to be able to remove the smoke effectively.
Another common cause is a cooker ventilation hood in the room or an adjoining room. These hoods can sometimes suck smoke and fumes back down a chimney.
Fireclay flue seals cracking
Cracked fireclay seals around the stove outlet look messy and unsightly. Mix fireclay with heat resistant glass fibre rope, which will bond the fireclay and stop cracks forming.
New stoves sometimes give off a paint smell when first fired up, but this should disappear after a few days. This happens while the paint is curing. Check your instruction manual for more information.
Prolonged smells for more than 3-4 days suggest some sort of problem. Contact the manufacturer in this case.
Bars or grate have deteriorated
All stove bars and grates deteriorate with use, some faster than others. The type of fuel you use, burn rate and frequency of ash removal are all key factors in their lifespan.
Check your instruction manual to see the best fuel to use. Always avoid petroleum-based fuels - sometimes known as ‘pet coke’. Overfiring your appliance, and leaving the ash pit doors or all air vents open for long periods can also increase deterioration.
Clean your ashes out regularly in a multi-fuel stove to ensure there is an air flow around the bars to keep their temperature down. If the ash pan fills to the point where the ashes touch the bars, there will be premature damage.
Glass dirty and difficult to clean
Most modern stoves have an airwash facility to keep your glass clean when burning (read our blog to find out ‘what is airwash?’). Make yourself familiar with the operation of the airwash by reading the appliance operation manual.
If it’s working well, the airwash will burn soot off the glass when the stove is in use.
The best time to clean the glass by hand is shortly after lighting. Use a damp cloth before the glass gets too hot. The soot will wipe off easily.
Doing this when the glass is too hot will cause the water on the cloth to turn to steam, which should be avoided. Stubborn stains can be removed by dipping your cloth in the ashes in the ash pan and then rubbing the stains.
Using abrasive cleaning fluids or cloths will damage the glass and make it more difficult to clean in future.
If you’ve got a problem that wasn’t answered in this article, please get in touch and we’ll try to write an article to help you.
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-08-04 11:29:40
Hi Clive, That sounds like creosote. The honeycomb effect is usually associated with creosote that
has been burned, so you may have had a small chimney fire at some stage. The most pressing thing
would be to get the chimney swept if you haven't had that done for a while. As for causes, burning
wet or unseasoned wood is the most likely cause. If the chimney isn't lined, that could also be
causing problems. The flue gases might be cooling before being drawn outside, causing them to
condense and turn into soot and creosote inside the chimney. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Clive Shore 2014-08-01 17:12:30
My chimney blocks easily with solid honeycomb soot. Has anyone any idea what causes this. The stove
is quite big and rarely opened up.
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-06-09 12:56:34
Hi theislander, If it's stumping an expert who's there in person (were they Hetas registered?) we
probably won't have the answer, unfortunately. The only thing we can suggest is the vermiculite
insulation (http://www.gr8fires.co.uk/vermiculite-100l-bag) we mentioned before. Did you give that a
try? Thanks, Gr8Fres
theislander 2014-06-08 13:02:59
Hello again, this is driving me mad. I have looked at my liner and it was ok. What I have done now
is I have put a 5" liner inside the other liner that is a 6". Its all properly sealed , so there is
defo no escape for gasses or fumes and the draw is great. However the smells still there upstairs
and its horrid , like a burning sooty smell. I have no idea what it is or what to do. The expert I
got out cant understand it either. Please help. theislander
theislander 2014-05-22 10:08:17
Hi, thank you for your time and help. I will have my flue looked at. I have changed the cowl , just
to see if there was a better draw. It has helped, but I am a little scared to load the fire to its
full capacity, to check. Thanx theislander
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-05-21 09:09:47
Hi theislander, It sounds like there may be some residue in the flue which is burning off against
the outside of the liner. The alternative, as you suggest, is that the liner was torn on
installation. Either way, we'd recommend getting an inspection of the flue done. A camera can be
lowered down the flue liner to look for tears. If it is intact then it would probably help to pack
fill the void around the liner with vermiculite insulation
(http://www.gr8fires.co.uk/vermiculite-100l-bag). Hope that helps. Thanks, Gr8Fires
theislander 2014-05-20 09:21:56
Hi, regarding my last message , soz. Yeah the chimney has a new liner and the fire has had a few
fires lit so I think the paint smells gone by now. Is it possible the liner has a rip in it or could
it be because when I top up the fire , it cools the fire down quick and hot gasses fall back down
the flue? Bare in mind this smell only happens when the fires been topped up. Also the fire has been
burning to a very high temp , so could it poss be old soot left in the original chimney burning from
the high temp in the liner? The smell is only in the room above and not in the loft space. Hope this
helps. thanx theislander
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-05-19 11:17:41
Hi theislander, It's hard to diagnose from here. If the stove is new or hasn't been up to a very
high temperature too often, it could be the paint. You mention it's a brick chimney. If you haven't
got it lined, it could be that smoke is escaping through a gap. Or depending on the masonry inside
the chimney, it could be that creating the smell. It might even be dust that has settled in the
chimney, particularly if you haven't had it swept recently. Thanks, Gr8Fires
theislander 2014-05-19 08:01:15
Hi, I have a multi fuel burner installed in my front room. There is an original brick chimney that
runs up and out of the roof, but passes up the wall of the room above then the loft and finally
outside. When the fire is lit it burns good and the chimney has a good draw , but once we top up the
fire with smokeless coal and sometimes wood, the room above stinks of a kind of horrid burnt
chemical smell , its absolutely unbearable. Can you give me an idea what could be causing
this? thanx. theislander
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-04-08 16:01:09
Hi Adeline, Unless you're in a particularly windy/exposed location, it's probably that the draw
still isn't strong enough. You might try a chimney cowl to see if that helps.
http://www.gr8fires.co.uk/wp/2014/03/18/which-chimney-cowl-is-best-for-your-home Thanks, Gr8Fires
Adeline Withers 2014-04-08 15:02:37
New stove installed recently and had vent put in as not enough air and since then we have black
substance coming from chimney access vent, staining the bricks. Any idea what might be causing this
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-03-13 12:57:19
Hi Margaret, Tricky to diagnose from here. Where is the soot in the room coming from? What are you
burning on the stove? Thanks, Gr8Fires.co.uk
Margaret Cummings 2014-03-12 10:38:09
We have installed a stove just a month ago but are concerned why ther is particles of soot both in
the room and floating around in the air outdoors?
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-02-26 10:41:34
Hi Dave, It's difficult to diagnose from here, but obviously it sounds like something went wrong
when the rope was being replaced if it was working OK before. Perhaps the wrong rope
thickness? Thanks, Gr8Fires.co.uk
Dave Chuter 2014-02-25 10:27:23
Hiya, I recently had to take the door off my Dunsley Highlander 5 Multi Fuel Burner to replace the
rope. Since I have put the door back on the fire seems to raw and burn the wood too quickly even
when the vents are closed. I have put water on the rope (when the burner was cold) and closed the
door and then re-opened it and there was water around the burner suggesting the seal is good. I
can't fathom what the problem is. Hoping you can shed some light on this matter. Many Thanks Dave
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-02-14 11:05:22
Hi Dougie, Given the weather over the last 2 weeks, the wind is the most likely cause. If it turns
out to be an ongoing problem you could try a cowl like this one:
http://www.gr8fires.co.uk/universal-roto-cowl-inc-fitting-kit The insulation might be a
contributing factor if there's now less ventilation in the room - the draw up the flue could be
suffering as a result. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Dougie brown 2014-02-12 20:17:54
Hi we've had a stove now for about 2 years and never had a problem and just this last 2 weeks when
we open the door the smokes coming out into the room we have checked the throat plate and the flu
which are both fine. Now were not really sure what it would be and wondering could you please help.
We had cavity wall insulation put in a while back and we were maybe wondering do you think that
could be anything to do with it thanks
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-02-11 13:59:51
Hi Paul, Has it always done it, or just since a change of glass? It's very difficult to tell from
here what the problem might be. Perhaps find the same model in a showroom and try to see if yours is
missing any screws or other components to hold it in place? Thanks, Gr8Fires
Gr8Fires.co.uk 2014-02-11 13:49:02
Hi Pat, Yes, it's absolutely essential that there's ventilation. Thanks, Gr8Fires
paul shearing 2014-02-08 21:16:16
the glass on my clearview 500 keeps dropping, does not matter how much i tighten the screws it still
slips. any ideas will be welcome