Common Problems with Wood Burning and Multi-Fuel Stoves and How to Solve Them

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.

Paint smelling

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.


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Gr8Fires 2015-01-28 12:55:37
@theislander Hi, Yep, we'd even recommend leaving the door ajar to allow some air flow. We
appreciate it's not summer, but the advice here still applies if the stove is out of use: It's worth
having a little fire every now and again to evaporate any rainwater, too.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-28 12:48:44
@anthony roberts Hi Tony, One option would be an Ecofan, which would help to circulate the warm air: Thanks.

theislander 2015-01-27 21:54:16
Hi yes the smells away but I have another question. If the airflow vents are closed and I have not
used the burner for about two weeks, will condensation be a problem ? My Mrs has the house heating
on full bung trying to dry holiday clothes quick and ive noticed a build up of water in the bottom
of the burner. Is this because of hotter heat outwith the cast iron? Should the vents be left
open? Cheers. theislander.

anthony roberts 2015-01-27 20:53:48
Hi my stove gets up to temperature according to my temperature gauge but it just doesn't radiat the
heat in to the room . I have a 6 kw which should be more than enough to heat the room and the lower
part of the house . Please could you help. Regards Tony

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 14:45:27
@Sharon Appleton Hi Sharon, have you had the chimney swept recently? It could be a blockage of some
kind. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 14:43:28
@Natty It sound like an issue with creosote build-up. Have you had the chimney swept recently? Are
you burning seasoned wood. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 14:42:14
@Elizabeth Fry Hi Elizabeth Here are a few things to investigate:

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 14:19:24
@Patrick Gordon Hi Patrick, Assuming the soot is coming down the chimney, here are some things to

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 14:07:00
@ Michael Reilly Excess firing could be an issue - is there damage to the throat plate? It also
might be that it's not sitting correctly in the first place. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 13:37:10
@ Brian Smith Hi Brian, Here are a few things to investigate:

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 13:20:02
@John Boy Is it a stove thermometer rather than (the more common) stove pipe thermometer? If not,
using it on the stove might be giving an inaccurate reading. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 13:09:11
@Paul Johnson Hi Paul Here are some possible causes to
y-woodburner/ Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 13:06:10
@Heather Turner Hi Heather, Sorry, you've confused us - how are the ashes getting on the hearth?
They should fall into the ash pan. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 12:33:51
@Christine Marmion Hi Christine, A Hetas-approved installer in your daughter's area would be the
best bet: Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 12:32:11
@Ian Forbes That's right, for maximum efficiency and to ensure all the gases are being drawn up the
flue and not back into the room, it's important to run the stove within the operating temperatures.
Is there a poor draw in the cabin? Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 12:29:04
@Jackie Hi Jackie, It's unusual (but not unheard of) to have problems with the paint if the plaster
is standing up to the heat. You could try a water-based emulsion, but it's perhaps worth ringing the
customer advice line of whichever paint company you're thinking of using to see what they
recommend. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 12:23:12
@Patricia Boylan Hi Patricia, The most likely causes are either that the top vent is closed and
preventing the airwash from keeping the glass clean or that there is a high moisture content in the
wood you're burning. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 12:04:36
@Venetia Jones Hi Venetia, We don't have a great deal of experience with ranges,
unfortunately. Sorry about that.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 11:52:01
@SheilaHolmes Hi Sheila, It's not uncommon and is usually just due to the metal expanding when
hot. Thanks.

Gr8Fires 2015-01-26 11:49:36
@Wendy Hay Hi Wendy, The stove manual should tell you what can be burned and suggest recommended
fuels. There are a lot of possibilities as to what is causing the tar/creosote, so it's hard to
diagnose from here. It could be that there is a problem with the flue connection or that there was
quite high moisture content in the briquettes or something completely different. Since you have been
burning peat, it's probably the most likely that the gases from that are condensing in the chimney
and running back down.

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