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 2015-02-23 10:02:18
@ Jim Dufffy. Hi, it's probably worth getting your installer back out to make sure the system is
balanced. Sometimes needs a bit of fine-tuning. Thanks.
Gr8Fires 2015-02-23 10:00:23
@ Christopher Ogilvie Badenoch. Hi, we don't stock that particular brand so have no experience of
whether or not that is something that affects them. Speaking generally, a throat plate of any brand
can get damaged if the stove is being overfired (i.e. too much oxygen or too much fuel is being
used) or if soot is allowed to settle on top of the plate for a sustained period. Unfortunately, it
is hard to tell from here whether either of those things are causing the problems you've been
Jim Duffy 2015-02-21 11:02:35
My multi fuel system is heating radiators but no hot water
Christopher Ogilvie Badenoch 2015-02-20 15:08:20
I have had a Dunsley 'Highlander 5' Multi-fuel stove for the last seven years. It is a very
responsive and easy to operate stove BUT the throat-plate, immediately above the fie-box has had to
be replaced four times since installation. It warps severly - almost beyodn teh point where ti camn
be removed without dismantling the whole stove. I understand that this problem is a very common
fault with a number of brands, some stoves going for only six months before requiring throat-plate
replacement. Replacement is not inexpensive. Surely this is a matter for adequate Trades
Description/Consumer protection? Are there any stoves which are not afflicted by this
Gr8Fires 2015-02-19 18:20:04
@Neil Cookson. Hi Neil, The answer might be in this
Gr8Fires 2015-02-19 18:19:27
@Ralph. Hi Ralph, It is normal for the area around an inset stove. Assuming it is fitted to
manufacturer guidelines, it would only really be a problem if it was a combustible material. You've
indicated it's brick, which can't overheat, so the only issue is if it's causing another safety
problem for your household or stopping enough heat getting into the room.
Neil Cookson 2015-02-19 16:37:34
Hi, my multi fuel boiler stove works well apart from when I open the door to add more fuel when the
fire is lit. When I open the door it sends smoke into the room until the door is closed again. Can
you offer any suggestions to cure this?
Ralph Bradshw 2015-02-16 19:49:40
Hello i Have a brompi inset wood burner fitted.The vent at the top, or just the heat from the wood
burner makes the bricks so hot at the top you cannot touch them.is this what happens. or should they
be a steel plate or something to stop the heat Thanks Ralph.
Gr8Fires 2015-02-10 18:22:39
@Hursev Naim. Hi Hursev Naim, A paint smell is normal for the first 3/4 burns. Have you used it more
regularly than that over the 3 weeks? If so, we'd recommend contacting the manufacturer. Thanks.
hursev naim 2015-02-10 18:15:20
dear sir, hello and how are you from cyprus...3 weeks ago i bought clarke mark new cast iron
stove...now 3. weeks but its smell not good...i m take paint smell...what will i do???thanx for
David Clarey 2015-02-10 11:36:11
@ Paul Beaton This blowback problem upon lighting your stove is caused by the flue liner being full
of cold air! All chimneys have this problem, but it does not manifest itself in an unlined chimney
which is square in section. As we all know cold air is heavier than hot air and will descend, this
has the effect of stopping the smoke laden hot air from rising by acting as a plug in the
cylindrical section of the modern flue! Conversely an old square section, unlined, chimney does not
have the same problem due to the fact that the rising, smoke laden, hot air can displace the cold
column to the corners and create a path through it! The best solution is to introduce a smokeless
heat into the flue for a few minutes prior to lighting the fire itself. A gas blowtorch is the best
means of doing this! Once the flue has been flushed of the column of cold air the fire can be lit
with no likely hood of smoke blowing back into the room. Sadly this is yet another problem caused
by jobs-worth building regulations, in this case, failing to take into account why chimneys have
been square in section for so long historically.
Gr8Fires 2015-02-08 16:38:40
@Paul Beaton. Hi Paul, The answer might be in this article:
Gr8Fires 2015-02-08 16:36:50
@Adrian Kember. Hi Adrian, Assuming you're doing all the 'obvious' stuff, like not leaving the vents
wide open (which it sound like you would have already thought of), the only thing we can suggest is
to get a couple of Hetas installers out to quote for the second installation and pick their brains
about whether it will work properly. Maybe show them the existing stove in action. Thanks.
Paul Beaton 2015-02-07 18:50:15
Hello, we recenty bought an aarrow ecoburn 5 stove. Everything has been working well until now. We
lit out fire using a fire log to begin with. Unfortunately smoke started to do come out of the air
wash vents. I have been told that this could be blow back because we hadn't used the stove for over
a week and we need warm up the chimney by burning newspaper to begin with. Have tried this and the
paper hardly lights with bellowing smoke again. Seems all strange as the stove has worked well up to
this point. Can anyone offer any suggestions?
adrian kember 2015-02-07 16:42:19
We had a wood burner fitted by a Heat as firm in October last year. It didn't seem to run properly
from day one. Ten days after fitting ,using proper kiln dried wood it started over heating all the
smoke alarms and carbon monoxide sectors went off and we had to call fire brigade. The firm came
back out and replaced flue and seal on heater. They were unsure why it happened. It then ran fine
but used a lot of fuel, last week the same problem total over burning with one small log in there.
The firm now say that as we live in a small cottage the flue is not long enough and our fuel source
turns into "super fuel" ,have you any knowledge of this please? We intend putting another log burner
in our conservatory but are now rather worried about the whole thing. We welcome a second opinion.
Many thanks Adrian Kember
Gr8Fires 2015-02-03 10:27:44
@margaret scott. Hi Margaret, It's probably worth having an installer come to take a look at the
system to make sure it's set up correctly and balanced so that heat gets to all the radiators.
margaret scott 2015-02-01 22:16:51
we have a woodmans multi purpose burner with back water boiler,when the water gets hot the radiators
are all cool and never get hot ,we have just put on a new pump but there is no change.....can you
give me any advice please,,thank you Margaret Scott....
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:
http://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2014/04/25/packing-up-your-wood-burning-stove-for-summer/ 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:
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.