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 2016-02-08 10:16:33
@Tina Marsh Hi Tina Difficult to diagnose precisely, but a few things to check/consider: 1. Is the
wood definitely seasoned? If you're buying it as seasoned, perhaps check this with a moisture meter:
Gr8Fires 2016-02-08 10:02:46
@ Jim Traynor Hi Jim, Did you use heat resistant plaster on that wall?
Tina Marsh 2016-02-05 15:10:39
I have a problem with black tar inside the woodburner and on the glass door I have an airwash system
as this multifuel burner is only about 5 weeks old I am burning seasoned logs and smokeless coal. I
have a good draw on the fire and have no issues lighting it, but I do get a lot of smoke coming out
of the door when we open, I am opening the bottom drawer to equalise the air but I still have a big
issue with this I cant leave the door open without the house filling with smoke, is there something
I can do to get rid of the shiny tar inside the burner thanks in advance tina
Jim Traynor 2016-02-05 12:36:50
The wall behind my stove where the flue is connected to the chimney keeps cracking because of the
heat. Can you help please ? Thanks
Gr8Fires 2016-01-30 08:43:41
@ Paul O'Reilly Hi Paul Those sort of mini-explosions are most commonly caused by using the wrong
sort of fuel. Are you burning something volatile, like household coal? Thanks, Gr8Fires
Gr8Fires 2016-01-30 08:40:16
@ Gaynor Poole Hi Gaynor, The most likely explanation is that you're either burning unseasoned
wood: http://blog.gr8fires.co.uk/2015/06/08/the-3-stages-of-seasoning-wood/ Or it's possible that
your chimney needs to be swept. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Paul O'Reilly 2016-01-28 23:48:25
Hi there, I have a dru 64 mf stove for the past 3yrs in an extension. I have a spinner cowl attached
which solved the initial downdraught problem. On occasion, there has been what I would describe as a
sound like an exhaust on a car backfiring. Over the past few days this has occurred more often- a
number of times each day , sometimes resulting in quite a loud bang - any ideas what this may be
caused by - is it dangerous, any solutions . It occures mainly when the stove, after burning
strongly is calming down... Thanks Paul ..
Gaynor poole 2016-01-26 17:24:53
Why is my log burning chimney sending out black soot outside .
Gr8Fires 2016-01-25 10:27:57
@Dionne Hi Dionne, Was it a particularly windy night? If so, that's the most likely
explanation. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Gr8Fires 2016-01-25 10:27:02
@Maureen Ridley Hi Maureen, This is the most likely explanation:
/ Thanks, Gr8Fires
Gr8Fires 2016-01-25 10:24:04
@ Mike Lumb Hi Mike, Thanks for your questions. On the first question, it is unlikely that
day-to-day soot build-up would impact on the heat being given out. After all, the glass is mainly
there to allow you to see the flames, it is the metal body that is really responsible for convecting
heat into your room. So, the instant radiant heat of an open fire (or a woodburner with the door
open) will always seem more intense than the heat being distributed by a woodburner. With regard to
your second question, yes, a rotating cowl or anti-downdraught cowl might help to alleviate the
problem of smoke coming down the chimney. Further reading for you on that:
Dionne 2016-01-23 20:09:38
We had our log burner installed in October last year Working well . Tonight we a roar noise from it
? Any ideas
Maureen Ridley 2016-01-23 12:49:29
I have a storax multi fuel stove and due to the warm weather we have not used it the later part of
last year or this . I saw some rust forming at the bottom of the door and on inspecting it found
quite a lot of water in the bottom causing the ash pan to rust. There is a small amount of rusting
around the edges where the fire case joins the base. Could you explain what you think our problem is
please. Many thanks Maureen
mike lumb 2016-01-20 14:04:58
Two questions: Firstly, we have a fairly large inset wood burner. Sometimes I've notice a very
significant difference in the amount of heat being transmitted through the glass, furthermore when
it doesn't seem to be transmitting well, opening the glass really shows just how much heat is being
generated in the firebox. I believe that the differences are being generated by the glass becoming
sooty and hindering transmission through the glass. Am I correct or is there another reason?
Currently I try to keep the glass clean on a daily basis to maximize the burner efficiency. The
wood we burn is fairly dry and at least 2 years old to try to reduce soot. Secondly, it's very
noticeable that strong winds can sometime generate a brief backflow down the chimney during the
early stages before the fire is really established sending smoke into the house. The chimney top is
T-shaped which came with the company wood burner. Would a rotating single direction chimney top
with a weather vane work with this? We make sure the kitchen fan etc are all off and try to get a
good thermal flow going with lots of kindling to try to overcome any backflow but it doesn't always
work in high winds.
Gr8Fires 2016-01-18 16:50:11
@ Rebecca Hi Rebecca Do you have a register plate fitted?
Gr8Fires 2016-01-18 16:45:11
@ James Allmark Hi James, It's possible that using a rotating or anti-downdraught cowl might
alleviate the problem. More info:
Gr8Fires 2016-01-18 16:43:11
@ Phil Murphy Hi Phil, Has the chimney been swept recently and the stove serviced? Are you burning
seasoned wood? A soot smell is usually an indication of creosote, which is caused by burning
unseasoned wood and can build-up if your chimney isn't swept regularly. Thanks, Gr8Fires
Rebecca 2016-01-18 11:55:57
Hi, I had a multi fuel burner installed a couple of months ago, it has been lit daily since then. A
couple of days ago I saw debris falling down along side the flue which landed on top of the burner,
a few bits were glowing/burning which unfortunately bounced
James Allmark 2016-01-16 09:45:56
We have a stovax view 5 with an external flue. On very cold days , heavy cold air makes the fire
smoke when lighting. Is there any device which could be added to the flue to prevent the cold coming
down the flue or is it a case of installing an air vent into the room?
Phil Murphy 2016-01-15 09:35:27
My Stanley stove smells of soot. We have everything done. Can't understand?