Before You Fire It Up: Wood & Pellet Stove Maintenance

October 11, 2023

wood and pellets in front of a lively wood fire stove

As the chill of winter approaches, many homeowners look forward to the cozy warmth provided by wood and pellet stoves. These stoves, often centerpieces in living spaces, don’t just offer an atmospheric ambiance, but also an efficient heating solution.

However, before you strike that first match or let the pellets tumble into the burn pot, it’s essential to recognize the critical role of maintenance in your stove’s operation. Regular upkeep not only ensures that your stove functions at its peak efficiency but also safeguards your home against potential hazards.

Why Maintenance Matters

Wood and pellet stoves, though robust, are not set-it-and-forget-it appliances. Their performance, longevity, and safety are directly linked to how well they are maintained. Regular maintenance isn’t just a chore but an integral part of being a responsible stove owner. Here’s why it matters so much:


At the top of the list is the safety of your home and family. Neglected stoves can accumulate creosote, a flammable by-product of wood combustion. This creosote buildup increases the risk of chimney fires. Moreover, inefficient combustion or poor ventilation can lead to carbon monoxide production – a silent, odorless, but deadly gas. Regular maintenance helps mitigate these risks.


A well-maintained stove operates at its best. You’ll experience consistent heat output, better fuel consumption, and fewer frustrations like incomplete burns or excessive smoke. By simply keeping your stove clean and in top shape, you’re ensuring that you get the most heat for your buck.


Think of your stove as an investment. Regular maintenance can catch minor issues before they become major problems, extending the lifespan of your stove and saving you costly replacements or repairs in the future.

Maintenance for Wood Stoves

a wood fire stove with an active fire burning inside in a cozy home

A wood stove, with its traditional charm and rustic appeal, is more than just a heat source; for many, it’s the heart of a home. However, to keep it beating warmly and safely, routine wood stove maintenance is essential. Here’s a breakdown of the key tasks for wood stove owners:


Regularly inspect your wood-burning stove, perhaps monthly or at the start of the season. Look for signs of wear and tear, especially cracks, leaks, or rust. Addressing minor issues early can prevent more significant problems later.

Cleaning the Interior

Over time, ashes will accumulate at the base of your stove. It’s vital to clean out this ash buildup frequently, as a thick layer of ash can hinder efficient burning. Using a metal scoop, remove ashes and place them in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid.

Allow the ashes to cool for several days before disposal. Additionally, be alert to creosote build-up on the interior walls, which can be scraped off with a brush or scraper.

Vacaster, 6-Gallon Ash Vacuum

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{}}

Limited stock in {{}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{}} Check nearby stores

Checking the Door

A tight seal on your wood stove’s door is essential. It promotes efficient combustion by providing the right amount of oxygen to the fire, and it’s crucial for safety, as it controls combustion and prevents the release of harmful emissions into your home.

Examine the door gaskets for any signs of wear and replace them as necessary. A simple way to check the seal is to place a dollar bill between the door and the stove. If you can pull it out with the door closed, it may be time to replace the gasket.

Air Vents and Flues

A wood stove’s efficiency is greatly impacted by its ventilation. Make sure to check that air vents are clear and unblocked. The flue, which expels the smoke upwards through the chimney, should also be routinely inspected for creosote accumulation. A chimney brush can be used to clean the flue and prevent the risk of chimney fires.

Glass Cleaning

a glass wood fire stove

If your stove has a glass front, it can become blackened over time due to soot. Wait for the stove to cool before cleaning the glass door. Clean it regularly with a damp newspaper or paper towel dipped in ash or use a specialized stove glass cleaner. This not only maintains the aesthetic appeal of the stove but also allows you to monitor the fire’s progress.

Imperial KK0315 Glass Cleaner and Conditioner, 8 fl-oz Bottle

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{}}

Limited stock in {{}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{}} Check nearby stores

Refractory Bricks

Inside the stove, refractory bricks help reflect the heat back into the fire, enhancing the burn. These bricks can crack or deteriorate over time. Check them periodically, and if you observe substantial wear or cracking, replace them to maintain the stove’s effective functioning.

United States Stove Co, Replacement Fire Bricks, 6 Pack

Not available online.

{{storeQuantity}} in stock in {{}}

Limited stock in {{}} Check nearby stores

Out of stock in {{}} Check nearby stores

Not carried in {{}} Check nearby stores

Cannot be sold in {{}} Check nearby stores

Maintenance for Pellet Stoves

man holding pellet granules in his hand above a modern black stove

Pellet stoves offer a modern, efficient alternative to traditional wood-burning counterparts. Utilizing compressed wood or biomass pellets, these stoves are known for their convenience and clean-burning capabilities. However, like any appliance, they require regular maintenance for optimal operation. Let’s explore the fundamental maintenance steps for pellet stoves:

Inspect the Hopper

The hopper is where pellets are stored before they’re fed into the burn pot. Regularly check its interior for any dirt, dust, or clumps of pellets that might block the feed system. Confirm that the auger, which transports pellets from the hopper to the burn pot, rotates smoothly without obstructions.

Clean the Burn Pot

Over time, ash and residues, known as clinkers, can accumulate in the burn pot. These hard, unburned remnants can disrupt the airflow and the stove’s efficiency. Regularly inspect the burn pot and remove these clinkers. Some stoves come equipped with an “auto-clean” feature, but manual checks are still recommended.

Inspect and Clean the Venting System

The venting system or exhaust pipe removes the combustion gases from your stove. It’s crucial to periodically inspect this system for ash build-up, which can restrict the exhaust flow and affect combustion efficiency. Using a specialized vent brush, clean out any deposits to maintain clear airflow.

Check the Fans and Motors

Pellet stoves rely on fans and motors to aid in combustion and distribute heat. Dust and debris can accumulate over time, reducing their effectiveness. On a monthly basis, inspect these components and clean them with a soft brush or compressed air to maintain their optimum functionality.

Clean the Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is responsible for transferring the heat generated in the burn pot to the room. Some stoves feature a lever or rod that allows you to scrape off deposits without opening the stove. If yours doesn’t, you may need to access the exchanger directly for cleaning. Keeping it clean enhances the stove’s heating capacity.

Inspect the Auger and Auger Motor

The auger’s role is pivotal in delivering pellets from the hopper to the burn pot. Check for any signs of jamming or wear. If you notice that pellets are not feeding efficiently or there’s a strange sound, it might be time to inspect, clean, or in some cases, replace the auger or its motor.

Annual Maintenance and Professional Checks

cleaning a pellet stove with a vaccuum

Enlisting the service of professionals or dedicating time for a comprehensive annual check can make a significant difference in your stove’s performance and safety. Let’s explore what this entails:

When and Why to Consider Professional Inspection

While regular cleaning is vital, an annual deep clean by a professional ensures every part of your stove is in optimal condition. This provides peace of mind throughout the heating season.

Setting a Schedule

Schedule maintenance before winter’s onset. Make this an annual routine, and maintain a log of all inspections, cleanings, and part replacements.

Safety First: Preventative Measures and Best Practices

People drinking tea and resting by the stove

Beyond regular maintenance, adopting a safety-first mindset and following best practices can minimize risks, allowing you to enjoy the warmth without worries.

Proper Installation

Ensure that your stove is installed by a certified professional, meets safety standards, is at a safe distance from combustibles, and has proper heat shielding if needed.

Properly vented stoves reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup and other harmful emissions.

Fuel Quality

Use seasoned wood that has been dried for at least six months for wood stoves and premium-grade pellets for pellet stoves. Check out Wilco’s selection of quality fuel here.

Monitoring and Alarms

Essential for any home with a stove or fireplace, carbon monoxide detectors can alert you to potentially deadly carbon monoxide buildup. Make sure your smoke alarms are installed, functional, and checked regularly.

Safe Operation Habits

Overfilling the burning chamber can lead to excessive heat and risks. Always confirm the stove has sufficiently cooled before performing any cleaning or maintenance. Keep the area around the stove free from combustibles, including curtains, furniture, and rugs.

Ash Disposal

Always store ashes in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, placing it away from the home or any combustibles. Ashes can retain heat for longer than you might think. Always allow ashes to cool for several days before disposal.

Staying Warm and Safe

oung woman write in a notebook sitting in a armchair by the stove fire

Your stove, when cared for correctly, can offer many seasons of warmth and comfort. Regular maintenance, professional checks, and a safety-first approach are crucial. By prioritizing these steps, you ensure that every fire lit is both warm and safe.