How to Fix a Wood-Burning Stove

Promptly fixing any problems with your wood-burning stove is essential for your personal safety. It also maximizes energy efficiency and minimizes air pollution.

Measure the existing components and purchase the necessary stovepipe, connectors and installation materials and tools.

Remove screws (or nuts and bolts) at the appliance collar, stovepipe joints and flue connection. If stainless-steel rivets were used, drill them out using a bit slightly larger than the hole in the rivet. (You may need to grasp the rivet with pliers or push against it with a screwdriver to keep it from spinning as you drill.)

When you've removed all fasteners, disassemble the connector.

If any cutting is required, open the pipe seam (if it's not already open) by pressing in on it. Use straight-cutting metal snips to make the cut. Snap the pipe back together, pressing in to engage the seam and releasing to lock it.

If any crimping is necessary, place a crimping tool over the end of the pipe and squeeze tightly. Move the tool over a jaw's width and crimp again. Repeat this procedure around the pipe (see A).

Assemble the connector and then secure all joints with self-tapping 1/4-inch (6-mm) sheet-metal screws. Use three equally spaced screws at each pipe connection, and secure the pipe to the appliance collar and flue in the same manner as the old pipe. Drill pilot holes for the screws and twist them in with a screwdriver or drill and driver.

Remove the combustor (see B). Access varies, but it's always easy. You may access it from inside or by removing a plate on the outside, and you may need a screwdriver or other hand tool.

Use a soft paintbrush or a vacuum to remove fly ash or soot. Boil a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and distilled water in a pot large enough to submerge the combustor (or pour boiling water into such a container). Reduce the heat and gently lower in the combustor to soak for 30 minutes. Loop wire or string through the combustor to form a handle. Rinse it twice for 15 minutes in clean, boiled distilled water. Wait 24 hours or dry it completely in a 300°F (150°C) oven for an hour.

Burn off any creosote. Reinstall the combustor and burn a fire at higher than normal temperatures for 30 minutes, but no higher than 1,700°F (927°C).

Combustors typically last 12,000 hours (five to six years). If yours is due for replacement (indicated by severe peeling of the catalyst coating, random thermal cracking or missing pieces), replace it.

Pry and scrape out the old gasket with an old screwdriver and clean the door's surface with a wire brush.

Apply a bead of high-temperature cement using a caulking gun. Embed the replacement glass-fiber door-gasket rope. Close and secure the door to allow the required curing time as directed on the label.

Have connectors and chimney flues cleaned when creosote buildup reaches 1/4 inch (6 mm), or 1/8 inch (3 mm) for creosote in a tarlike form. Many factors affect the rate of buildup. Frequent inspection and past experience is the only way to determine if cleaning needs to be done monthly, yearly or on some other schedule.

If your flue needs cleaning, call a certified chimney sweep. Chimney cleaning is a complex process that involves far more than brushing out the flue and vacuuming up the mess. Preliminary and final inspections spot problems and potentially dangerous situations, and the task requires numerous inside preparations.


You must use double-wall stainless Type L vent pipe when you can't meet the necessary clearances from combustibles for single-wall stovepipe. To prevent liquid creosote from leaking out of a connector, plan the pipe assembly so the crimped end will face downward on vertical sections.


Consult your local building department before making changes to a wood stove's installation; for example, repositioning it or changing to another type of connector. Burning creosote off a combustor can cause a fire if the chimney is dirty. Always inspect and clean the chimney before this procedure. Reinstalling and using a still-wet combustor can ruin it. Never burn trash in a woodburning stove. The corrosive by-products drastically speed the failure of stovepipe connectors, internal parts of the stove and catalytic combustors. Never remove the protective sleeve on a catalytic combustor. The ceramic combustor is very fragile once it has been used.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass-fiber Door Gasket
  • High-temperature Cement Cartridge
  • Self-tapping 1/4-inch (6-mm) Sheet-metal Screws
  • Paintbrush Or Vacuum
  • Wire Brush
  • White Vinegar And Distilled Water
  • Large Metal Pot
  • Replacement Catalytic Combustor
  • Caulking Gun
  • Crimping Tool
  • Straight-cutting Metal Snips
  • Tape Measure
  • Wire Or String
  • Electric drill and driver, drill bits
  • Stovepipe, connectors, and installation materials and tools
  • Screwdriver, pliers and wrenches
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