Fire cement: A handy tub for wood-burning stove installations and running repairs

KOS Fire Cement tub

This tub is something all wood-burning stove owners should have in the shed or under the sink. It’s so versatile, handy and effective that it makes sense to have it on hand to use whenever it might be needed.

It is, of course, fire cement.

Fire cement has a lot of uses that make it a tremendously helpful item for a wood-burning stove owner to have at their disposal.

For instance, fire cement can be used to:

  • seal the gap at the stove collar and at the stove adaptor during stove installations
  • fix cracked firebacks
  • fill any other voids or cracks in high temperature environments.

So, if you spot any holes appearing in your stove body – either caused by rust that has been allowed to spread, impact damage or by the cast iron panels moving apart slightly due to the high temperature – you can fill the gaps with fire cement, which can withstand the heat the stove generates.

That allows for a quick and effective fix to keep your stove working efficiently and prevent any smoke or harmful gases seeping out into your home. Your appliance will be sealed once again and you can rest assured that you’ve sealed it with a material that is designed for that very purpose.

The fire cement featured in this article is available ready-mixed in the tub, which means you can just concentrate on quickly and easily applying it to the surface in question.

And this 1kg tub is just £8. Click here for more details about this fire cement.

[NB. The fire cement featured here is black, so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb when applied to a wood-burning stove. When applying fire cement to a surface that isn’t black, you might prefer this tub which comes in regular cement colour.

Why is there condensation on my wood-burning stove?

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The relationship between wood-burning stoves and condensation is a tricky one, though some instances are more serious than others.

Let’s start with what ought to be the least severe example of condensation on a stove…

Condensation on the outside of the stove

Condensation on the outside of the stove body is usually an indication that the air in your home is humid and is condensing when it comes into contact with a cold surface (that’s why you will normally spot this if your stove is out of use for a few days).

If you already experience condensation in your property (on windows, for example), this is just an example of the same effect but on a different surface. If the condensation has only arisen since you got a stove, are you keeping logs in the property? They could be adding moisture in the air as water evaporates from the wood.

Increasing ventilation is the quickest and easiest solution to this problem.

Condensation inside the stove

This usually happens if a stove is not working hard enough. If flue gases cool before they’ve exited the flue when leaving the stove, this can create condensation, which seeps back into the stove. If that condensation is allowed to sit in your stove, it can cause corrosion and rust.

This is an indication that something about the way your stove is being operated is not correct. It can also lead to…

Tar condensation

If you find tar condensation in your stove, you can bet there is plenty in your flue, too. Except some of it will have solidified into tar and creosote, which further reduces your stove’s efficiency and increases the risk of chimney fires.

Minimise condensation in your stove by:

  • burning seasoned wood
  • ensuring there is a strong draw up your chimney
  • operating your stove at full capacity
  • ensuring there is plenty of ventilation in your room
  • allowing ventilation into your stove system when it is out of use

Operating your woodburner efficiently reduces the chance of condensation forming in your appliance.

Find out how to do that here.

12 signs you’re a wood-burning stove owner

With wood-burning stove sales having increased five-times since 2007 and around 180,0000 households having new stoves installed in 2014 alone, there are lots of new wood-burning stove owners in the UK right now. Here are 12 tell-tale signs that you’re one of them!

1. During walks in the countryside, you find your eyes are now drawn to fallen trees rather than nature that’s actually alive.

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2. You look forward to the first bitterly cold day of the winter in the same way that most people look forward to the first sunny day of summer.

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3. You look like this after opening your heating bill.

Energy Bills

4. Your friends now nervously phone ahead before calling over to see if the stove will be lit…

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5. … And behave like this if they arrive and it’s not lit.

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6. You found out the hard way just how hot a woodburner gets when it’s lit.

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7. The sight or even the remote possibility of some free wood brings out an Albert Steptoe side to your character that you never realised existed.

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8. The dramatic improvement in your fire-lighting technique could be the subject of an uplifting, against-the-odds TV documentary.

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9. You nurture a fledgling flame with the sort of care and attention usually reserved for your offspring.

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10. You’re well-acquainted with the feeling of realising you haven’t checked on the stove for ages and your fire might have gone out.

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11. You no longer think that sprinkling salt on something is the only way of seasoning it.

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12. You’ve managed to turn Coronation Street into an audiobook that looks like this:

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If you’re not yet a wood-burning stove owner, visit gr8fires.co.uk to have a look at some of the options.

5 outstanding woodburners for barn conversions and large open-plan spaces

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A wood-burning stove is a lovely addition to a barn conversion and other large open-plan renovations. But installing a stove in this kind of environment usually has a very specific set of requirements.

Firstly, with high ceilings and vast amounts of space to fill, you will probably need plenty of ‘oomph’ from your woodburner if it is to be the main source of heating in the property. You can check approximately what heat output your space would need by using our heat output calculator, but for the purposes of this article we will assume that an output of 12kW is needed.

Also, barns and similar buildings are unlikely to have chimneys or fireplaces so, unless you’re having one built, you will probably require a free-standing or pedestal-mounted stove.

Here are some options that fit the bill.

Invicta Chamane 14 kW Wood Burning Stove
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The photo above demonstrates the open-plan credentials of the Invicta Chamane. Its 14kW heat output is suitable to add warmth to even large spaces. A very attractive stove, it is made from cast iron and burns only wood. Click here to have a closer look.

Thorma Alvesta Brown and Sandstone Wood Burning Stove
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The Thorma Alvesta adds a rugged touch and a bit of the outdoors to any renovation project courtesy of its sandstone finish. It has a 12kW heat output and is made from steel. Click here to have a closer look.

Invicta Pharos 12 kW Wood Burning Stove
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The Invicta Pharos pedestal stove comes with the advantage of 360° rotation, which means that – wherever in your room you happen to be – you can always have the flames facing you. The Pharos has a 12kW heat output and is made from cast iron Click here to have a closer look.

Invicta Oracle 14 kW Wood Burning Stove
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As with other appliances on this list, the tall Invicta Oracle has the presence to ensure it is not lost within the space of a converted barn or other large space. This cast iron woodburner generates a 14kW heat output. Click here to have a closer look.

Invicta Nelson 14 kW Double Fronted Wood Burning Stove
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Although the tall woodburners are well-suited to open-plan spaces, landscape stoves can work well, too. This Invicta Nelson demonstrates that point rather neatly. It boasts a 14kW heat output and a cast iron construction. It also benefits from a large glass window and the fact that it is double-fronted means you can double the area of the room from which you get a lovely view of the flames. Click here to have a closer look.

Installing a wooden mantel above a wood-burning stove

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With the wood-burning stoves resurgence showing no sign of slowing down, the humble stove now has interior design trends attached to it.

One of the biggest stove decor must-haves at the moment is the wooden mantel, which is often in the form of a piece of reclaimed or salvaged timber.

The difficulty with this is that the relevant building regulations state that a standard uninsulated flue pipe must be positioned at least three times its diameter away from combustible materials.

So, wood being a combustible material, a wooden mantel would need to be at least 450mm (18 inches) from a 6-inch flue, which isn’t always practical.

Heat shield

One way to overcome this is to use a heat shield, usually in the form of fireboard. This should still be positioned at least one-and-a-half times the flue’s diameter away from it. There should also be an air gap of at least 12mm between the shield and the mantel.

Some stove fitters are prepared to fit the heat shielding around the flue rather than close to the mantel to avoid spoiling the aesthetics of the wood. But it is worth noting that this a matter of contention and other fitters maintain that this approach is not compliant with building regulations.

You can read the building regulations for yourself here.

The benefits of burning hardwood rather than softwood on your woodburner

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As a rule of thumb, it is better to burn hardwood than softwood on a wood-burning stove. Of the recommended fuels for woodburners, the vast majority are hardwoods rather than softwoods.

So, what is it that generally gives hardwoods the edge over their softwood counterparts?

Space-saving
If you’re buying wood, you will generally do so by the weight. Hardwoods are more dense than softwoods, so a tonne of a hardwood will take up less space than a tonne of softwood. That might be a selling point when the logs are being stacked in your back garden.

Longer burn time
The aforementioned higher density is perhaps an even bigger factor once you’re ready to burn the logs. Hardwoods will generally burn for longer than softwoods because the fire takes longer to work through the more solid structure of a hardwood.

Fewer top-ups
Longer burn times also mean less time spent loading more fuel into your stove. If each load of fuel last for longer – as it will do with a hardwood in comparison to a softwood – you will be able to get away with fewer top-ups each evening.

More bang for your buck
Buying wood by volume means you receive more kilowatts per hour (kWh) from a cubic metre of a hardwood than you would from a cubic metre of softwood. The higher density means there is also a higher calorific value in hardwoods. This is true at any stage of the seasoning process given the same moisture content in both the hardwood and softwood.


Remember: this is just a rule of thumb. Some softwoods make for good wood-burning stove fuel. Cedar is a good example of a softwood that is well-suited to woodburners and can hold its own against many hardwoods.

Get more information on which types of wood are good to burn on woodburners.

Can you burn charcoal on a multi-fuel stove or woodburner?

Charcoal on a multi fuel stove or woodburner

Stove manufacturers usually give a detailed run down of what fuels it is safe to burn on their woodburners. Something that is often missed out is charcoal.

Given that charcoal is now readily available and often packaged in the form of handy charcoal briquettes, this is something that manufacturers may feel the need to address in future editions of stove manuals.

In the meantime, we will have to do a bit of detective work to find out whether charcoal can be burned on a wood-burning stove.

So, is it safe to burn charcoal on my stove?

First things first: if it’s a wood-burning stove, the answer is definitely ‘no’, as it is with any fuel other than wood. A wood-burning stove is designed to burn wood and wood alone. A woodburner will not have a raised grate and fuels other than wood may cause damage to the appliance. Read more on the difference between a wood-burning stove and a multi-fuel stove.

If you have a multi-fuel stove, we would still advise against using charcoal unless your manufacturer has specifically told you otherwise. Our reasoning for this is the high temperature at which charcoal burns.

While few manufacturers make mention of charcoal, most manuals will tell you not to burn coke because it burns at a very high temperature, which might cause your stove parts to melt or warp.

Charcoal burns at even higher temperature than coke (up to up to 2,700°C), which leads us to believe that burning it in your multi-fuel stove is likely to do as much, if not more damage as burning coke.

If that has scuppered your plans, here are some alternative ideas of what to burn on a stove instead of charcoal.

MORE: Find out why you shouldn’t burn household coal in a multi-fuel stove.

The 3 stages of seasoning wood

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Wood can be said to go through three stages on its way to being ready to burn in your woodburner. Here they are:

1. Freshly felled

Freshly felled wood is sometimes called green wood. It is high in moisture, often with a moisture content 40-50%.

The outside of the wood is lighter in colour than seasoned wood, there will be fewer cracks and the bark will be firmly attached.

2. Air dry

Air dry wood has reached the stage of the seasoning process by which the moisture content that was as high as 50% when the wood was first cut has dropped to around 25%.

Wood can hold water both inside its cells and within the cell walls. By the time it is air dry, most of the wood all or most of the water from inside the sells has been evaporated.

This stage is achieved by placing the wood in an exposed site, stacked off the ground on a platform or pallet (to avoid moisture soaking into the wood from the ground). The logs should also be covered to protect them from rain or snow that would cause moisture to be reabsorbed. But if the wood is covered entirely it is susceptible to rotting. For that reason, it is important to ensure the storage area is well-ventilated and, ideally, open to the wind.

How long does this process take? For dense hardwoods, such as oak, beech, sycamore and hornbeam, ideally two summers and a winter will be needed to season the wood as effectively as possible.

For woods like ash, birch and poplar, which have larger cells, air dry seasoning can be achieved within one spring and summer, weather permitting.

3. House dry

The seasoning process can be finished by entering the final stage: the house dry stage. This means bringing the wood into your home a few days before you are expecting to burn it. The warm atmosphere created by the heat from your stove burning fuel that has previously been house dried will help to get a final chunk of moisture to evaporate and should bring the moisture content down to around 20%.

Check the moisture content of your logs with a moisture meter.

This device could save you £206.55 each time you burn a tonne of wood

Moisture Meter Woodburner

One of the best ways to ensure your wood-burning stove runs cost-effectively is to only burn seasoned logs on it.

Freshly cut, green firewood is likely to have a moisture content of around 50 per cent. Wood that has been cut, chopped and left to air for 12 month or more will have a moisture content that could be as low as 20 per cent.

On a practical level, it is easy to work out that the seasoned wood with the lower moisture content will be by far the most efficient option because less of the energy created by the fuel will be expended on evaporated the moisture. The energy ‘saved’ by not having to evaporate the water to allow the log to burn can instead be put to good use heating your home more quickly. But enough about the practicalities, what about the financial impact…

The financial benefits of burning seasoned wood

Using those approximate figures of 50 per cent moisture content for unseasoned wood and 20 per cent moisture content for seasoned wood, a tonne of unseasoned wood has a calorific value of around 2,400kWh (kilowatts per hour), whereas a tonne of seasoned wood has a calorific value of 4,110kWh.

If we say that a kWh of heat is worth 5 pence (which is roughly accurate for wood, gas and oil heating), you get more than £90 worth of additional heat from the seasoned wood.

The tonne of unseasoned wood generates £116.38 worth of heat, while the higher value seasoned wood generates heat worth £206.55.

While sourcing, stacking and storing seasoned wood does take a bit of time and effort, the savings are worthwhile (and that’s before we’ve considered the benefits to your appliance of burning seasoned wood).

Making sure you get your money’s worth

The easiest way to make sure you’re squeezing every pound (and every drop of moisture) possible out of your fuel, is to use a moisture meter.

This digital device will tell you the moisture content of a log so you can see if it is seasoned sufficiently.

Have a closer look at a moisture meter.