Woodstoves and air-tight fireplaces aren’t exactly a high-tech way to heat your home, but millions of northern people happily rely on them for two reasons. They’re the cheapest source of household heat for anyone who has even the most basic access to firewood, and they’re exceptionally reliable. When electricity fails and your furnace won’t work, or the oil truck can’t get down your icy rural driveway, an airtight woodstove or fireplace will keep you warm and happy.
Besides adding wood, removing ash and cleaning the chimney, the only other maintenance chore is the occasional need to change the gasket around the perimeter of the door. Gaskets like these matter because they create an air-tight seal allowing full control of the combustion air entering the fire through adjustable vents. As long as the fireplace or woodstove has burning wood in it, more air means more heat. Less air means less heat, though a longer burn time. Gaskets are essential to the impressive efficiency and long burn times of modern woodstoves, but the constant opening and closing of the door eventually causes door gaskets to fail. That’s when you need to tackle the easy but necessary job of gasket replacement. Important as it is, you probably won’t find a professional to do this for you, so you’ll need to handle it yourself.
Every airtight woodstove and fireplace insert uses the same kind of braided fibreglass rope installed around the perimeter of the door to create a seal. This is universal in the world of airtight wood-burning appliances, and you know this rope needs replacing when it gets brittle, breaks falls out or you lose the ability to throttle back your fire using air intake valves.
It costs less than $25 for a new rope gasket kit with the high-temperature adhesive to hold it in place, and every hardware store in Canada carries what you’ll need. The only complication is rope gasket diameter. This stuff comes in different sizes, so you need to be informed before you buy. Snip off a few inches of the failed rope gasket, then bring it with you to the store. The new rope will be round and supple while the old rope will be flatter and more brittle. Just the same, a chunk of old stuff still shows what diameter you need. Get more than you figure is required. The only way for an accurate fit is to cut it to length during installation.
When you get home, make sure your stove is completely cold, then pull all the old gasket out of the groove. Needlenose pliers work great for this and most of the rope will come out in one go. Use a putty knife or slot screwdriver to remove the remaining, crusty adhesive from within the groove, then grab your new rope and scissors.
Get help holding the new rope in the entire door groove without glue, then precisely cut it to length so both ends meet in the bottom corner of the hinge side of the door. No gap or overlap. Avoid pulling the rope as you work. That just makes it thin and more likely to fall out later. The gasket should go into the door groove full and loose.
Remove the rope, brush a generous layer of glue into the groove using a plumber’s flux brush, then reinstall the rope. The glue is viscose enough to hold the rope in place while you close the door. Leave it overnight to dry and start a fire in the morning. Your door will now seal properly for years.
If you’re anything like me, the repairs you’ve done on your wood stove will help you like that trusty friend all the more. Simple technology, a cozy glow and a cheap way to heat. What more could you want?
Steve Maxwell keeps his family warm exclusively with wood on their Manitoulin Island, Ontario homestead. Get Steve’s articles, videos and cool tool giveaways at BaileyLineRoad.com
Steve Maxwell and his wife Mary live on a 90-acre modern homestead on Manitoulin Island, Ontario in a stone house they built with local materials beginning in 1985. Steve is Canada’s longest-running home improvement and how-to columnist and editor of Home and Property. He divides his time working on the land, building things large and small, and creating articles and how-to videos that teach sustainable, self-reliant, hands-on living skills. Steve’s website, Bay Line Road, is named after the rural road where he and Mary live with their five kids.