Weather you want to admit it or not, winter is almost here. Most of us have seen flurries already, and although there is no snow cover for most of the inhabited country...it really won't be long. Past is the time to get your wood stove up to par for the year, but I find people are procrastinators in general, so here are a few things you NEED to get done to get your wood stove ready for the heating season.
If you are a do it yourself type, this chore may be quite a dirty one, but relatively easy. Use a proper sized brush and make a few passes to ensure you get as much crud out as possible. If you decide to have it done professionally, only pay the company you called. There are a lot of chimney sweeping scams out there, especially in urban areas that claim the job has already been done according to municipal regulations and now you have to pay for the service. Guess what...none of these people ACTUALLY clean anything. I've met people that received this type of letter that don't even have a chimney.
Check & Replace Door and Window Gaskets
this is a bit of a pain in the rear job, but most stoves today have a fiberglass gasket around the door that keeps air from flowing into the firebox uncontrolled. A compressed gasket can feed too much air to your fire and cause overheating stove pipes and chimneys to ignite flameable items near them, even when kept at recommended distances. Most gaskets will need replacing every year, two at the most. Take a sample of your existing gasket to your home center and ask for a replacement kit. This is a completely DIY job and all you need is the supplied gasket and heat resistant glue supplied in the kit. If your stove has a window, a kit with self adhesive gasket material is available
Broken fire bricks don't do as good of job absorbing and transferring heat into the room. Check for broken and cracked bricks and replace them with fire bricks. Don't use regular bricks or stone as they can crack, explode, and damage your stove.
I like to use a creosote inhibitor throughout the year. No, it doesn't replace a good chimney sweeping, but it does make the job a lot easier. A jar of this stuff will last a long time and make yearly maintenance easier.