What is best? Cast iron or steel woodburning stoves?

Choosing between a cast iron and steel fire.

We get asked this question all the time these days. Many who ask us have a pre-conception that cast iron stoves are far superior to steel logburners. However in our experience this is not the case.

Most of this argument comes from the heat storage capacity of cast iron versus steel and many people choosing between the two will purchase cast iron as they have come to believe that they hold the heat a lot longer than steel. This is the case and one I cannot argue. It is fact that cast iron has a higher heat storage capacity than steel. However, this needs to be explained further in order to answer the question.

 

There are now very few cast iron stoves made in the UK and many of them available on the market are Chinese imports. Even stoves that look cast iron that are made in the UK are in fact a steel body with cast iron doors added to the front.

Steel wood burning stove

Cast iron has an inherent problem when compared to steel Stoves. That is that cast iron stoves suffer from thermal shock. This means as the stove heats up rapidly tiny cracks can appear in the casting. One of the main comments we receive from customer is that there old stove is held together by fire cement as the castings have cracked. This simply doesn’t happen with steel wood or multifuel burning stoves. Steel is inherently elastic and therefore will stretch rather than split under rapid firing.

Another misconception is that steel stoves twist and bend under intense heat. I can totally agree with this if the stove is poorly designed and manufactured. However a good quality stove will not suffer from twisting. Always look for steel stoves with a 3 year warranty that way you can tell that the manufacturer has confidence in their process.

Modern and contemporary wood burning stoves are now designed with the latest low thermal mass brick sets that deflect the heat as well as make the fire burn hotter and more efficient. High efficiency is a function of good design and ensuring you choose a stove of 80% efficiency (vesta V4) or more is a good way to gauge the quality. These bricks are similar to what is used in night storage heaters. They have a higher heat storage capacity than cast iron and therefore offset the benefits of cast iron.

So to sum up, cast iron stoves in many cases are inferior to steel woodburning stoves. They are prone to cracking whereas steel stoves are elastic. Once a cast iron stove cracks it’s time to replace it as they become potentially dangerous. Always choose a good quality steel stove and definitely one that made in the UK, if not to support the UK’s manufacturers but to ensure your warranty can be honoured for many years to come.