Thursday, November 15, 2012

happy little sparks

Last night as I was sitting in my living room, talking on the phone with a good friend, I noticed a few red sprinkles of ash outside the French glass doors. It was like I was sitting under a very unenthusiastic volcano. Every few seconds a little poof of red confetti fell down, and while it was pretty I didn't want it to be the preshow of a chimney fire. I went through that last year with the other, older, stove and wasn't interested in a repeat performance...

I walked outside and watched. There was no roar or crazy oxygen-induced whistle of a chimney fire. Just the normal smoke and the happy sparks. I figured it was a piece of the paper bag I used to start the fire earlier, trapped up there and burning off in little coughs. To be safe I closed the flue and stopped burning for the night. The sparks stopped and I fell asleep like a grateful brick. I had been up 21 hours straight and wanted that rest in a primal way.

This morning I woke up to a 20-degree, frost covered farm, and the house was down to 55. Not unbearable, but not comfortable either. I decided to do some inspecting so I went outside and opened the hatch on the cold pipe chimney to see what was going on. A little ash came out, and for good measure I stuck ten feet of chimney brush up there and a little residue fell into my bucket, but not the kind of creosote and gunk that causes fires. Feeling vindicated, I went about the good work of chopping kindling to get the place comfortable.

An hour later the animals were fed and I was outside waiting for a water bucket to fill at my well spout. Both chimneys seemed to be working fine. The two fires would raise the house about twenty degrees in four hours. I'd me sweating bullets before lunch. A small victory, but I felt like a 10th degree blackbelt in home ownership out there.

We learn as we go.


Blogger Bob Spencer said...


Oops. Too bad about your fire worries. I have installed flues, etc for a living and have a few checklist items. Make sure that you have all of the minimum clearances for your flue. You may have a masonry flue, but a stainless steel insulated flue is much safer. A flue that is approved in Canada is best. It will withstand much more than US approved flues. Use firestops in every ceiling. I actually made calls to several wood stove dealers asking for a firestop and none sold them. That's incredible because all building codes require them. But that is just an example of what's going on. Even if you had your masonry flue cleaned, hard creosote can remain and can soak through the mortar. That can burn down your house and the insurance company probably will not pay.

Anyway, this stuff is a pain and a worry. The Canadian approved flues will cost about $1,500 for a two story house. ouch!

November 15, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

With winter grabbing hold, your generous sharing offers readers valuable lessons about our heating systems. Just never know where we might learn these things.
Glad your scare proved innocent this time.

November 15, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Bob Spencer said...


Oops---correction. I was careless about the price of a flue. That approximate cost of $1,500 is a working a deal type of cost for the materials. I didn't think about paying somebody to do the installation. A liner is another option for a masonry flue.

November 15, 2012 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger farmwifetwo said...

Never use anything but newspaper in your stoves. Dh thought he'd prove me wrong one winter and burnt the wrapping paper. My Father had made this mistake once when I was a child. Let's just say I was happy we have a steel roof.

Therefore.... nothing but newspaper.

November 15, 2012 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Hey Bob?

So my chimneys, both of them, are the metal kind without masonry. The double-walled pipes. The living room one goes outside the house and doesn't even really touch it and the mudroom one in the back of the house goes up through the attic. Are these more or less safe than conventional mason chimneys?

November 15, 2012 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Ivanhoe said...

"The sparks stopped and I fell asleep like a grateful brick" is just the greatest sentence ever!

November 15, 2012 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Bob Spencer said...

Any flue that goes through your house should be the insulated stainless steel kind. These are much safer than a masonry flue even though they don't look as quaint. Actually, "double wall" usually refers to the black flue that goes directly from your stove to the first ceiling or wall where there needs to be a very tight fire stop. After that, everything should be the shinny stainless steel insulated flue pipe. The entire flue can get pretty hot, so get good stuff. Correct clearances from anything that will burn is very important.

Inside the first ceiling joists or wall frame the flue has to be the stainless steel insulated type. The double wall is not insulated and usually has to be 18 inches from a wall. The fire stop makes it safe to enter the ceiling or wall.

November 15, 2012 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Bob Spencer said...

Oh--the insulated pipe can be within two inches of wood.

November 15, 2012 at 2:09 PM  

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