Thursday, November 11, 2010

burning plastic?

My wood stove smelled like burning plastic tonight, gave me a headache. It's never given off a smell like this before. I let the fire die early and opened a window to clear the air. Has anyone experienced anything like this before? I'll call an expert tomorrow, but curious to know if this is common?


Blogger Velma Bolyard said...

did you have it really really cranking hot? when my jotul was new and i got it really hot, it stunk, not exactly like plastic, but foul and certainly not like wood.

November 11, 2010 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

What type of wood were you burning? Is it the typical wood you burn? Did you pay attention to the color of the smoke?

November 11, 2010 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Moose Nugget said...

Do you know how old the wood stove and pipe are? Did the previous owner use it?

We have a 1 yr old stove and new piping that occassionally smells like burning paint or plastic- it's the paint baking and supposedly nontoxic. Happens off and in, especially if we forget to dampen down the stove before the fire gets really hot.

To be on the safe side, double check around your stove- under, over, and along the piping as high up as you can see (we can visually inspect from our crawl space). Make sure you don't have anything that might have blown over there and started to melt, or been dragged by a curious pup. We have a curious cat that likes to bat toys that direction and have had to rescue a few of those!

We also once had some firewood that someone had slipped in a few pieces of treated wood and some that had a few drips of varnish on it. We didn't know it until our fire was raging hot, smelled pretty chemical, and wouldn't dampen down for nothin.
My husband came out here with a fire truck to handle that one. :/
we are extra careful about good wood now.

Hope all is well with the stove!

November 11, 2010 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger Kellee said...

Yikes! Do you know when the last time the chimney was cleaned? Creosote smells nasty, and a many of house fires are caused by creosote catching on fire. My grandmother had a chimney fire and the creosote ran down the stove pipe. It smelled up the whole house.

November 11, 2010 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Definitely check your stove pipe and any sealant (my dad uses a wrap / tape). His smells that way when the pipe is either too hot burning the sealant or it is getting clogged.

(just finished reading from the beginning of this blog!!)

November 11, 2010 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger Je Pense said...

Has it really been cranking the past few days?
Sometimes when our stove burns hot for days on end (usually jan.-feb.) it makes a plasticish smell, but it's never bad enough to drive people from the room.

November 11, 2010 at 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought, but when was the last time the piping and the chimney were cleaned?

November 11, 2010 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

The only time mine has ever smelled like plastic is when I was inadvertently burning plastic. :) Thankfully my husband took it well when I melted the rubberized handle of his favorite framing hammer...

If you light your fires with cast off newspaper/junk mail, might there have been some scraps of plastic in there? Ours gets a smell when it's really hot (as others have said) but I never thought of it as plastic-smelling.

November 11, 2010 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

The only time that's happened to us is if we actually burned plastic...either inside the stove or if there was something too close and the fire was really cranking.

Burning scrap lumber can give you a headache as it's chemically treated.

November 11, 2010 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger E said...

Time to find a chimney sweep and have your system cleaned and inspected perhaps? This might also be necessary for your home insurance or get you cheaper insurance if you can prove you've done it.

November 11, 2010 at 11:31 PM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

As others have said,get the flue swept,also yes burning tanalised(treated wood) is a big no no it gives off deadly fumes which you dont want outside in the air let alone inside.May have been strong winds blowing a bit of a back draft and some getting in the room? Have you got a carbon monoxide alarm,if not get one TODAY,sorry to be bossy lol but anyone with a stove should have one.

If stoves are newly sprayed the paint fumes until its cured but I dont recall ready you had recently sprayed yours?

Some logs get all sorts embedded in them,baler twine etc,that combined with a down draught may have caused it. You did right thing,close air vents down and open windows,leave room, let fire go out.Leave windows open as long as possible.

The carbon monoxide emmisions from burning are not to be taken lightly,there are sadly too many die here in the UK from badly fitted flues,stoves and chimneys :o(

Am sure whoever you get out will shed more light on it, but get that alarm ok!
GTM x x x

November 12, 2010 at 2:26 AM  
Blogger Greentwinsmummy said...

ps also think about getting a stove thermometer, as others said if a stove body gets too hot it can smell wierd, but also it can damage the stove,its not as easy always to judge from the look of a fire what the temperature is.
GTM x x

November 12, 2010 at 2:27 AM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Mine smells like plastic when I burn plastic, or melt plastic...
Kids toys too close.
Plastic whistle knob on a new tea kettle.
And my favourite... Drying gloves. Some kind of plastic material in the liner.

November 12, 2010 at 4:42 AM  
Blogger farmwifetwo said...

Carbon Monoxide doesn't smell... but that plastic smell may have been a warning.

Yes, calling someone to check/clean it, should be first on tomorrow's list.

November 12, 2010 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

If you burn old or rained on wood that has fungus on it, it gives off a strange smell that could be mistaken for plastic. Anymore, I won't burn any wood with fungus on it for this reason.

November 12, 2010 at 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you're getting it looked at today. I've never had any kind of smell from my wood stove! I figure all the burning happens in the stove and goes up the chimney. If I smell anything, even wood smoke, that means fumes are coming into my house when they shouldn't be.

November 12, 2010 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger BucksCoBernie said...

I see you're burning wood that was left on the property. If you want to avoid having burning issues when that supply runs out start cutting, splitting and stacking (or purchase now if you dont process your own, seasoned wood from wood dealers is not really seasoned 99% of the time) your future winter's wood now. By the time you have to use it, next winter or beyond, it should be below 18% moisture content and will burn nice and hot. If you burn wet wood (not seasoned) you'll have a hell of a time getting the stove temps above 300. Anything lower than 300* greatly increases the risk of creosote build up in the chimney, which mean more frequent cleanings.

Try to get at least 2 years ahead and you'll find things will go a lot smoother for you as a wood burner. Its a lot of work but its very rewarding and saves me a lot of $$$.

Oh and if you burn oak give it 2 full years to season as oak holds water a lot longer than most other species of trees.

Burn dry, Burn hot!

November 12, 2010 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger The Beers said...

Do you have anything sitting on top, like a kettle of water to add moisture to the air? Or an iron trivet? We have both. Sometimes when the stove is really hot the iron trivet will emit a hot iron smell, as will the stove itself. Also, make sure the kettle hasn't run dry.

Hope you find out what the problem is/was! Headaches from fumes are not great. :))


November 12, 2010 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger kringsrud said...

Like our furnace, our wood stove gives off a funny "burning dust" smell the first time we use it each fall.

Forest wood (pine and fir here in the Pacific Northwest), you'll have a much faster creosote build-up that can cause a bad smell.

A chimney fire will usually smell pretty dang bad.

Don't burn anything but untreated wood in a wood stove -- garbage and chemicals can give off fumes that can make you very sick. I developed a terrible respiratory illness that sidelined me for months after burning wood from trees that had been chemically treated with pesticides.

Good luck -- let us know what you find out.

November 12, 2010 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Dahlia ChanTang said...

I think we were all thinking the same thing. I no longer have a wood stove since I no longer live with parents, but the only time I got whiffs of plastic were: when the stove was too hot (the bricks on the bottom looked like they were turning red); when it was newly painted; and when the flue was dirty.
It can be any or all of the above, or you had a bit of plastic on the log you were burning.
So I will add my voice to all the others, have your chimney checked, get a thermometer for the stove, and always make sure there are no bits of plastic in or near your stove (that includes plastic handles on pots and kettles you might have on top of the stove).
Hope you find the culprit.

November 12, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Good news: I took your advice (all of your advice) and got a professional chimney sweep out here. They found an inch-2 inch thick layer of Creosote! They think that the smell came from the burning creosote in the new black stove piping, burning off the paint as a small fire started in the chamber of the 'sote.

All is well now, the whole thing is cleaned up and safe, but I was lucky to have that weird smell, whatever it was. It made me get someone in here to prevent a house fire!

November 12, 2010 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flue fire!!!! Have it cleaned before you burn again!!!

November 12, 2010 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger CJ said...

In the old days, people used to create a chimney fire on purpose to clean out their chimneys. Being a fireman, I wouldn't recommend it. A true chimney fire will sound like a jet engine is in your chimney. If you hear this, follow step one below then get out the house and call your local FD.

3 tips for you:
1)Keep a Class A water fire extinguisher in the same room as the stove. If you do get a chimney fire, open the wood stove, shoot a small amount of water on the fire and close the doors. The steam produced will help smother the chimney fire. However too much water could cause something to crack. Just a quick squirt and close the doors.
2)Buy yourself a set of chimney cleaning brushes, you'll save a ton of money and over time you learn how much creosote your system is producing. Clean your chimney every fall if you burn hardwood, twice a year if you burn soft.
3)Let your system burn a little hotter than normal first thing every morning, it will help to get rid of the small amount of creosote that was produced as the fire was dying down from the previous burn.

This is a good lesson to new home buyers, don't ever assume a chimney has been cleaned by the previous owner. Do it yourself before you light the first fire.

On the bright side, a chimney fire is one those rites of passage of all farmers check this one off the list.

November 12, 2010 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger bookjunky said...

Oh the joys of home ownership. If it's not one thing it's something else. Especially as winter sets in and you use systems that have been idle or neglected for long periods...Glad you got it taken care of.

November 12, 2010 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Tracy Bruring said...

do you have a carbon monoxide alarm?

November 12, 2010 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger Bosco said...

Hi- I first experienced this identical situation some years ago. I found that the stove pipe was being painted with an acrylic paint, at the factory. What is acrylic? It is a form of plastic. Above a certain temperature, the plastic evaporates- it then permeates the air in the room, and can be breathed, etc. Solution? First- the EPA has effectively banned the sale of anything BUT acrylic paint. Use a propane torch, and "burn off" the offending paint coating, with the room doors/windows wide open, or replace the existing pipe with other that has already been "burned off". (they tried to warn us about the "plastic" world we are living in-did anyone listen?)

November 18, 2011 at 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

may be your chimney pipe needs clean, I suggest you cleant it every 6 months.

January 9, 2012 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger i'm jefra... said...

I am so glad you posted this. I've had the exact same problem and been baffled by what could be making that awful smell since we only burn old wood from up in the mountains. It only happens when our fire burns real hot, it smells like some kind of awful plastic or powdered cleanser and it's stifling. I'm calling a sweep tomorrow. Thank you!

January 17, 2012 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My wood stove smelled like burning plastic tonight, gave me a headache. It's never given off a smell like this before. I let the fire die early and ...

October 30, 2015 at 7:23 AM  

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