Thursday, November 13, 2008


We're using a wood stove for heat this winter. As a supplement to oil. The price, which was almost double last year's price a few months ago, has kept pace with gas prices and fallen back down these days, but it's still one of our largest yearly expenses, and firewood is much cheaper. So we've been splitting and stacking for a couple of months, and now we're almost done. Heating with a wood stove is hard work, and messy, but so far I'm in love with toasty floors and warmth that sometimes rises above 70 degrees without guilt that we're burning too much oil.

We did have an episode. Three days ago our house began to smell smokey. I thought it was from the smoke that escaped every time I opened the door of the stove to add more wood to the fire. But it got worse. When my throat started burning and the smell permeated all the rooms of our house I finally concluded that something was wrong. I went to bed determined to let the fire die out and investigate in the morning. When My Hero came home late that night the fire was still burning strongly, and he (prompted by the haze of smoke that greeted him at the door when he came home, I'm sure) went down to the basement to find the problem. He noticed smoke curling out of the joints in the elbow of our stovepipe. In the morning I called my dad to see what kind of advice he had about fixing leaky stovepipes (which we bought brand new just a few months ago). He had never heard of stovepipes leaking like that and suggested we check our chimney to make sure it wasn't blocked. I couldn't believe creosote could've built up already after only a few weeks of using our chimney, but I found a little mirror and checked. I could see daylight, but there was something like a big black pipe blocking my view.

Our problem: The stovepipe connecting to the chimney was all the way IN the chimney and up against the back wall. When we pulled it out we saw a ring of creosote build-up where the stovepipe met the back wall of the chimney, so it must have sealed itself completely shut and the smoke had nowhere to go.

I had been marveling about how difficult it was to start a fire in a wood stove. I would load it with newspaper and kindling, making sure there was plenty of space for air to travel between them, light the newspaper in 5 or 10 different places, and hold my breath to see if it would catch. Often the newspaper would burn for 2 or 3 minutes and then die out. I would often have to give it three or four tries before the fire would start, and I began ranting to My Hero about how ridiculous it was that houses burned down accidentally so often, when clearly even the best fuel was so difficult to ignite. Heh. With no airflow, I'm surprised it burned at all.

Now when I put in the newspaper and kindling and light the match to it, it roars to life, and I have to be ready to add more wood before it burns itself away.

1 comment:

clautiestan said...

hee hee!! What a funny story - I'm glad things were figured out, and that starting the fire is now so much easier. =) =) Mark it down as a lesson learned...