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Log Burning

Is your fireplace or wood stove ready for winter?

Last week, I posted an article about a firewood rack I was planning to build. Unfortunately, I haven’t finished (or even begun) my project, but that mindset of preparing for winter is the topic of today’s post.

The vast majority of log home owners have a working fireplace or wood stove. This means that we are all faced with the annual chore of getting our chimney or flue cleaned. If you use your fireplace on a regular basis throughout the winter months, DO NOT put this off. If you maintain your own chimney you probably know how quickly soot and creosote can build up, so my reminder is not a surprise. However, if you pay a professional chimney sweep to do this for you, you may not be aware how serious this problem can be.

I talk about this because I have a neighbor who decided to get his chimney cleaned every other year instead of annually. This fellow used his chimney almost every day, but he figured that once every other year was adequate. Fortunately for him (and his family), he stopped by while I was cleaning my flue and we talked about his maintenance schedule.

I use a wood stove, which is located in the basement and to join with the chimney, it requires two 90 degree bends in the stove pipe. Bends in a flue contribute to creosote buildup because they affect the “draw” of the chimney. My neighbor could not believe the amount of creosote I was scraping from my stove pipe. I had a pile of black coal-tar-looking substance piled inches high on the dropcloth. When my neighbor found out that this was the result of one season’s usage, he couldn’t hide his surprise.

The good news is that my neighbor changed his mind about putting off his chimney cleaning and called for a sweep to visit the very next day. Every year we hear about a chimney fire that can result in a home being lost and sometimes worse. This “public service ad” is meant to remind everyone that there are some things you can put off until later, but maintaining your chimney properly is not one of them. If you used your fireplace last winter – get the chimney cleaned.

BTW, a sweep can be an expensive visit, so if you are a do-it-yourself type, visit your local hardware store and look at the chimney brushes and pole assemblies available. They are inexpensive and last for years. Cleaning a chimney is not rocket science and it doesn’t have to be a dirty job if you prepare for it properly with a tarp and shop vac. I’ve been cleaning mine for years and all it takes is a couple hours work – once each year.

Also, the type of wood you burn will affect the build-up of creosote you create. Hard or soft woods, their moisture content, etc. Be aware and educate yourself about the particulars in your area of the country.

3 comments to Log Burning

  • Timothy V.

    A very timely reminder, thanks. Like your neighbor I was not a habitual chimney cleaner. I always figured I didn’t use it enough to build up enough of anything that could catch fire or cause a problem. In my case I was lucky because my woodstove started to have a drafting problem and was letting smoke filter back in the room. I finally called a chimney service and when they opened my stovepipe I must have had 2 inches of junk caking my pipe. The guy said that this was a fire just waiting to happen. The gunk was so thick it was blocking my air flow and thus the draft problem.

    Toda I am a believer!!! To everyone else I say DITTO – get your chimbe cleaned often.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent suggestion. I think this is a problem more widespread than most people think. It is the old “can’t happen to me” syndrome 🙂

  • SpecialMe

    Thanks for your wonder ful suggestion..

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