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Sunday, February 01, 2009


The wood stove has been increasingly smoky lately… until Wednesday night, when the smoke stopped going up the chimney altogether and started coming out from around the trim panel. We closed the damper and draft down completely, choking off the fire in the box, and let it dry out.

Today, we got around to having a look at the situation. We pulled the insert out and found chunks of creosote here and there, but not enough to choke off the draft; I got out a paint scraper and ended up with an impressive amount of gunk. We swept it up and put it in a bucket.

Mrs. Fetched’s uncle said a “home remedy” was to swish a chain around the inside of the chimney to loosen up deposits… but like I said, it was clear all the way up. We decided to try it, so she went to get something for the chimney while I went up on the roof to see what getting a chain (or a chimney brush) down there would involve. I found a mesh of dog wire covering the exit, which was covered with creosote deposits, so I called Mrs. Fetched to tell her I found the problem.

I went down, got the paint scraper, and got the crud off the top of the screen. This didn’t do much for the stuff underneath, so I lifted the screen… and found about a centimeter of gunk like a blanket across the top of the chimney. This I removed then replaced the screen.

We lit a piece of paper, and it caught and went up the chimney… so Mrs. Fetched started a bigger fire. And the smoke’s coming right back into the house. I guess we’ll call a chimney sweep.


  1. Hey Far! Gee, eh?!! Don't that just piss ya right the hell off!!!

    Umm, just by any chance you guys, er I mean "ya all" reopened any drafts including the one in the fireplace, that might have gone closed? Can you actually see daylight up through the chimney? Could you ever?

    Don't worry Far, we'll get to the bottom of this!! ha!

    Thanks, yooper (top chimney sweep, at your service) Where's my black hat?!!!

  2. I'm back, first, remove that screen completely, it was ok when the fireplace was in use as deposits went straight up and out (with the heat), now with the slow burn of the woodstove, that is a fire harzard... If you want a screen to keep squirrels out make a cone to set on top, visible on the outside, made perferably with coarse steel material.

  3. Heh! heh! Back in my younger days when my back was a lot stronger, I'd shovel snow off peoples roofs. It was often, as custom, that people would let their fires go out just prior to my coming. Since I was on the roof already, I could easily inspected the chimney system.

    One time I can remember in particular. It was the place of a old Native American fisherman friend of mine. He had been making "little fires" during the fall, just to keep the home warm during the fall. By the time I got up there to shovel the snow off the roof in late December, there was only a hole about the size of a quarter throughout the entire length of the pipe! As I banged away with chain on a rope, it filled the stove with creosote twice! Then I sweeped it clean with a brush. Whew! That could have cost him his life!

  4. It's a good idea to have a sweep take a look, Far. I hope that you get it going again soon.

  5. Hope all goes well with the chimney and stove FAR. I know you will get it figured out and realize that it was something simple.

    I hope to get my own woodstove installed soon. Thankfully my son has worked for several years as a chimney sweep/woodstove installer. I just need to finish getting the "peripherals" for stove installation: pipes, hearth, etc. Kinda hard getting those when hubby is out of work on medical leave. Hubby, though would prefer we never have one, but....I have been persistent enough that he finally gave in. It's issues like yours that make him scared of having one, though. He has never lived in a home that has had one. I, on the other hand, have been around them since I was a kid.

  6. Throw some ribs on top of the firebox stove and you'll have some homemade BBQ.


  7. Yeah, Yooper… you think it's fixed and it isn't. That's one of my least favorite things. I might just wrap the screen around the cap; that would keep critters out & I could see if it was getting clogged up w/o going on the roof. I'll pull the insert back out tomorrow morning & look for daylight; I'm pretty sure the old fireplace damper didn't get hit (which was one thing I thought about) but you never know. Some of that "cap" fell back down the chimney when I started pulling it out, so it might be clogging things up.

    Thanks for confirming the chain advice… you mention "chain on a rope" — Mrs. Fetched wants to know, how heavy of a chain, and how long a piece do you need? (I remember you telling me about the chimney that had throttled down that far, but not with that level of detail.) Yup, we'll get it worked out. She's ready to go to Tractor Supply and get a chain & chimney brush! Me, I have to figure out how to get the cap off without falling off the roof. :-P

    Boran, I figure we'll have someone out here this week. Today would have been best, since we're getting another spat of cold weather coming in, but we're about out of wood anyway. Meh, as Daughter Dearest would say.

    Mrs. M, the best thing is to have a chimney sweep come out every fall to make sure everything is good to go. I kept telling Mrs. Fetched that, but she listens to me like all the in-laws do… which is to say, not often.

    Solar, as much smoke as we had in the living room yesterday, we could have just sat them on a plate and had BBQ…

  8. Hey Far, yup check that damper, that's what I think it might be, remember you had a devil of a time getting around that last year. It could also be creasote clogging up.

    Not a problem, even if you can't see daylight through the chimney, if it bends upwards, you might be able to. Gee, just a small lenght, perhaps a couple feets or more of heavy linked chain. Tie it up so it kind of bundles, but will easily pass through the system and not get stuck. You will then bang it against the pipe by swinging the lenght of rope. Creosote is usually dry and will easily break and fall down, have a large tub to catch it in the firelace. Nasty dirty job, in some homes I've duct taped the opening of the fireplace with a sheet of plastic to prevent dirting the carpet, house.

    While you're up there on the roof with a flaslight inspect the clay liner? if it is rock or brick (which is unlikely) just make sure that there are no holes where smoke can escape into attic or wherever. Tie the flashlight to your rope if you need to do this.

    When you get most of the crap down, then buy a good brush at Tractor Supply with enough attachable lenghts of pole (fiberglass) to reach all the way through the system. This can also be used to poke through some shit if needed to and bang off creosote.

    Make sure that damper opens and shuts "hard", if it's sloppy then perhaps bend it or use baling wire to keep it open.

    I suppose, down there, you guys are building "little fires" which causes creosote build up, as bigger, hotter fires, not so much. Just clean the system more often is all. A good rule of thumb, is check it in the fall, before use. Always have fire "put out" sticks on hand, three of them, ok? That way if you should have a chimney fire these will put them out, sometimes one doesn't do it, as it will igninte again.....

    Well Far, take two asprin and call me in the morning if you have any further problems, eh? ha!ha!

    Thanks, yooper

  9. Oh Far, about the brush, I've only seen the plastic ones at Tractor Supply, try to get a steel wire one as, if you ever have to use it on a hot system, well....

  10. Ummm almost forgot Far, one word of caution. Be sure, that you're neighbors or anyone else doesn't see you doing this, or, you'll very likely be called upon in doing it for them.............ha!


  11. Thanks, Yooper. I yanked the insert back out just a minute ago: the damper is wide open, the action is stiff (i.e. can't just flop either way). No daylight up the chimney, even with the crud pulled off the screen up top. I could see up to the bend with a flashlight; the system looks to have a light coating of creosote, or maybe just soot. The worst of it (that we've seen so far) was at either end, and that we cleared out.

    At this point, I'm thinking that there might be something down the chimney that some of that blanket of creosote got hung on. We're calling in the professionals; I'd end up spending more on safety gear (to keep myself from getting hurt) than we would to get it taken care of properly…

  12. Yup, probably a good idea, especially if you're affraid you'll fall off the roof! At least up here when one falls off the roof the 3 or 4 feet of snow (more if ya shovel the snow off the roof first!) kinda cushions the fall! ha!ha!

  13. Now of course, the brushing can be done from the bottom up. That is, you screw the lenghts of poles together as you make your way up the chimney from the fireplace....Where's "The Boy"? ha!ha! heh! heh!

    Thanks, yooper

  14. Bottom-up... Safe, but really messy and wear goggles!!! I could probably use the chain without taking the cap off.

  15. If any of y'all burn wood for heat, please consider having the chimney professionally cleaned at least once per year. Let me share a story:

    My father didn't believe in that sort of thing since he felt that any act of spending money necessarily involved him getting ripped off. Thus it was not long after he started burning wood that we started having chimney fires .. you know, the kind that look like Mt Vesuvius, sound like a freight train, and have you standing shivering in the snow in your pajamas while the local fire department pokes around.

    After that, he accepted that it might be a good idea to clean the chimney, but he still didn't want to pay anyone to do it or even buy the regular sort of brush for it, so he took some old chains, wrapped them around a piece of firewood, then lowered the ungainly thing up and down the flue using a rope. This had the effect of breaking the remaining bits of clay liner and dislodging a few bricks ~ and not doing a very good job removing the creosote either. Thus the next fire after that was even more spectacular, with some of the interior walls getting singed and even a little charcoal-like.

    After that, he spent a lot of time tearing out the old chimney, enlarging the hole, and building a new one using air block and a proper thick clay liner. Surprisingly, he learned a lesson too and actually purchased a real wire brush & rods for cleaning the chimney after that.

  16. yes definitely time to call the chimney sweep...


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