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2 Years Before First Sweep (Pics)

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Beave, Oct 14, 2011.

  1. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    My wife and I bought our first home about 2 years ago, and shortly thereafter, installed a County 210 Performer woodstove in the basement. Even with the luxury of natural gas, I love harvesting and seasoning our fuel supply for the winter months. I've been very happy with the stove, and it keeps us at a blazing 85 in the basement and 70 upstairs. Our house layout seems to work as good as we could hope when it comes to heating the entire house. I just installed 15 new vinyl windows, and I can tell this is going to be an even warmer winter, with reduced wood usage.

    During the last two seasons of wood burning, I would check our chimney monthly for creosote accumulations. I’ve never seen a measureable reduction in the pipe diameter, just flaky black powder. I figured, if it looks this good up here, it must be fine down lower where it’s hotter. But Hearth.com has taught me better, so I resolved myself to sweep before starting this season, and thus bought a 6†polymer brush and 20’ of rod, for a mere $33. Now for some humor.

    Detaching and removing my raised up 300+ lb insert was not going to fly. My pregnant wife confirmed that she would not be assisting me. Our insert is installed in a ZC fireplace, up to an offset box, 2 feet of flex thru a 45 degree jog, then 18’ of 6†rigid pipe, inside the original 8†double wall pipe. Top-down cleaning seemed to be the best idea, and with the offset box, this was a one-way street.

    [​IMG]
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    Up on the roof, I joyfully plunged my new brush a few feet into the liner. Upon reversal, I found my brush to be absolutely stuck in the pipe! I yanked so hard I could feel the flex pipe stretching and the entire chase cap was starting to lift up. My chimney pipe is about head-high when standing on the roof, so I imagined maybe I was just poorly positioned. A quick trip to the garage yielded my step-stool, but I still can’t pull the brush. Next I reach shoulder-deep and manage to get a handful of bristles and an armful of soot. Can’t budge it. Panic and natural selection start to kick in, and now I’m kneeling on top of the chase. Then stupidity takes hold, and I am standing on the chase, yanking frantically on the brush until it finally releases. Time for a sanity check; I measure the rigid pipe, check the brush size. Everything is good, but there is no way this is going to work. Out comes the Leatherman, and I starting clipping bristles by about 1/8†all around, testing the fit as I go. I found my happy medium. Still lots of resistance and tough reversals, but at a reasonable amount. I was able to feel the transition from rigid to flex pipe, but now as it’s getting dark out and I am thoroughly soot-covered, I wonder if all the trouble was worth it. So I head to the basement and see just how worth it my efforts really were. Wow, that’s a lot of ???. Creosote? Or just fly ash? Very, very fine powder. At any rate, I am convinced; I will be an annual sweeper.

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    Before sweeping, I removed the top bricks and insulation blankets. The bricks are fine, but the blankets seem fragile and a bit matted. Any opinions on this? Should I just replace them now, while I have it all apart? How long do your blankets last?

    [​IMG]

    Also chipped out some monster size clinkers from burning Homefire Logs. I love those logs for overnight burns, but the deposits are really something else. As they burn, I can see molten droplets of mineral(?) deposits collecting on the floor bricks.

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    Besides still needing to vacuum out the offset box, and reinstall the bricks and blankets, I would call this a successful first sweep. If nothing else, definitely a learning experience! Thanks to Hearth.com’s always helpful posters. Even if I don’t post much, I always enjoy reading here.

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  2. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    Ok, so ..............all the brown particulate is from the flue, right? What're those big chunks in the galvanized pail again?

    -Soupy1957
  3. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Yes sir. Brown stuff is from the flue. Before sweeping the flue, I emptied the ash and chunks from the firebox. The chunks were deposits left on the firebox floor from burning Homefire Logs.

    Sorry, the sequence of pictures might be confusing.
  4. pen

    pen There are some who call me...mod. Staff Member

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    Brown and powdery is good. Black and flaky means "room for improvement."

    All in all that is not a bad amount of creosote from the chimney at all. I think I'd increase the cleaning to once per year. Also might consider trying to get a bit further ahead on the firewood so that it has more time to season, or if the wood is good and dry, perhaps the stove is getting closed down too far for long burns?

    How much wood had been burned through the stove since install?

    Nice home and congrats on the young'n coming?

    pen
  5. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    That's a LOT (imho) of "chunks" from the firebox floor! It's a wonder you had any room to stick any wood at all!! I get loose ash on the bottom of my firebox, but never chunky material like THAT!? I guess I'm unfamiliar with those chunks because I don't burn Homefire Logs.

    -Soupy1957
  6. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

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    I get those from burning cord wood. Elm tends to create the most.
  7. mhrischuk

    mhrischuk Guest

    Nice looking house. Beautiful landscaping!
    We really appreciate putting the pictures up and giving an in depth play by play of your experience. It really helps us have an idea of what is in store for us first timers. That's a pretty big pile of creosote. I'll bet you feel better knowing it's no longer clinging on the walls of the liner waiting for a spark to light it up.

    I wonder if those fake logs contribute to the buildup?

    Thanks...

    Mike
  8. My Oslo heats my home

    My Oslo heats my home Minister of Fire

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    Beave, great job with your sweep story and the pics. Glad things worked out with getting your stuck brush out of the flue. Your description of being on the roof then on the Chase is me, I would have done the same thing.
  9. SpeakEasy

    SpeakEasy Member

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    Is anyone but me a little concerned that maybe you could have done some damage inside your flu and liner with all that aggressive pulling on the stuck brush? If it were me, I'd be looking for a way to run a camera down to check out the joints. But, I am NO EXPERT. Just a nervous nellie.

    -Speak
  10. laynes69

    laynes69 Minister of Fire

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    When I first brushed our 5.5" rigid liner, I almost got the brush stuck because I didn't cut it down enough. It took all my strength to reverse the brush. I didn't worry about the liner due to it's thickness, but realized if it was a flex I proabably would have destroyed it. If it was stuck too bad I would have it checked. Judging from what came from the liner, it's not the type to cause a bad chimney fire. When we burned the old woodfurnace with a large cold flue I would remove chunks of creosote the size of my fist that looked like melted glass. Normally 3 gallons or more per sweep, which was every month to two. We now see the brown which is mostly powder with no chunks.
  11. mhrischuk

    mhrischuk Guest

    I bought a Sooteater setup for my first cleaning. i don't think it can get stuck.

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  12. Dieselbreath

    Dieselbreath Member

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    +1 on using the Sooteater. It is super easy to use and I find it also cleans the offset box when I lower it that far down. No vacuuming needed.
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    That's a funny tale Beave. Thanks for sharing. I would love to see a picture of what you looked like that night.

    How well seasoned was your wood supply for the past couple years. Dry wood makes a nice difference. Good to hear you like the Homefires. I was very impressed by this product. It is like super condensed wood. Yes, you get some clinkers. There is a lot of silica in some wood. But they are hard to beat for a steady long burn.
  14. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    Thanks for all the compliments regarding the house and firstborn. I think that Sooteater might be my best bet; Being able to clean the offset box without vacuuming would be ideal. I still have to make a hardware store run to either get a better vacuum filter, or 20' of extensions so I can blow the exhaust outside. I'll be sure to check for a Sooteater while I'm there.

    I would guesstimate that we have burned about 8-9 cords over the last two seasons. About 25% of that being Homefire logs or otherwise "processed" fuel. I am getting a little farther ahead every year, but have never burned wood that was less than 6+ months seasoned. This season will be a steady diet of 2+ year seasoned wood from our yard that was taken down when we moved into the house. I think the Homefire Logs, while a mess on the firebrick, are probably the best thing I have put up the flue; Pretty much no moisture content, and they burn very strong with great secondaries.

    Good call on inspecting the joints after all that yanking. Although we had the stove professionally installed, I was very involved in the process. The rigid pipe is solidly connected with three self-tapping screws per joint, and I am sure I didn't upset it with the plastic brush. But I am now a bit concerned about the rigid to flex connection, and the flex to offset connection. Hopefully I didn't yank on those too hard. In hindsight, I think I may have been lifting the pipe and the chase cap about 3" at the most. I think if I remove the top surround panel I can inspect the latter, but I don't know about the rigid to flex. I guess the 8" double wall pipe is a small amount of insurance. I will definitely take it easy on the first fire and see what happens.

    So what do you all think about the condition of the blankets? I should note that the bottom side is pristine, so I suppose I could flip them over and just replace them next year.

    Sorry BeGreen, I didn't have the foresight to get pictures of myself. And if I learned my lesson, I should be much cleaner at the end of next years sweep =)
    Those pictures will (hopefully) make for much less entertainment.
  15. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    I seem to get big chunks of hard ash when I pack wood into the stove day after day on top of ashes.. It seems to compact with the heat and pressure of the wood on the ashes.. No big deal just clean that stuff out..

    Ray
  16. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    So with the proper vacuum filter in hand, I finished cleaning the offset box and putting the stove back together. I reused the same blankets and have no worries about another season or two using them. They vacuumed up nicely as well.

    Now the bad news (maybe):

    Worried that I might have yanked on the pipe too much when my brush was stuck, I detached my front surround panel so I could inspect the offset box-to-flex connection. Ha, no luck seeing the connection, but I was able to stick my hands up there and feel the flex pipe. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a small tuft of ash and the same fine brown powder that I had swept the day before. The powder forms a perfect concentric ring around the 6" offset outlet, and the ring itself is no larger than the pipe diameter.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE........ Tell me I did not tear or detach my flex pipe.

    I am thinking positive on this...... i.e. the ash could have been dislodged from the original 8" chimney pipe, and the brown powder could have come from an upside down connection (like the flex pipe fitting over the offset box outlet). I would tend to think that if I had torn the flex or detached it, the perfect little ring of powder would be scattered all over the top of the offset box and stovetop.
    Anyway, here are some more pics:
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    And just for fun, some pics of my new windows I just installed, and a woodpile that needs a shed built. Bring on the cold!

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  17. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    After some more thought, I am fairly certain that everything is fine. In the closeup shot of the ring of powder, I can see the upside down connection clearly, and that must have been where the brown powder ring originated from. I'm thinking I'll put it all back together and light a small fire tomorrow, unless anyone else from the forum has strong opinions against doing so.
  18. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    You're doing it all wrong Ray . . . you've got to leave the clinkers in there and with the heat and pressure of the wood resting on top and time (a few million years) those clinkers will be diamonds. ;)
  19. Flatbedford

    Flatbedford Minister of Fire

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    Call me a wuss, but I'll continue calling in the sweep every two or three years. I do a lot stuff myself at home, but have no interest in chimney sweeping. Your determination is impressive.
  20. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I've met you in person Flatbed . . . I certainly wouldn't call you a wuss.
  21. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Duh stupid me! Heat, pressure and time how could I forget? I bet Dennis has a diamond mine somewhere!!

    Ray
  22. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Steve,
    I always did mine myself but pay now for peace of mind plus legally I am supposed to do that in Mass.. Keeps the insurance co. happy too.. My liner is lifetime guaranteed provided I have a certified sweep inspect it annually.. Guess I am a wuss too..

    Ray
  23. Beave

    Beave New Member

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    No shame in hiring a pro to tackle something that doesn't appeal. We need new gutters before the rainy season really starts, and I think I'll be having someone come in and do that for me. I would do it myself, but I can't find raw materials in the right color ANYWHERE. So instead of prepping (the worst), painting and hanging 160' of the stuff, I will be delighted to see an extrusion truck show up and roll out perfectly colored, seamless gutters and have the whole thing done in a day or two.

    And Flatbed, funny you call it determination....... My wife called it something else when I was telling her about standing on the chase, yanking on a stuck brush!

    Good news is I ran a couple loads thru the stove tonight and noticed no abnormal operation or smoke in strange places. I lent my brush to a coworker in need, and out of all my tools, with this one I will be happy if he doesn't return it until next year.

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