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99 Ways to Burn Your House Down

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by DeerHunter, Oct 4, 2012.

  1. DeerHunter

    DeerHunter Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2012
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    Loc:
    Adirondacks, NY
    I'm a new burner, and am still getting used to the process of burning in a stove. I went to bed last night thinking after getting a fire started in the insert and having it stabilize at about 600. I was lying there with my eyes wide open thinking "did I close the air supply down enough?"; "am I sure that I closed the door?"; "has the coupling come off my liner at the stove outlet?"; "is everything moved back far enough away (did I even check that tonight)?". Ultimately, I went back downstairs and checked everything, and all was fine.

    However, it got me to thinking: I don't know what I don't know. I mean, I know the basics like 'make sure your flue is clear and clean before burning' and 'keep combustibles away from the stove' and 'burn dry wood'. But I wouldn't have thought about my child stuffing a plush toy up into the convection air cavity on the top of my stove - until I was told to look for that. I also would have thought that ashes sitting for two days would not have any live coals in them that could ignite the trash can - until I was told about that.

    So, I'd like to hear the 'cautionary tales' that could result from having a live fire in your house. The result would be to have a list of things to do (and not do) to prevent the worst from happening, and to allow those of us who are new to be able to sleep easy knowing that we've covered all the bases.
    ScotO likes this.

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  2. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad Minister of Fire

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    I don't know about cautionary tales..

    But for the first two weeks, I slept on the couch, right next to the stove.. well, kind of slept anyways. After that I would wake up and come down stairs once or twice a night just to check..

    Now I sleep on the couch from time to time.. just to be near it. :cool:
  3. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    15,427
    Loc:
    Unity/Bangor, Maine
    Random thoughts . . .

    When a newbie says they're worried or spending the night or week or two weeks on the couch in front of the stove -- well that makes me less worried . . . it's the folks that think they know it all or say that they're not worried that worry me the most . . . ignorance in this case is not always bliss.

    As for cautionary tales . . . a lot of it is commonsense stuff . . . and it starts with the right install . . . not cutting corners to save a few bucks here or there . . . and not changing up the recommended install because it makes the stove set up too high or puts the stove out too far from the wall or not putting in three screws into the stove pipe because it's hard to do so. Install things right from the get-go . . . even if it means more time, more money and more work . . . and if and when the proverbial poo hits the fan . . . you can rest a little more easier knowing your clearances are met and exceeded, that your hearth meets and exceeds the R value, etc.

    Speaking of safety . . . make sure your smoke detectors, CO detectors and fire extinguishers are good to go. Be prepared is a good motto for the scouts and for us . . . but being prepared with a plan of what to do in case of a fire involving the stove is all fine and good . . . unless you're sound asleep at 2 a.m. because the smoke detectors are not working or are faulty. Change the batteries in them (even electric-powered) when you change the clocks later this month . . . if any smoke detectors are over 10 years old, replace 'em -- personally I like the combination ionization/photo-electric detectors for faster alerts or a combination of ion and photo-electric detectors in the home (3-7 years is the change out time for the CO detectors depending on the make/model). Check that fire extinguishers are charged . . . and have a family escape plan so everyone knows where to go if the alarms sound.

    Again . . . it all starts at the start . . . and having seasoned wood is important . . . both in terms of safety and pure burning bliss. Unseasoned wood = hard starts, not as much heat and oftentimes more creosote in the chimney.

    Watch those temps -- If you don't have a thermometer for your stove/insert and stove pipe (probe style if double wall pipe) I encourage you to get them. Thermometers are very useful in helping you to prevent the stove from over-firing and from keeping the stove pipe temps good (Goldilocks temps -- not too hot, not too cold) . . . plus many of us find that having thermos allows you to help adjust the air control for better burns.

    C & C: Not the music factor . . . take the time to check and clean the chimney when needed. Depending on your wood quality, how you burn and your set up you may be able to get away with just a couple checks in a season . . . although I prefer to check monthly . . . and for newbies with questionable wood checking every two weeks in order to prevent a fire may not necessarily be a case of overkill when it comes to family safety.

    It's not over, until it's over . . . watch the ashes. Honestly, I've gone to a number of chimney fires and can only remember maybe one or two that were bad and threatened the home . . . and in these cases the home was old, the chimney old masonry types and the creosote was chocker blocker bad. On the other hand I can guarantee you that every year I will hear of at least one house fire in the area that will be caused by someone who thought the fire was out and they dumped their ash into a plastic bucket, cardboard box, paper bag, etc. and then placed the container on their wooden deck, porch, garage, etc. . . . only to find a hot coal inside. Treat all ash as if it has a coal inside . . . I put my ash into a covered metal pail outside that sits on a non-combustible surface (concrete) before it gets dumped for good . . . often on my ice-covered driveway as ash is a great way to melt snow and ice and provide traction.

    OK . . . that's all I have for now . . . fingers are tired of typing.
  4. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Don't throw a ferret into a hot stove.
    charly, evilgriff and BrowningBAR like this.
  5. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh c'mon...how else are you gonna keep that flue squeaky clean?
    Jags likes this.
  6. WES999

    WES999 Minister of Fire

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    Mass north of Boston
    Don't leave the door open and walk away and forget about the stove.:oops:
  7. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Northern IL
    Don't use the ashpan door for startup intake air (for those stoves with ash pans).
    milleo likes this.
  8. woodchip

    woodchip Minister of Fire

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    Broadstone England
    Never leave damp clothes in front of the fire to dry out. Just in case they topple over on to the fire when you are out of the room. They may not go up in flames instantly, but they will easily make a huge smoky mess and ruin the decor........
  9. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Perhaps the scariest I've heard about was a couple of fellows mentioning they put wood in the stove and opened the draft full and then.....one took a shower before checking the stove again. The worst one went to the corner grocery to come back to find a super hot stove. But of course, this sort of goes into the dumb move type situation.

    I believe one can go on youtube and find some really scary things connected to wood burning.
    milleo likes this.
  10. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    or...fall asleep on the sofa after reloading and full draft.
    milleo likes this.
  11. ScotO

    ScotO Guest

    We were living over at my parents' place when I installed our kitchen stove (house was in the middle of a total remodel.) Needless to say, I brought my sleeping bag and air matress down the the kitchen and slept right beside that puppy. For the first couple of nights! As far as going to bed and coming back downstairs to check it over, I do it almost every night I'm burning.......just for personal reassurance. Never hurts to be overly careful......
  12. osagebow

    osagebow Minister of Fire

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    Shenandoah Valley, VA
    Got a good safety tip here last winter - get a loud, annoying "downstairs" timer for stove room and set it to 30 min after start up, so you have to go (in my case) back down and adjust draft, check everything before bed.

    Make sure house is warm enough for loud, annoying "upstairs" timer, though.;)

    Good luck in the woods thid fall, DH
    neumsky likes this.
  13. etiger2007

    etiger2007 Minister of Fire

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    I check it to,, just to much ( kids , wife) relying on me to be responsible.
  14. milleo

    milleo Feeling the Heat

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    Maine
    Jake covered most everything and the rest filled in the other parts.....Beware and enjoy......
  15. FanMan

    FanMan Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    CT stix & upstate NY
    Yikes! Is that evolution in action? My ash goes into a metal bucket that sits on the insulated brick floor the stove sits on... and gets dumped out back usually days later.

    But the scariest thing I ever saw was the stove install when I moved into my cabin. The stovepipe (for a wood stove!) was B-Vent pipe !!!right through the roof, zero clearance (touching) the 80 year old roof boards. The inner wall of the pipe was gone (melted away) and the wood it was touching was charred. How it never burned the cabin down I can't imagine... the previous owner said he rarely used the stove, but the guy before him used it "nightly".

    Then there was the plywood box covered with fake brick surrounding and hiding the stovepipe... resting directly on the stove. The inside of said box was lined with aluminum foil... as if that would do anything...
  16. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    Ashes go out and sit in the Weber grill on the patio away from the house for at least a week.

    I don't worry about sleeping with the stove running as I'm steps away to respond if something bad happens. Extinguishers are good to go as well as smoke and CO detectors. It's when I leave the house when I worry about it as I am not there to respond if something goes south.

    Good fuel and good burning habits along with periodic checks of the stove and piping round it out.
  17. n3pro

    n3pro Minister of Fire

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    Watch clearance to combustibles. There was at least one fire I read about locally where they had couch too close, according to the fire marshal it was believed a spark smoldered in the couch for a while before igniting. Another one I heard someone had a box of kindling and newspaper too close to the fireplace, similar circumstances. Also as Jake said WATCH THE ASHES! Heard too many stories about that.
  18. ailanthus

    ailanthus Feeling the Heat

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    Shen Valley, VA
    +1
  19. xman23

    xman23 Minister of Fire

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    A said here, the ashes arn't out for a lot of weeks. Yes I know, I thought a week would be fine, but there are smoldering bits in the ash. Almost burned the house down. Now all ash goes into a 10 gallon metal can that is outside sitting on a rock. I empty it onto the ash pile 100 ft from the house. If there is no snow, I wet the pile.

    Make sure all clearences are greater than the minimun required. Check what you can't see, where the chimney goes thru ceiling, attic and roof. Make sure no animals are getting into the attic space. The love to build nests near the chimney.
  20. corey21

    corey21 Minister of Fire

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    Don't leave your with the stove door cracked
  21. rwhite

    rwhite Minister of Fire

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    I look at it this way. Every heating device in your home has the ability to cause the same damage as a wood stove. The security is knowing it was installed correctly. Would you be sleepless if you had a new NG furnace installed? It's still a metal box with fire inside. If everything was inspected and the install was correct I would sleep well.
    neumsky likes this.
  22. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    I have a really well designed, stable, steel clothes horse that I use in front of the stove at night all winter to dry all my wash...hardly ever use the dryer. Never had a prolem with it toppling...leave a passage way between the stove and the drying rack.
  23. DexterDay

    DexterDay Guest

    Loading lots of scraps, pallet wood, kindling, or even a bunch of small splits on a Very large coal bed.

    Its best to burn the stove in cycles. Resist throwing a piece of wood in here and there. Let the entire load burn. Open air as it coals (if your home), then reload (and dont do whats posted above/leave door cracked, ash pan, fall asleep, take a shower, etc).

    Let the load do what it does best. Burn. Throwing wood in at different stages will have a stove full of coals in no time. Then the room for actual wood shrinks. As does your burn time, because the wood off gases so fast.
  24. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    I've used ashes for traction when its icy, but have found they get everything filthy...the dog and people tracking ashes all over the place....ashes on the steps and landings, so if anyhitng gets put down it gets ashen....so I hardly ever use ashes now. Maybe when its lethal out....

    I keep my ashes in covered stainless steel buckets on my hearth pad until the next time I need to take ashes out of the stove. Since that can be anywhere up to a week, the ashes are good and cold before they go outside. Then I dump them in a compost bin I made from old pallets, adjacent to and the far side of my two permanent wood compost bins, all of which is behind the offset cedar fence that curves
    for about 40 feet to the west of and about ten feet away from my fenced garden... This area is about 40 feet from the nearest corner of my house, and close to 100 feet from the door I use in the winter...so fun when then snow is deep or the top of the snow is really icy....but the ashes are cold, far away, and a decent distance from trees....
  25. rideau

    rideau Minister of Fire

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    Makes one wonder how the rest of the cabin was built...electric wiring, etc.

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