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Drafting issue

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by scfa99, Apr 10, 2006.

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  1. scfa99

    scfa99 New Member

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    We burned approx 4 cords this year (first year buring 24/7) so i figured I would have a sweep out earlier just to be on the safe side. Sweep swept the pipe from the inside in late Feb, said there was some buildup but looked good. Said if i continue to burn dry wood once a year sweep should be adequate. Haven't burned much since he's been out approx 1/2 cord but all of sudden i'm having real issues with drafting and can't get logs to burn. Wood is seasoned but smoke billows into the house when i open the doors. I noticed my chimmney cap is black/brown and seems to have white flakes on it (viewed from the ground).

    Is it possible that the cap is built up with gunk and restricting airflow?

    If that is the case what can i clean it with?

    In the future what should i require of the sweep? Just a cleaning with a brush up the pipe or should they also go up and clean the cap and inspect from the top?

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  2. Rob From Wisconsin

    Rob From Wisconsin Minister of Fire

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    Is your cap "banded" or "mesh"??
    Is your stove located in the basement w/ the chimney running external??
    What type of stove do you have?
    I had a similar problem in the past......

    Rob
  3. scfa99

    scfa99 New Member

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    Stove is a Quad 7100, chimney is inside a chase on far end of the house, 16 foot run straight pipe, no drafting issues for the first 4 mos of use. not sure what you mean by banded. i wouldn't call it mesh, stainless steel round cap with rectangular small holes all around it.

    i've tried air controls open, closed every which way. its happened about 6 or 7 times consistantly in all kinds of weather conditions.
  4. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't see how a complete sweep job can be done without carefully checking the cap.

    You are correct that there could be nests, cobwebs and soot and all kinds of other things there.

    Also, check any elbos and tees in the pipe system...and above the baffle where the piple comes off the stove. Soot can fall and end up where ever gravity leaves it.

    Then again, there is the time of year- being warmer you are more likely to have various draft issues. A 16 foot chimney is not expecially tall.

    craig
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    A chimney cap, AKA "creosote catcher" can jam up with creosote pretty quick under the right conditions. I had to take mine off about a month ago to bang all the accumulated creosote, which was killing my draft, out. One thing you should do, if you can get at it, is to remove the spark arrestor screen in the cap. Leaving it in if you're buring wood is just asking for trouble, IMO.
  6. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    They will need cleaned occasionally, but they're certainly there for a reason. In theory any spark that can escape a chimney that meets it's proper height requirements and has 3/4" mesh, will extinguish before it can ignite any nearby combustibles.
  7. scfa99

    scfa99 New Member

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    going up there after work. any suggestions on how to clean the cap if its clogged?
  8. Rob From Wisconsin

    Rob From Wisconsin Minister of Fire

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    I had the same problem w/ my chimney cap.
    Problem is when I went up to clean it, the creosote
    build-up was so gooey, it was almost impossible to clean.
    Bought some Rutland Creosote Remover spray & sprayed
    it directly on the affected area. After a couple of fires, I
    went back up & the creosote busted-off in big, solid chunks
    (much easier to clean). I have since replaced my large stove
    with a smaller, more efficently burning unit. I can tell already
    that the cap is staying much cleaner as a result of hotter, more
    efficient burns.

    Rob
  9. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    If it's like mine, you should be able to gently tap on it and knock the creosote loose. If you have a cleanout, then just leave the cap on the chimney and knock the crap back down into the pipe. Or, take it off and knock the crap into a box or bag. In my case anyway, it looked a lot harder to clean than it was.

    What Shane says makes sense, but I stand by my recommendation. Any sparks at the top of the chimney are most likely going to be caused by accumulated creosote burning off the spark arrestor screen.

    Actually, I'm calling it a spark arrestor, but it may just be a barrier to keep critters out. In either event, it's not compatible with successful wood burning, again IMO.
  10. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I'm siding with Craig, Warmer weather, short chimney= week draft. If it is not plugged or cap cresoted up, then blame the warmer weather
  11. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    Well I think that leather chaps and ear and eye protection are redundant safety measures when cutting wood, obviously any accidents that may happen would be due to my eye protection becoming obstructed, my hearing being obstructed by the "protection" or not being able to move as freely in my chaps. :p
  12. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I'm with you Shane. I don't wear all of that stuff to clean creosote out of a rain cap either.
  13. scfa99

    scfa99 New Member

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    Air slots were completely clogged with loose dry chunks. Used a screw driver to clear all of them, emptied the cap of all the chunks than sprayed it down with cresote remover, cleaned again and put it back on. Had a test fire last night and it drafted perfectly. Pulled out about 2 coffee cans worth of chunks. Wondering if when the sweep pushed alot of it up there since he did not go on the roof and swept the chimney up without removing the cap.

    Lessons learned: when cap is not silver color, time to clean. Sweeping the chimney is much easier than i thought no need to hire someone. And since this is my first year with this unit, i've learned not to damp it down as far as I had been doing.

    If anyone could rec'd what type of brush kit I should get would be most appreciated. thanks

    Matt
  14. martel

    martel Member

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    TO quote elk's sig: better safe than sorry.

    slightly OT: is there a thread or GOOD resource for the correct way to sweep?
    krm
  15. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I wouldn't rely on leather chaps if I were you, either. Mine are made out of kevlar.

    If you like climbing up on the roof at inconvenient times during all kinds of weather, then by all means keep the screen in the cap. If you think your risk of starting a fire from non-existent sparks during the winter months is greater than the risk of falling off the roof and breaking your neck, then by all means, keep the screen in the cap.

    All you really need to clean a chimney is a poly brush the same size and shape as your chimney liner, along with enough four-foot fiberglass rods to cover the length of your chimney. Use WD-40 to clean/lube the threads when assembling the rods. Keep a pair of vice grips and pliers handy in case they don't want to come apart when you're done.
  16. martel

    martel Member

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    thanks eric- so, um, pretty easy then...
  17. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    In my experience, it's as easy as running the brush up (or down) the chimney once or twice, or until creosote stops falling down into the cleanout. Do it on a regular basis and sleep easier at night.
  18. martel

    martel Member

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    I have these images of my dad doing it with a long length of electric fence cable attached to the brush with a scuba weight belt weight attached to the bottom (people wonder where my crazy ideas come from).

    I will just need to figure out how to finish the job with an insert. I assume one can access the flue without pulling the insert.
  19. scfa99

    scfa99 New Member

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    martel, not sure how your insert is setup. but with my fireplace i just have to take out two allen screws to remove the manifolds and then have access to the pipe.
  20. martel

    martel Member

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    Its a brand new regency- i am pretty sure it is easy. I need to look in my manual. I am heading to my installers shop today- will check out brushes and rods while there. There hard part will be I have a steep slate roof (that i cannot stand on) and the house next to me is 4 feet away- lets just say the ladder set up for my installer was harrowing. The years of climbing and working/building ropes courses will probably pay off for this one!
  21. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    You might want to shop around for those rods, Martel. They're available at the big box stores and are pretty cheap, as I recall. Poly brushes can be a little harder to find. You can use a steel brush if you have a masonry chimney. Otherwise, go with the poly.
  22. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Martel, You may want to select your brush first to make sure the threads match the fiberglass rods. There are a couple sizes. I got my Rutland Poly Brush from the ACE Hardware web site. About $15 - $18 if I remember correctly. I picked it up at the local ACE store to save on shipping. I bought the rods from Home Despot, but only because I had already purchased them when I accidentally purchased a metal brush that I eventually returned unused. I didn't price the ACE rods.

    I must sweep my insert from the top. I have zero access from the bottom (VC WWL). The manifold (ellipse) and flex pipe (ellipse) through the damper don't allow my 8" poly brush through there.

    I like to put a custom cut piece of cardboard (I use Budweiser box cardboard as there is plenty of that in my basement :) and fold it into a shape that works like a slide from the manifold at the top, to the grate on the bottom. I then cut another Budweiser box top off and put a garbage bag in it. The cardboard slide directs the creosote from the manifold, down into the garbage bag.

    I have a catalyst bypass damper that when opened, allows me to look up the manifold and into the flex-pipe, and allows the creosote to simply fall down into the firebox (and my budwieser box setup). If you have a baffle on a non-cat stove, you may need to remove some parts to prevent creosote from building up in there.

    I then close the stove door (important :), and climb up on the roof. My access is easier than yours.

    One important lesson I learned last year. I had to screw the rods together as I ran the brush down the chimney and unscrew the rods as I brought it back up (I guess I had to anyway--seemed like the best thing). However, I ALMOST unscrewed things way down low instead of the two top rods when I was unscrewing and not paying attention. So make sure you are unscrewing things at the top or where ever you are located, and not somewhere in the middle of the chimney!
  23. martel

    martel Member

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    thanks all- very helpful... I may be up there soon.
  24. seaken

    seaken Minister of Fire

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    To clarify, YES, you can easily brush your own chimney. However, there is more to being a "sweep" than simply brushing soot from a pipe. Please do not discount the professional point of view when it comes to assesing a safe and efficient chimney system. Do you know what to look for OTHER than soot in the pipe? My recommendation is to hire a professional sweep (not a part-time handy-man, altough he/she MAY be a good sweep - are they professional? Ask around) to sweep and inspect your chimney periodically even if you do your own brushing. Maybe every three years? Five years? If you are good at brushing, and getting on the roof, etc., you can certainly save yourself some money by doing your own brushing. Will you know when the metal is fatigued? Can you diagnose excesive creosote build up? Can you properly remove third-stage creosote? There are many good reasons to hire a qualified sweep. You may not need one every year. But unless you intend to learn everything that a professional sweep knows about chimneys I would suggest you keep him/her in your rolodex or database.

    Sean

    P.S. The fact that the guy your hired to sweep did NOT get on the roof leads me to believe he was NOT a professional. He may be working on becoming a professional and is not there yet. You may decide to call him back but let him know that you want a complete brush job and that you expect him to be professional. If he's not interested in improving his technique don't bother with him. Find someone else who will do it right.
  25. martel

    martel Member

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    Sean- this helpful as well. Duely noted to have a pro check the chimney every few years. As for not "getting on the roof" what I meant was he did not stand on the roof as it is a wicked (for you NE boys) steep pitch and is slate- you would not be able to. He did do a full inspection from a ladder on the chimney. He is a certified sweep with 25 years in the biz. But thanks for the heads up. I think it is helpful for us homeowners to realize the difference between doind a yearly (or twice a year) sweep on our own and a more thorough job by a pro.
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