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Smokey Fire - Need Help!

Post in 'Classic Wood Stove Forums (prior to approx. 1993)' started by bob95065, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    We bought a home this past August that had a Sierra side-loading wood stove in it. I also installed an Avalon Rainier at the other end of the house. I am used to EPA stoves like the Avalon I installed at the other end of the house. It is the same stove we had in the last house. I tried starting a fire in the Sierra Friday morning and had a hard time. I do have a lot of experience with wood heat. I heated the last house with wood for 10 years and never had a problem.

    I was burning some oak that I cut and split the summer of 2011 so I know it is dry. I got the fire lit and closed the door. As soon as I closed the door there was a lot of grey smoke coming out of the flue. I made sure to fully open the air dampeners on the door so the fire could breathe. The stove has two air inlets that you turn by hand on the door.

    I had to open to door to get the fire to stop smoldering and the smoke to go down. It was so bad a neighbor came over from across the canyon because she thought our house was on fire. Anyway, the room began to fill with smoke so I closed the door again and lived with smoke until the fire went out.
    What I am I doing wrong?

    I am going to inspect and sweep the flue this weekend. I wonder if there is creosote restricting the flue which would cause the fire to not draw air properly. Other than that I am at a loss as to what could cause the smoke and poor performance of the stove. I'll post pictures of the stove when I get home.

    TIA,
    Bob Elliott

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  2. USMC80

    USMC80 Minister of Fire

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    Def check the flue and cap for some kind of blockage
  3. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    I checked it when we bought the house. The cap and spark arrester are clear.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like poor draft or the wood is not as good as expected. Check the flue for obstruction like a hornets nest.

    Describe the entire flue system from the stove top to the chimney cap? How tall is the flue? Pictures may be helpful here too.

    Just to eliminate the wood as a possible cause, try burning some construction scraps and see if they burn the same or much better.
    Joful likes this.
  5. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    I thought about burning some bone-dry redwood frm stump I cutup on the property. It was dead whe I cut it so I kow if is dry.

    We bought the house the endof July so I don'tknow what theflue is made of. It i enclosed in a brick chimney. The stove is an insert.

    I plan on gettig up there tomorrow. I am taking a day off to work on the roof.
  6. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    You said you completely opened the flue after the smoke already started, how open was it if at all before you started? what was the temperature outside during the day that you started this fire? Could be a nest like BG said, I'm thinking no draft going on at all as opposed to poor draft...
  7. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    Roll up some newspapers and shove them up the flue. If they don't create a draft. There's your problem.
  8. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    We moved into this house the middle of August after spending two weeks fixing the stuff the DPO (Dumb or Dreaded Previous Owner) did to it. This house was worked over pretty bad.

    I spent four weekends running fixing the concrete tile roof. I am taking tomorrow off to finish it up. When I went up there the first time there was a plastic garbage bag and a rope tied around the cap on the chimney. I don't think the DPO had enough know-how to remove the cap and stuff something down there but I could be wrong. Then again maybe there were stinging insects nesting in there and they trapped them inside to starve.

    I didn't say I opened the flue. I opened the door to reduce the smoke. The fire did burn better but we got some smoke in the room.

    I am going to go on the chimney with a flashlight and inspection mirror to see what is down the flue. I'll also bring my brushes to sweep it clean after I look down there. Oncew it is all clear I'l burn some construction scrpas as suggested.

    Thanks for the help.
    Joful likes this.
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good plan, keep us posted.
  10. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    I pulled the cap and the flue is clear. There is no metal pipe. The chimney is stone with an oval stone pipe. I haven't seen anything like it.

    I plan on using a mirror and flashlight to look in the stove side next.
  11. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    I know what is wrong with the stove.

    I decided to pull it out away from the stone wall. They set up the insert and surround into an existing fireplace with no flue liner. What is worse is they isn't fully open the damper which us why the fire wouldn't draw. They must have burned pine because creosote has built up on the lever so thick I can't move it.

    I am going to get a flue liner kit and do this right. I think I may need to cut the steel baffle out of the fireplace in order to make this work.

    Does anyone have a suggestion on where I should get a flue liner kit at a low price?
  12. Ram 1500 with an axe...

    Ram 1500 with an axe... Minister of Fire

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    Be green probably knows..... Doing it right is the way to go....
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    First order of business to to have the chimney completely clean, including the smokeshelf up behind the damper. Then no burning until the liner goes in. There are lots of places to order liner kits including eBay. If you want predictable quality and service a couple of the majors are Rockford and ChimneyLiner Depot. Northline Express also sells liner kits.
  14. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    Do you suggest cutting out the smoke shelf and baffle when I put the liner in?

    No more burning here. The closed damper caused smoke in the house. I have an Avalon Rainier in the room in the front of the house that we are using.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Before starting, what is the length and width of the oval flue currently there? Will a 6" round liner pass through to the fireplace unobstructed?

    If there is 6" clear when the damper is open then leave it in. In some cases the damper can be removed without cutting. See if there is access to the pivot rods and if they are bolted in or welded. If no access then yes, a notch may need to be cut in the center of the damper to increase the clearance for the liner. There shouldn't be a need to cut the smokeshelf.
  16. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    There is a 8" x 13" terra cotta liner in the stone chimney. A 6" liner will pass no problem.

    I didn't get a good look at the dampner pivots. I was pretty disgusted when I saw what they did. If I get home somewhat early tonight I'll pull the stove out and snap some pictures to post.

    I was thinking about this problem over the weekend. I wonder if I can break the creosote loose with a hammer and cold chisel. I won't know if a liner pipe will pass through the damper until I am able to open it fully.

    When we bought the house there was a black garbage bag around the cap on top of the chimney. They used a bungee cord and rope to hold it on. My guess is they wanted to stop cold air from blowing around the surround through the open flue so they tried to seal off the chimney. Maybe if they put some thought into this and did it right with a cap and liner this problem would have been solved and the stove woudl be functional.
  17. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes, it is a dirty job. Wear a dustmask.

    If this is an exterior chimney put in an insulated liner, especially if the chimney is one story.
  18. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    This is an exterior stone chimney that is one story. The room has a vaulted ceiling and the wall is all stone where the chimney is. What is the insulation for?

    I have an opportunity to get some black 6" rigid pipe for free. Can I put it in the chimney? I figure there is a reason for stainless flex pipe but I thought I woudl ask. It's worth a try if I can get it for free.

    I wish i new about this before we put new carpet in the house this past August. I may get some rosen paper for the floor too. I'll probably have to take the stove competey out to do this job.
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Black pipe can not be used in the chimney for a liner. It has to be stainless. The purpose of insulating the liner is to keep the flue gases hotter. This will improve draft and will help reduce creosote deposits.
  20. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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    I figured you would say that but I thought it was worth a try. I'll look for an insulated flue liner kit.
  21. bob95065

    bob95065 Member

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