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Wood insert (and problems) came with the house

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by stamello, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. stamello

    stamello Member

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    We bought an old leaky 2500 sq ft farmhouse in Tennessee. It doesn't get too cold, but the house is leaky enough that we need heat from Nov - March. No gas available so we have expensive electric heat and I'd like to start heating the front of the house (around 2000 sq feet) with wood.

    The house has a fireplace and an insert. The insert only takes 16" logs. I filled it up with dry oak and burned it as hot as I could, but it only heat up the front two rooms. There was no blower on the insert, but it seemed fairly modern.

    I called a fireplace inspector who was advertising on craigslist. After looking at the chimney he said we needed to pull the insert out and repipe it. However, someone had installed decorative stone over the edges of the fireplace insert, so we had to break the stone off to even get at the unit. Once we pulled it out, we saw that the 8" pipe coming out of the unit had rusted and part of it had fallen.

    The guy then pulled all the old pipe out. He noted that the chimney had been extended - the bottom was a 1920s brick chimney, but the top 12 feet or so were tiled (from the history of the house the top portion was probably built in the early 1980s). He also said that the insert would heat the house fine, but it would be better off not as an insert, but as a hearth stove.

    So he went to the hardware store and bought black stovepipe. He placed the insert (now stove) on the hearth, ran the stovepipe out of the insert at a 45 degree angle through the fireplace up the chimney and presumably into the portion of the chimney that is tiled. The stovepipe does not continue through the tiled portion of the chimney.

    After he left, I lit a fire and got it as hot as I could. Still only heating the front two rooms. I bought a blower and rigged it up - it blew nice warm air, but it still only heat the front two rooms.

    Then I thought that maybe I needed to fill up the fireplace more in order to burn hotter, so I put an extra log in. I shut the fireplace door too firmly and cracked the glass on the front. A piece of glass fell out.

    Then I noticed that the new 8" pipe connected to the stove was getting red hot, and also that wisps of smoke were coming out of the connection. I don't know much about how it's supposed to work, but that didn't seem right - especially because there was creosote on the old portion of the chimney that seems like it could light up if it got too hot...

    So I let the thing burn out and am reassessing the setup.

    I have at least two problems: first - I think that my fireplace insert is undersized for my leaky house. The fireplace is way bigger than the insert I have now, so I'd like to buy a bigger used one and would appreciate any tips. There are a few used inserts available near me - one is called a 'Nickerson' and made by 'Granddad Nickerson Stoves'. It looks to be big, heavy, clean, and has a blower, but I'm sure that there are other considerations that I need to look for.

    My second problem is with the installation method that the chimney guy used - does it sound like he did it right, or do I need to start from scratch on the installation?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    (edited to include pics of installation)

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  2. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    First problem -
    It sounds like you may have received some bum advice. Hope he didn't charge too much for it. You need a certified sweep to do this work.

    Can you post some pictures of the current setup? We need to see how safe (or not) it is. And if you can post a rough sketch of the floorplan we may be able to help you out with some heat circulation ideas.

    PS: Welcome to hearth.com!
  3. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    You will need to redo the whole setup, black stove pipe is not to be used IN a chimney.

    Can you get us some pictures of the fireplace and existing hearth? That will get us started in the right direction.
    stoveguy2esw likes this.
  4. stamello

    stamello Member

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    That's what I figured. I'll take some pictures when I get home tonight. Do you need pictures of the inside of the chimney?

    The floorplan seems pretty good for heating: I attached a file which shows the generally layout (though the scale is off). There is a second story fairly open den above the living room, dining room, kitchen, bed 2, bath 1, bed 1. Open staircase to second story. Ideally I'd like to heat the living room, dining room, kitchen, bed 1, bed 2 and second story with wood.
  5. stamello

    stamello Member

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    Whoops, it looks like the file didn't upload. I'll try again...
  6. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I don't think pictures of the inside of the chimney are necessary at this stage, but if you have them, no problem. Flue pictures are helpful, but not the same as a good full examination of the chimney with trained eyes. From the description it sounds like an insulated liner is in order. This is best determined by a certified sweep. Pictures of the stove and current installation will be very helpful in bringing us up to speed on the current installation.

    The file didn't post for some reason. Maybe it is in a format that is not accepted? Can you post it as a pdf or as an image file (png or jpg)?
  7. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    The pipe got red hot because of the broken glass, which caused the stove to overfire. You probably noticed the fire raging like a forge. The same thing also happens when you burn with a door partially ajar, instead of fully open or fully closed.

    As mentioned, black pipe is not for use in a chimney, but are you sure this is what he used? I've seen a situation similar to yours, where a block-off plate was installed at the bottom of the clay tile portion, and a connector pipe run up to the block-off plate. In that particular case, it was debatable whether the black pipe was in the smoke chamber or "chimney". It may be acceptable for him to run a liner up to the clay tile portion, and then transition from liner to stove pipe down in the fireplace, which may be exactly what he did.
  8. stamello

    stamello Member

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    Yes, he used black pipe. He bought 4 3' sections of 8" black pipe and a rotating elbow. He didn't have any other supplies. I'm not sure how he connected it to the clay tile portion.
  9. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Im quite sure it is not connected to anything in the chimney, most of the weight is probably on the 90 which is making the rest of the pipe pop out hence why you saw smoke come out.
  10. stamello

    stamello Member

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    I'm having trouble uploading it - I'll post it and the pictures tonight from my other computer.
  11. stamello

    stamello Member

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    Pics of installation. Front, side, connection, and up chimney.
    Size of fireplace is 32 wide, 28 tall, 18 deep. Insert is smaller...
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  12. stamello

    stamello Member

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    Bump. Any advice appreciated.
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Well, the good news is that you have a decent model insert. I think that is an Avalon Rainier-45. The bad news is that it was installed improperly to start with and his "improvement" is not much better. You need a professional chimney sweep to clean the flue, then install a proper, insulated stainless steel liner. I would also have them install a damper sealing block off plate to improve stove performance. Instructions are on page 20 of the stove manual. It will help keep the heat around the stove. There is an optional blower kit for this stove that would improve heat output and circulation. It's pricey though, costs about $300.

    To find a professional chimney sweep go to one of these sites and type in your zip code:
    http://www.ncsg.org/ or http://www.csia.org/ It's fine to ask for local references.

    Stove manual: http://avalonfirestyles.com/TravisDocs/100-01140.pdf
    Hearth.com article on block-off plate benefits and installation: http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/wiki/Why_damper_seal_is_needed/
  14. stamello

    stamello Member

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    When I look up the Rainier it shows that it is intended for 800-1800 sq feet. I'd like to heat 1500-2000 in a leaky house.... If I have this reinstalled as an insert (not hearth stove) am I going to be disappointed?
  15. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    A stove install will throw more heat than an insert install. With the insert install you will definitely need the blower kit. Decide which you want. The main thing you have to do is get your flue up to code, insulated SS liner and block-off plate would probably be best. Both can be DIY projects, kits are available on-line. Get a certified sweep to check out the existing masonry flue to make sure it is sound and then ask here for advice on how to proceed.

    While it is rated for up to 1800 sf you are not in the coldest of climates. I would consider some insulation around the house to reduce the drafts and then that stove will probably be enough.

    There are also places on-line to order replacement viewing window material...

    KaptJaq
  16. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    I think you will be. If you ask me that spot is begging for a free standing rear vented stove.
  17. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Btw, if you keep that insert you need to change the door gasket and/or fix your lever.
  18. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Where are you located? The stove may be fine if you are in a milder climate, but undersized if you are in New England.The main thing you will gain from a larger stove would be longer burn time.

    With a blower and a block off plate I think you will note a significant improvement in heat output.The Rainier is a good performer.

    I think the other issues - some rooms not getting warm and a leaky house are not necessarily an issue with the stove. I would invest in sealing up the leaks first. Caulking is cheap and very effective. If you can post a sketch of the floorplan we can see if there's an inexpensive way to improve heat circulation.

    Question: How dry is the wood you are burning? When was it split and stacked? Do you know what species of wood it is?

    PS: I meant to mention this earlier, this stove takes a 6" liner.
  19. stamello

    stamello Member

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    Are you suggesting that this insert be installed as a freestanding stove, or should I get another one?
  20. stamello

    stamello Member

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    I'm near Chattanooga TN.
    What is a blockoff plate? Will a certified sweep be able to help me with this?
    The wood is oak that was split and sracked 2 years ago. It was stored in a dry barn.
    Is the liner the same thing as the pipe? It looks like it has an 8" connection on a 45 degree angle out the back. The 8" pipe fit right into it.
  21. stamello

    stamello Member

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    Is the gasket the rope-like material surrounding the glass? I'm guessing that I could change that when replacing the glass?
    And the lever just needs a wooden knob, right?
  22. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Great, the wood sounds like it's good. You're in a milder climate, the stove size should be ok.

    Click on the link provided previously for an explanation of a damper-sealing block off plate. Yes a certified sweep can do this. The liner is stainless steel and continuous all the way up to the top of the chimney. According to the manual, this stove takes 6" pipe.

    The "glass" is actually a ceramic. It needs to be replaced with ceramic glass designed for high heat. . If local stove shop can't help, call around to local glass shops and ask if they sell Pyroceram, Neoceram or Robax ceramic glass. If you can't find this locally there is a good online seller at: www.onedayglass.com.

    PS: It looks like the closest Avalon dealer is:
    Fine's Gas Appliance Inc.
    2777 Lafayette Road
    Ft Oglethorpe, GA 30742
    (706) 866-8290
    john@finesgas.com
  23. madison

    madison Minister of Fire

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    First off: Welcome to the forum.

    IMHO: Since the stone on the hearth is already been partially demolished. I would consider all options within your budget. Depending on your budget, family warmth demands, fire safety to name a few - you could go many directions. Larger unit - freestanding or insert (with a blower). But first the chimney needs to be addressed. Different stoves/inserts have various chimney diameter requirements, so research and an accurate plan is mandatory before you spend another nickel.

    Again, this is my personal opinion/advice
  24. stamello

    stamello Member

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    OK. I'm planning on calling Sootbusters of Chattanooga to come and work on the chimney and advise me on further work.
  25. Joful

    Joful Minister of Fire

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    Keep us posted! As with any forum, you'll get some bum advice (I've been known to dish some out myself), but the combined knowledge here extends well beyond the expertise of any single chimney sweep.

    Good luck!

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