How to add an ash dump

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

RockyMtnGriz

Burning Hunk
Apr 19, 2019
123
SW Montana
That is why I noticed the mountain of hot coals in the stove and looked for a solution. Aside from the coals issue, I think it would be very convenient to have an ash dump. The wife and I are pensioners, not getting any younger, and taking out the bucket of ashes every few days is a task that I would not miss, lol. I have been advised here on this forum that I might stoke the coals a bit and refrain from adding in logs until really necessary and thus not build up a mountain of hot coals. It seems to me that this might be my answer.
You've gotten good advice on solving the coaling problem, but one last time, please, do not dump coals into, "The cellar ... with a dirt floor (that) could probably take many years of ash dispersal", if that's what you're contemplating. The old-school ash dump you envy was probably serving an old-school appliance that produced mostly ash dust, with rare coals. Just search up the many people who have been injured or died by using BBQ to heat their house, or cook with it in an unventilated manner. Dumping your excess coals (if that's what you're thinking) into the cellar is pretty much the same thing as lighting up a "hibachi" in your cellar, and is just asking for a CO disaster. You could create an oxygen deficient and/or CO rich atmosphere in your home, or maybe only in your cellar, and it could last for quite a while after your fire goes out, even though you might not see it on a detector at the living level.

On a lighter note: If I sent you a book of stamps, would you send me your excess coals??

I had to be away for about 8 hours today, so I loaded my Kuuma (not stuffed, and not the good wood - it's only October!), to deal with the dark snowy days with highs and lows in the 20's, but when I got back, there weren't as many coals left as I would have liked, and the stove was in the irritating (to me) coal burn - wide open mode. It would be nice to add wood, but that would make it harder to get to the desired reload time around 11pm (as that would be pretty certain to get me to the morning with a good bed to reload on), but if I do, it will contribute to the burndown of the existing coals, maybe making this evening's load, a restart. Sucks to burn mostly pine - no coals!

The point of all that is: There are going to be variations in output in wood heat. It's just the nature of the beast. Between now and 11pm, I'm going to wish it was a little warmer. Probably around 3-4am, I'm going to wish my heater wasn't so effective. In the morning, I'm probably going to wish my master bath was a little warmer. Use the good advice, turn up the air as you get to the end of the cycle, stir the coals, add flashy wood to help burn them down, or deal with the natural variation in output (Flannel quilted shirt? I'm wearing one.). If you find that doesn't work for you, the solution to maintaining a constant temperature is a fuel source that's switchable and available for immediate dispatch - electric, gas, etc.

A radiant "dish" electric space heater, though rather crude, goes a long way in bridging the vital gaps in my house when it's really cold, and that might be a thought for you.

Please, whatever you decide, don't have hot coals anywhere inside your home envelope, unless contained in an appliance.

And, thanks for the inadvertent tip. I've been looking for a small stove that would run long periods at a low output without needing a cold start frequently, to replace my supplemental "fireplace". I'll be researching that stove.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,109
central pa
begreen, I suppose the bricks might keep the coal bed hotter longer. And perhaps I should let it burn down some more before adding logs. Anyway, I am going to remove one of the floor bricks- the center one, and put in an ash dump to the cellar. I do not see any real downside and an ash dump would be really convenient.
The down side is it will void the ul listing and the warranty, cause big issues with insurance and it is extremely dangerous. Please do not do this
 
  • Like
Reactions: wjohn

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,788
Northern Maine
begreen, I suppose the bricks might keep the coal bed hotter longer. And perhaps I should let it burn down some more before adding logs. Anyway, I am going to remove one of the floor bricks- the center one, and put in an ash dump to the cellar. I do not see any real downside and an ash dump would be really convenient.
You don’t think the potential of CO poisoning isn’t a downside?
Good luck.
 

Dieselhead

Minister of Fire
Feb 21, 2011
702
NE
As stated even if you build a floor to ceiling brick chase the co will have to go somewhere. Air exchange will take place. Also Your ash door will have to be gasketed as well to prevent air intrusion through it if you like the air control feature of your stove, this may harm it. What’s the structure under your stove? Setting the firebox directly on it may cause problems with radiant heat. Northern Maine=rural fire departments=typically just a saved foundation, so just be careful with playing with Fire in your home.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Beary

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,731
Colorado
Sometimes being efficient with something and trying to figure things out is good but not with this type of thinking in my opinion just carry the ash can outside and put it somewhere safe--concrete or something and then go inside and have a hot chocolate..Save your idea for the laundry room conveyance system...It is fun to think of ways to make things more better but I do not believe this is a better way for your idea to work--too much complex stuff here as well--cutting out stove bottoms and laying flat on surfaces etc etc--but you get credit for trying to figure out a way..lol clancey
 

wjohn

Member
Jul 27, 2021
111
KS
I won't pretend to be a wood stove design expert but I just bought a VC Aspen C3 myself that I am currently installing. It appears that one of the changes made between the older Aspen 1920 and the C3 is that they removed the ash pan to increase the firebox size and bring air through the bottom of the stove. You can see from this cutaway on their website that trying to do what you intend would seriously affect how the stove works and not in a good way: Aspen C3 Cutaway
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,470
SE North Carolina
First thought that came to mind is that this seems like a lot of work for a solution, when a metal bucket and shovel stove it second thought was C3 automatic air is great feature isn’t it! Third it may be working to well and limiting the burn rate so that basically it makes nice burning charcoal.

Are are you running single wall from the stove or double. The hotter you keep the flue the better it will draft. C3 will limit the high draft fine and not over heat but at the coaling stage it should be wide open. Is there any way to verify.

An insulated flue or taller stack could increase your draft and help burn down more coals.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,109
central pa
First thought that came to mind is that this seems like a lot of work for a solution, when a metal bucket and shovel stove it second thought was C3 automatic air is great feature isn’t it! Third it may be working to well and limiting the burn rate so that basically it makes nice burning charcoal.

Are are you running single wall from the stove or double. The hotter you keep the flue the better it will draft. C3 will limit the high draft fine and not over heat but at the coaling stage it should be wide open. Is there any way to verify.

An insulated flue or taller stack could increase your draft and help burn down more coals.
It may limit high draft we don't know.
 
  • Like
Reactions: EbS-P

AldenB

New Member
Oct 11, 2021
11
Linneus, Maine
So I gave the coals extra time and they did, in fact, burn away. All I found in the morning was about half an inch of fine ash. The stove was still very warm to the touch. Adding in no wood at bedtime, the stove kept about 350 deg. until about 3am. I am happy with that. Very happy. Had I wanted to recharge the stove at 3, I have no doubt that two or three-inch logs would have lit up immediately. I have decided that I will not cut in a trap door on the bottom of the stove. Too much of a bother and I do not want to risk changing the operation of the stove. I am just too happy with the automatic air vent. What remains is whether to have an ash pit in the cellar. That will take some more research. Thank you to all for the great responses.
 

ericm979

Member
Nov 2, 2018
31
California
If you time your loads so the coals have burnt down in the evening when its time to reload, you'll get a full load. I sometimes do only a half load to make the before bedtime load a full one.

I got a shovel with expanded metal in the pan that will let me sort the coals from the ash in the fire box. I can keep the coals to light the next load and put the ash in the ash bucket. That keeps the height of the ash+coals bed down.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
1,928
Long Island NY
I bought this thing over the summer. Allows to scoop only the coals to one side. Quite a few reviews there say they use it in stoves etc

Screenshot_20211012-195947.png
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,555
South Puget Sound, WA
I'm much relieved to hear that the stove will not be modified. Give yourself time to get adjusted to the stove and develop a loading rhythm. There will probably be two, one for shoulder season burning and another for cold winter weather.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,450
Unity/Bangor, Maine
Happy to hear the plan to modify the stove has been abandoned . . . as it really was a very, very bad idea for many reasons -- not the least of which is the potential for an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

As others have said coals do make heat . . . but too many coals can be an issue if you are really looking to crank out the BTUs. These have all been mentioned in various threads, but it may be worth repeating.

-- Rake the coals before doing a reload -- this is especially helpful with stoves that have grates and an ash pan below as it separates the smaller coals and ash from the larger coals and makes some room.

-- Gauging when to reload the stove can make a big difference . . . resist reloading too soon.

-- When it's the dead of winter and the temps are below the donut so I want to really load the stove and get some heat, but there are too many coals I will toss on a stick or two of softwood and open up the air control . . . I lose a bit of heat up the chimney this way, but in fairly quick order the coals will burn down.

-- As a last resort you can shovel out the coals into a covered metal pail and bring it outside . . . and that's the key . . . bringing it outside and away from anything combustible. About every year we see at least a few fires from folks putting the coals in cardboard boxes, plastic pails, plastic bags (well maybe not so much using these now) . . . and then putting the container in the garage, porch, etc. I treat all disposed ash as if there was a hot coal in there somewhere.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Beary and bholler

Das Jugghead

Burning Hunk
Jan 2, 2019
156
Indiana
I have a wood stove with a fairly small firebox in the 1 - 1.2 cubic foot range.

For what it is or is not worth I find that burning wood with a moisture content above 15% results in a rapid coal build up even if the MC is below 20%. To get the coals to burn down I sift/rake the ash and coal bringing to the coals to the front of the firebox and then lay smaller splits across the top of the coals. I open the primary intake and allow the coals to burn down. With an MC below 15% I generally empty ash about every 5 to 7 days - with an MC above 15% emptying ash can be a daily event.

Removed ash goes into a steel can outside away from the house. Ash is then spread on the garden periodically throughout the winter.
 

ToastyRanch

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
20
Coastal Massachusetts
Please just take the ash and any coals outside in a steel bucket and don’t put the bucket on the porch or place it near the house.
Your lives depend on it.
How far away is considered far enough? My yard can get muddy, as we’re abutting conservation wetlands, so I’m trying to expedite this process and minimize walking. I am looking for the consensus opinion on how far away is far enough.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,555
South Puget Sound, WA
Our ash can sits on top of full bricks on the porch.
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,788
Northern Maine
How far away is considered far enough? My yard can get muddy, as we’re abutting conservation wetlands, so I’m trying to expedite this process and minimize walking. I am looking for the consensus opinion on how far away is far enough.
A mile is safe. 😂
A metal can with a tight fitting lid can go just about anywhere. From my boiler I’ll leave it on the basement floor. The wood stove ash in the bucket gets placed on the ground by the stairs. It’s normally covered in snow and ice being winter. When I dump it warm or cold I toss the contents onto a snow bank.

There are also many times the ash has been sitting for two weeks before refiring either burner so the fear level of starting a fire is zero.
 

ToastyRanch

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
20
Coastal Massachusetts
A mile is safe. 😂
A metal can with a tight fitting lid can go just about anywhere. From my boiler I’ll leave it on the basement floor. The wood stove ash in the bucket gets placed on the ground by the stairs. It’s normally covered in snow and ice being winter. When I dump it warm or cold I toss the contents onto a snow bank.

There are also many times the ash has been sitting for two weeks before refiring either burner so the fear level of starting a fire is zero.
When you’re using a snow bank, presumably you’re dumping everything into kind of one spot rather than sprinkling it around? What’s underneath the snow bank —in your case— after the snow melts? I’d be afraid of screwing up my lawn or worse yet messing up the nearby frog habitat. I’m just beginning to figure all of these things out.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,470
SE North Carolina
When you’re using a snow bank, presumably you’re dumping everything into kind of one spot rather than sprinkling it around? What’s underneath the snow bank —in your case— after the snow melts? I’d be afraid of screwing up my lawn or worse yet messing up the nearby frog habitat. I’m just beginning to figure all of these things out.
I don’t consider wood ash toxic. The volume the a average home creates is actually quite small. 5-10 gallons a year. By the time the snow melts and you get a rain or two its barley noticeable. PH is low (think lye soap) is about the only negative I can think of. Garden fertilizer is another good use.

I keep my bucket probably too close to the house. But it’s off the ground on a wire shelf under a metal table. I usually I’m not removing ash from a hot stove either.
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,788
Northern Maine
When you’re using a snow bank, presumably you’re dumping everything into kind of one spot rather than sprinkling it around? What’s underneath the snow bank —in your case— after the snow melts? I’d be afraid of screwing up my lawn or worse yet messing up the nearby frog habitat. I’m just beginning to figure all of these things out.
My snowbanks are found on the edges of my wood lines. The dark ash on the white snow melts the snow below and dilutes any ash with natural run off. It's a wide toss of the ash bucket, I'm not just flipping it upside down in a pile.
 

jotulf45v2

New Member
Sep 22, 2021
32
CT Shoreline
I scatter my ash in a snow bank/compost pile after it recently rained/snowed. If the ash bucket has been sitting for >2 weeks I also sprinkle the ash around my lawn to balance the pH of the soil ie. get rid of moss.
 

ToastyRanch

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
20
Coastal Massachusetts
I don’t consider wood ash toxic. The volume the a average home creates is actually quite small. 5-10 gallons a year. By the time the snow melts and you get a rain or two its barley noticeable. PH is low (think lye soap) is about the only negative I can think of. Garden fertilizer is another good use.

I keep my bucket probably too close to the house. But it’s off the ground on a wire shelf under a metal table. I usually I’m not removing ash from a hot stove either.
Knowing the approximate average annual quantity is very helpful. We’ve got one third of an acre, mostly lawn, a few trees and some smaller garden beds. Thanks for writing. It’s easier to plan how to distribute ash, if I know more precisely what to expect. I have a wire/ceramic shelf outside, so that be a good temporary bucket location if the weather prohibits tromping around the yard.
 

ToastyRanch

New Member
Nov 15, 2021
20
Coastal Massachusetts
I scatter my ash in a snow bank/compost pile after it recently rained/snowed. If the ash bucket has been sitting for >2 weeks I also sprinkle the ash around my lawn to balance the pH of the soil ie. get rid of moss.
Also incredibly informative. I need as much moss as possible to soak up excess water around my house and ornamental cherry tree. So, I won’t put the ash where I want to encourage the moss.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,731
Colorado
I am new at this so forgive my question..? Whats so dangerous about putting the ashes in a metal bucket with a lid and placing it outside until it cools or even cleaning the ash from the stove when the stove is cold--whats the big deal here? If I leave my metal can inside with its lid on --on a concrete floor until it cools--why all the concern here---Is it going to explode or something? Old scary---you got me that way----lol lol clancey
 

Dieselhead

Minister of Fire
Feb 21, 2011
702
NE
I am new at this so forgive my question..? Whats so dangerous about putting the ashes in a metal bucket with a lid and placing it outside until it cools or even cleaning the ash from the stove when the stove is cold--whats the big deal here? If I leave my metal can inside with its lid on --on a concrete floor until it cools--why all the concern here---Is it going to explode or something? Old scary---you got me that way----lol lol clancey
As long as its on a concrete surface OUTSIDE, with lid on that’s fine. Inside with lid on is a no-no. CO will be offgassing from the coals into your living space. When I empty the big belly of my stove into the 10 gallon metal garbage can the bottom of it has gotten hot enough to leave an impression on my trex decking. And it was only sitting there as long as it took me to empty my stove so figure 10 mins.