Possibly poisoned wood

Slimpickens

New Member
Feb 23, 2021
2
Oak Hills CA
I'm new here, tried searching for this topic and apologize if it's already been discussed. I have a good wood stove and have had no problems in the last 25 years. This year I purchased 1 cord of Almond wood and 1 cord of mixed soft and hard wood. After about 30 days of constant fires, I began to smell a chemical smell. It continued to get worse to the point of aggravating my asthma and causing burning eyes. I had the chimney cleaned, no affect. When the stove is cold (to remove all the ash) I can smell a chemical odor from inside. I have replaced the insulation blanket and fire brick. There was no creosote deposit anywhere inside the stove. I believe it possible the Almond trees were sprayed with either an Herbicide or Pesticide prior to them being cut down. My question is: is it possible the steel inside the stove has absorbed the toxin and can it be removed?
 

kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,621
07462
I dont think so, the fire would burn off violets if any were in the fuel source, and you should not be getting any smoke into your living structure while operating the stove, as for the smell, it is possible that your hitting a *new high temp on the stove or black pipe and that smell you smell is the actual paint off gassing.
A good possibility of whats going on is and established convective loop with on the home, since cold air is on the ground going towards the stove, there might be a concentration of dust also being sucked towards the stove, then rising and re-settling.
I know in my house I, at a minimum vacuum twice a week, during the winter while the stove is in full operation I notice a larger then normal amount of dust collection in the vacuum, and it isnt from reckless ash clean out either.
 
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Das Jugghead

Burning Hunk
Jan 2, 2019
148
Indiana
I'm new here, tried searching for this topic and apologize if it's already been discussed. I have a good wood stove and have had no problems in the last 25 years. This year I purchased 1 cord of Almond wood and 1 cord of mixed soft and hard wood. After about 30 days of constant fires, I began to smell a chemical smell. It continued to get worse to the point of aggravating my asthma and causing burning eyes. I had the chimney cleaned, no affect. When the stove is cold (to remove all the ash) I can smell a chemical odor from inside. I have replaced the insulation blanket and fire brick. There was no creosote deposit anywhere inside the stove. I believe it possible the Almond trees were sprayed with either an Herbicide or Pesticide prior to them being cut down. My question is: is it possible the steel inside the stove has absorbed the toxin and can it be removed?
I would not think the steel inside the stove has absorbed any chemicals - maybe the firebricks but even then I would think that high enough stove temperatures would burn that off. If you have been burning wood for 25 years and this just started with this batch of wood then I would suspect there is something in (or on) the wood you are currently using. I noticed a similar condition when I burned some pallet wood. Even though it was unpainted there was a definite chemical smell in the fire box and there was some build up on the door glass. I only burned it in a pinch and never burned it since and haven't smelled any odors since either.
 

Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,541
Midwest
I suppose anything is possible, but would expect that to have enough pesticide/herbicide to smell in the stove, you definitely would have smelled it on the wood going into the stove, or your hands when handling the wood. Burning the wood should destroy a good portion of anything that would smell, plus, smells inside the stove really shouldn't be 'leaking out' to the room in any notable quantities.

As others have said, the steel won't really 'absorb' an odor - though the firebrick might - but you say you've already replaced that. Did the bricks have a notable smell when you pulled them out?

Some possibilities I can think of:

Is it possible the stove is back drafting and you are smelling a creosote / stale smoke smell from the flue? Does the smell occur at any certain time? Possibly right after running a bath fan, a clothes dryer or other appliance which pulls air out of the house and cold create a back draft? Possibly times when you have a mini 'thermal inversion' - mid to late morning if it is warm outside, but cool in the house can sometimes cause a reverse flow in the flue.

Flue is recently swept / relatively clean, no open/leaky joints and no creosote accumulation on any storm cap?

Any of this wood driftwood or been exposed to salt water? Pretty low possibility, but maybe it is giving some sort of chlorine smell?

Any kids in the house? We had one member start getting a chemical smell out of his stove after several years of burning with no issues. Come to find out one of his kids had stuffed a plastic toy between a heat shield and the stove.

From what I read, almond wood is supposed to be fairly pleasant smelling to burn. What were the other mixed hard/soft woods? I suppose anything along the pine/fir family might burn with a bit more acrid smelling smoke. Possibly others. Hopefully no 2x4's or other dimensional lumber which might be treated.

Outside of that, as others have said, I would think a good, hot fire would burn out any smell from the firebox. So if the smell remains, it's likely coming from somewhere else. If you can describe more on the smell itself, or conditions, it might help.

Good luck!
 
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bigealta

Member
May 22, 2010
85
Utah, NJ
Don't know if you have locust out there, but it definitely has a strong (not pleasant) smell. You will smell it in the house and outside around your house.
 

rwhite

Minister of Fire
Nov 8, 2011
1,800
North Central Idaho
I would guess that if it were attributed to a herbicide or pesticide you would have smelled it right from the start. I'm no almond farmer but I do know they are pretty careful about what they apply for fear of killing bees. No bees = no almonds.
 
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john26

Feeling the Heat
Oct 27, 2008
457
Wildwood MO
Dad burned some locust I believe that was cut out of septic field it stunk pretty bad when burnt a lot more noticeable outside.
 

Slimpickens

New Member
Feb 23, 2021
2
Oak Hills CA
Thank you all for your interest and replies. I too thought if the wood were contaminated it wood have a certain smell. I'm at a loss to figure this out. The chimney sweep said my flue was in great shape and only a very small amount of soot was brushed out. The Fireplace- Stove store said she could smell the chemical smell coming from the insulation blanket I took in as a pattern for direct replacement. While replacing the firebrick it did have a smell but by the time I had removed all of it I couldn't tell where the smell was coming from. I am waithing on a new load of wood from a different supplier before firing it back up. Thank you again for you insightful thoughts.
 
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