Strong Smell from Sauna Stove - But Only During Heating - Why?

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MarkinMA

New Member
Jan 12, 2021
7
Massachusetts
First time posting here. I discovered the forum while trying to troubleshoot an issue with my wood-burning sauna, and every search led me to previous posts from this forum. If anyone can solve this issue, I am confident you all can.

In short, I built a wood-burning sauna building and I am getting a strong, almost chemical, plastic smell shortly after firing up the stove. It starts to stink after about 10-15 minutes of burning, last for about 45 mins, and then slowly dissipates. After an hour, the sauna is hot (about 200 degrees) with no smell.

At first, everyone I asked chalked it up to breaking in the stove and stovepipe. Burn it hotter, they said. I did that. After 30+ strong fires over several months, I am still getting the smell.

I thought maybe it was something near the stove off-gassing, as I have cement board painted with high temp stove paint, then covered over with stoveboard with 1" air spacers. But this doesn't make sense, as the smell starts when the walls around the stove are cold to the touch (and the stove/stovepipe are still relatively cool). If that were the issue, you would think the smell would start when the temps rose higher and get worse with higher temps; it is almost the opposite.

The smell is very strong in the sauna room, and once in a while you can smell it outside as well. I can't tell if this is wafting out of the open door, or coming up the chimney. I am not getting smoke in the room, and I seem to have good draft. The stove produces very faint white smoke when I first start the fire, and within a short time, no smoke--only clear heat waves from the chimney.

As for my setup: I have a Kuuma sauna stove, Selkirk double-wall telescoping stove pipe, connected with a stovepipe adapter to Selkirk double wall Class A chimney pipe. I transitioned the stove to chimney pipe in the sauna, installed a cathedral support box to maintain clearances, and ran the chimney pipe straight up through the ceiling, attic space, and through the roof. I have the recommended chimney length above the roof line, and the chimney doesn't have any buildup in it. I checked a few weeks ago.

Any ideas why this is happening? It is getting really frustrating.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,646
South Puget Sound, WA
Was any sealant used on the stove's flue collar or on the stove pipe?
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,646
South Puget Sound, WA
OK. It sounds like some sort of contaminant either got on the stove or rocks and it is outgassing when hot. This could be a scrap of packing, plastic film or ??
 
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gthomas785

Minister of Fire
Feb 8, 2020
530
Central MA
Are there any labels that came with your stovepipe? Mine had labels made out of some plasticy film that smelled terrible until I peeled them off.
 
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MarkinMA

New Member
Jan 12, 2021
7
Massachusetts
OK. It sounds like some sort of contaminant either got on the stove or rocks and it is outgassing when hot. This could be a scrap of packing, plastic film or ??
This is possible. I did a pretty thorough check before installation, but something could have slipped down into the flue collar I guess. I will take the stovepipe off and see if I can see anything burnt on in there. If this was the issue, would 30+ fires have burned off the smell? Or would it still linger (and be that strong) outside the firebox?
 

camp640

New Member
Feb 11, 2021
4
Minneapolis
Did you ever figure out the smell? I am having the same issue with the exact same set up as you (Kuuma with Silkirk stove and chimney pipes). I thought it was just the curing process, but after 10 or so burns, the smell is still very strong during the first hour or so of heating. I took labels off stove pipe when installed. Let me know if you have any updates!

Thanks,

Nick
 

MarkinMA

New Member
Jan 12, 2021
7
Massachusetts
Did you ever figure out the smell? I am having the same issue with the exact same set up as you (Kuuma with Silkirk stove and chimney pipes). I thought it was just the curing process, but after 10 or so burns, the smell is still very strong during the first hour or so of heating. I took labels off stove pipe when installed. Let me know if you have any updates!

Thanks,

Nick

Hey Nick,
Sorry to hear that you are having the same issue. I still haven’t gotten rid of the smell, even though I have burned it several more times and tried the above recommendations. It’s been incredibly frustrating. I did notice that the UL stickers on the back of the stove started melting, and I believe now that the smell is coming from the melting adhesive. I spoke with the manufacturer and they said to try goo gone and keep burning it. They also said they would follow up with the sticker manufacturer, but didn’t receive any word yet. I did scrape the stickers as best I could (the burnt on adhesive is very stubborn) and noticed the smell is less than before. I also pulled the rocks off the top and noticed the paint had started to burn off beneath the spreader. Again, the manufacturer said this is normal. I am especially frustrated because I already had to send the stove back once due to issues with the paint. I waited several months to get the stove back, and now I am still trying to troubleshoot the stove. I burned it conservatively, and still am having issues. Have you checked the top of the stove and the stickers on the stove?
Mark
 

Jonas Berg

New Member
Feb 20, 2021
5
Northern CA
hey all - I am having the same issue in my own home with Selkirk dbl wall black pipe - I am an experienced builder and while I am not a wood stove specialist I have over 30 years experience around this stuff working in rural settings and occasionally installing stoves etc. and have never had this problem more than two or three weeks after an install - this is our third winter and still if we ever let the fire get hot for more than 5/10 minutes it starts to stink heavy chemical/paint smell - we have tried blazing it many times to “burn it off” and it isn’t changing - I am now convinced that selkirk must have used some kind of paint that isn’t working out - we are SUPER over it and will raise hell with Selkirk and suggest you all do the same - something ain’t right!!
 
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camp640

New Member
Feb 11, 2021
4
Minneapolis
hey all - I am having the same issue in my own home with Selkirk dbl wall black pipe - I am an experienced builder and while I am not a wood stove specialist I have over 30 years experience around this stuff working in rural settings and occasionally installing stoves etc. and have never had this problem more than two or three weeks after an install - this is our third winter and still if we ever let the fire get hot for more than 5/10 minutes it starts to stink heavy chemical/paint smell - we have tried blazing it many times to “burn it off” and it isn’t changing - I am now convinced that selkirk must have used some kind of paint that isn’t working out - we are SUPER over it and will raise hell with Selkirk and suggest you all do the same - something ain’t right!!

Interesting. This is good timing. I took off the stickers on my stove as Mark suggested above, but still got a strong smell last night when we fired up the sauna. Even a light haze in the room. So I have been doubting it's the stove and must be something else. I was thinking about disassembling my whole stove/chimney pipe set up to see if something got unintentionally left in the pipes or something (packaging, etc).

I am using the black double wall stove pipe from Selkirk. Have you reached out to them yet? Any suggestions on a contact?

Nick
 
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camp640

New Member
Feb 11, 2021
4
Minneapolis
Hey Nick,
Sorry to hear that you are having the same issue. I still haven’t gotten rid of the smell, even though I have burned it several more times and tried the above recommendations. It’s been incredibly frustrating. I did notice that the UL stickers on the back of the stove started melting, and I believe now that the smell is coming from the melting adhesive. I spoke with the manufacturer and they said to try goo gone and keep burning it. They also said they would follow up with the sticker manufacturer, but didn’t receive any word yet. I did scrape the stickers as best I could (the burnt on adhesive is very stubborn) and noticed the smell is less than before. I also pulled the rocks off the top and noticed the paint had started to burn off beneath the spreader. Again, the manufacturer said this is normal. I am especially frustrated because I already had to send the stove back once due to issues with the paint. I waited several months to get the stove back, and now I am still trying to troubleshoot the stove. I burned it conservatively, and still am having issues. Have you checked the top of the stove and the stickers on the stove?
Mark

Hey Mark,

Thanks for the additional info. I did notice the stickers on the back of my stove were melting, peeling off, so I scraped them off and even sanded the paint a bit to get the residue off. I fired up the stove last and still got the strong smell and haze. I am unconvinced it's the stove. I know so many folks here in Minneapolis who have the Kuuma and never have had issues. I am thinking it is that stove pipe as Jonas suggested below. Are you using the Silkirk black double wall pipe?

Nick
 
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Jonas Berg

New Member
Feb 20, 2021
5
Northern CA
Interesting. This is good timing. I took off the stickers on my stove as Mark suggested above, but still got a strong smell last night when we fired up the sauna. Even a light haze in the room. So I have been doubting it's the stove and must be something else. I was thinking about disassembling my whole stove/chimney pipe set up to see if something got unintentionally left in the pipes or something (packaging, etc).

I am using the black double wall stove pipe from Selkirk. Have you reached out to them yet? Any suggestions on a contact?

Nick
haven’t yet but will next week and will post what happens
 

Jonas Berg

New Member
Feb 20, 2021
5
Northern CA
Interesting. This is good timing. I took off the stickers on my stove as Mark suggested above, but still got a strong smell last night when we fired up the sauna. Even a light haze in the room. So I have been doubting it's the stove and must be something else. I was thinking about disassembling my whole stove/chimney pipe set up to see if something got unintentionally left in the pipes or something (packaging, etc).

I am using the black double wall stove pipe from Selkirk. Have you reached out to them yet? Any suggestions on a contact?

Nick
also I have a 3’ telescoping section that isn’t very telescoped at the top of a 10’ section...also suspect of that...it is basically triple wall at that section and maybe the outer isn’t getting hot enough to “burn off”... grasping here...
 

camp640

New Member
Feb 11, 2021
4
Minneapolis
So I wrote an email to Selkirk a few days ago and got a phone call today. They gave me the direct line to their warranty contact and said he'd take care of it. Before I even had a chance to call the number I was given, I got a call about an hour later from said warranty person who took my information and said new pipes would be coming to me within a week.

I asked both if this is a common issue. They said no... but I did get it out of them that this does happen... the paint not curing fully for whatever reason. The warranty guy said that in reality there should be almost no smell, even during the first fire, but at most (if there is a smell at all), it should be gone with a couple burns.

Let me know how things go for you both... I'll post an update after I get the new pipe installed.

Nick
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,646
South Puget Sound, WA
Hey Nick,
Sorry to hear that you are having the same issue. I still haven’t gotten rid of the smell, even though I have burned it several more times and tried the above recommendations. It’s been incredibly frustrating. I did notice that the UL stickers on the back of the stove started melting, and I believe now that the smell is coming from the melting adhesive.
Hope this is the solution. Be sure to request a new UL sticker for the stove. Keep it in the manual away from the heat.
 
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Jonas Berg

New Member
Feb 20, 2021
5
Northern CA
Hello - hope this post gets to the fellow who responded to my post...I am new to forums and am better with a hammer than a key board...
I too had an excellent experience with the Selkirk warranty guy and he responded within a half hour - I was very impressed and pleased as I have been having challenges with customer care these days - anyhow he said the same thing about the powder coat paint not curing properly and that normally even when this happens the wood stove cures it but I must not be able to generate the heat to do that - I will send him my exact pipe style and a parts list and he will send me new stuff - I’ll report back when I change it out
cheers
Jonas
 
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MarkinMA

New Member
Jan 12, 2021
7
Massachusetts
So I wrote an email to Selkirk a few days ago and got a phone call today. They gave me the direct line to their warranty contact and said he'd take care of it. Before I even had a chance to call the number I was given, I got a call about an hour later from said warranty person who took my information and said new pipes would be coming to me within a week.

I asked both if this is a common issue. They said no... but I did get it out of them that this does happen... the paint not curing fully for whatever reason. The warranty guy said that in reality there should be almost no smell, even during the first fire, but at most (if there is a smell at all), it should be gone with a couple burns.

Let me know how things go for you both... I'll post an update after I get the new pipe installed.

Nick
Hello Nick,
Thank you for the update! For some reason, I didn't get the email alert that you had replied back in February. I was thinking about the stovepipes this morning as I am still having the same issue, and remembered to check in here. I am glad I did. Glad to hear Selkirk stood by their product. Did you install the new pipes? Did it resolve the issue? I am very curious to hear how things went. Thanks again for the update!
Mark
 

MarkinMA

New Member
Jan 12, 2021
7
Massachusetts
Hello - hope this post gets to the fellow who responded to my post...I am new to forums and am better with a hammer than a key board...
I too had an excellent experience with the Selkirk warranty guy and he responded within a half hour - I was very impressed and pleased as I have been having challenges with customer care these days - anyhow he said the same thing about the powder coat paint not curing properly and that normally even when this happens the wood stove cures it but I must not be able to generate the heat to do that - I will send him my exact pipe style and a parts list and he will send me new stuff - I’ll report back when I change it out
cheers
Jonas
Hello Jonas,
Thank you for the update! I am very happy to hear that Selkirk stands by their product and provided you good customer service. Did you receive the new pipe? Did changing it out resolve the smell? I am curious to see how things go, and would appreciate another update. I am still having the same issue, so plan to contact Selkirk this week. Thanks again, and hopefully you are smell-free!
Mark
 

Jonas Berg

New Member
Feb 20, 2021
5
Northern CA
he folks - yes I received the new pipe and had one the best customer service experiences of my life with Selkirk - as a “do it all” carpenter I am dealing with a lot of less than great appliance, tool, and household equipment these days as the bar for how good and how long a thing should last drops and drops and the customer care has also dropped precipitously...
anyhow we in Northern CA are out of the “needing a fire” season and I am unable to change out the pipes easily as the family is stuck in our relatively small home ALL THE TIME these days...
I will be changing them out this summer and we’ll see how things go next winter - I am very hopeful and will post results in the Fall
still perplexed though that I was unable to burn off the smell after several winters of hot fires...
after 40yrs of living with only wood heat this has never happened...
anyhow good luck and give selkirk the feedback they deserve for taking care of us SO easily!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
90,646
South Puget Sound, WA
Paint prep and/or blending sometimes goes wrong in production. An error can lead to poor bonding or setting up of the paint. We had a woman with an Osburn many years ago whose stove constantly smelled and sent small amounts of black soot into their living room. After a month or two of burning, there was enough accumulation for it to be visible. The culprit was a paint job that didn't set up correctly. Osburn replaced the stove and the problem was solved.