What Not to do with an Open Fireplace

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Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
962
Massachusetts
Visiting my mother's today and she loves her old school open fireplace. The only issue is it's a ranch so it has a short chimney with mediocre draft at best and she likes to get it ripping. The result is a lot of spillage. So much so that the brick and wall/ceilings get stained with soot. They painted the ceiling/wall but that obviously is just a visual bandaid.

I've tried countless times to explain how bad this is but it falls on deaf ears. I at least make her get a sweep out every year so there's that but it should probably be more often. If she'd pony up for literally any insert she could have the aesthetic, much cleaner/safer house, and bonus heat but yeah it's a losing battle. I'm sure many of you can relate when it comes to getting your parents to do stuff lol. Especially when its "been this way for 20 years and I've been fine".

Anyways. Whenever I walk in I get hit with that smoke smell and get all annoyed. One day the damn place is gonna get torched or arguably worse, all the PM2.5 being inhaled over the years.

Don't do this! Get an insert! Or at the very least don't make fires bigger than the chimney can handle. :mad:

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clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
Tell her to join this forum-----we will have comments...lol lol....Old people are just set in their ways and its hard sometimes on the rest of the family... They wind up where they cannot remember any other different ways to try something--lol clancey
 

kborndale

Feeling the Heat
Oct 9, 2008
301
LI
If it's an open fireplace that she gets ripping all the time it probably doesn't need to be cleaned that often.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,564
central pa
If it's an open fireplace that she gets ripping all the time it probably doesn't need to be cleaned that often.
Yes it does. What would make you think differently?
 

kborndale

Feeling the Heat
Oct 9, 2008
301
LI
Ripping hot fired are not smoldering and creating much creosote. When burned fast and furious, they stay much cleaner. I know as a sweep you will 100% disagree with this but in my 40+ years of burning in open fire places with very hot fires there is very little accumulation even after 5 years without sweeping. Big hot fires burn clean.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,564
central pa
Ripping hot fired are not smoldering and creating much creosote. When burned fast and furious, they stay much cleaner. I know as a sweep you will 100% disagree with this but in my 40+ years of burning in open fire places with very hot fires there is very little accumulation even after 5 years without sweeping. Big hot fires burn clean.
If the person is using dry wood and the fireplace is designed and drafting well yes. This one clearly isn't drafting well so I would bet regardless of how it's burnt it will get accumulation
 
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Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
962
Massachusetts
This is an early 60s ranch with basically everything original so it's a very short run.. She largely uses whatever wood she gets for free which doesn't help at all but yeah the draft is not strong. The black bricks and stained walls are a good indication!

I give her some of my good wood every year to at least mix in with the whatever stuff. I get palpitations thinking of all my hard earned BTUs going straight up the chimney but I also don't want the place to burn down.

I revisited the idea of an insert today but got the same old answer. Its largely hopeless but I'll keep trying!
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
6,405
NE Ohio
I revisited the idea of an insert today but got the same old answer. Its largely hopeless but I'll keep trying!
She give any specific reasons why not?
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
962
Massachusetts
She give any specific reasons why not?

It's mostly the cost. She doesn't want to spend thousands of dollars on something she thinks is fine as it is. It would definitely not be cheap as I'd be shocked it that chimney didn't need work plus the stove/liner/install.

She's also a little concerned about operating it properly but I've assured her it's not hard at all with just a little learning. I haven't measured but that specific concern could be alleviated with some of the newer models that control the air automatically if they fit.

Between me being available to help teach/operate, supply some wood, the safety concern, and the bonus of getting real heat out of it while maintaining the open fire look and feel I figure I make a very strong case. But, not to overly generalize, parents are gonna be parents and do their thing. I'll keep fighting the good fight though.
 
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Ctwoodtick

Minister of Fire
Jun 5, 2015
1,563
Southeast CT
If you’re able, help her with cost as a gift of some sort. It’s a tough road when someone worries more than someone else about something. Yes, parents will be parents. As such, she’s likely not going to accept a gift like that from you, even if you can swing it. Worth a shot though.
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
962
Massachusetts
If you’re able, help her with cost as a gift of some sort. It’s a tough road when someone worries more than someone else about something. Yes, parents will be parents. As such, she’s likely not going to accept a gift like that from you, even if you can swing it. Worth a shot though.

That's a good idea but unfortunately not something I'm able to do. Possibly in the future when we are in a better spot or i can get my sisters to chip in. Money is a little tight and I enjoy being alive so I better not piss off the wife ;lol.

I will continue to help with wood though as that's something I always have in surplus. I give her a lot of uglies too since she's not restricted by firebox size.
 
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marty319

Feeling the Heat
Nov 17, 2014
345
Belair mb
That's a good idea but unfortunately not something I'm able to do. Possibly in the future when we are in a better spot or i can get my sisters to chip in. Money is a little tight and I enjoy being alive so I better not piss off the wife ;lol.

I will continue to help with wood though as that's something I always have in surplus. I give her a lot of uglies too since she's not restricted by firebox size.
That's cause you have to feed the elephant
 

jetsam

Minister of Fire
Dec 12, 2015
5,283
Long Island, NY
youtu.be
She doesn't want to spend thousands of dollars on an insert?

She'd have thousands of dollars in her pocket right now with what an insert would have saved her on heating costs over the last few years. I bet that thing costs her plenty to run, even if her wood is free.
 

Corey

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
2,595
Midwest
Wow, that is something! Sort of like I've tried to convince my mom that smoking 2-3 packs a day probably isn't good. But at 80 years old, she looks at it more like a badge of honor.

Maybe you could talk her into a flue extension if nothing else??
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
962
Massachusetts
She doesn't want to spend thousands of dollars on an insert?

She'd have thousands of dollars in her pocket right now with what an insert would have saved her on heating costs over the last few years. I bet that thing costs her plenty to run, even if her wood is free.

She just recently shelled out a pretty penny for a new high efficiency gas furnace to replace the old original one so her heating bill isn't bad. Kind of hurts my "you'll save so much money" argument. Most homes around here heat with oil which makes it easy to argue for wood. No doubt she's sucking heat up the flue though.

A flue extension is something to look at. I guarantee I get "oh no that's ugly" and it's kind of like putting a bandaid on a chainsaw wound. Can't hurt to mention it though!

I could probably find a used stove or go with a budget insert like a Drolet etc and save her money there but those won't qualify for the tax credit and there's no way around a good insulated liner and chimney repairs.

I hear you about the smoking. We wheel elderly people with lung cancer outside at the hospital to smoke. Some things will never change despite the fact it will or is literally killing you. Can't hurt to try tho.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
lol lol You have your hands full there...Tell her to buy something really expensive so that she can enjoy it in her old age..like one of those Bari stoves and show her a picture of it from the web and let her know she can feed them real easy like small logs one at a time and spin them all around and the ambiance is wonderful in her home (5,000) then say or we could update the fireplace and get you a cheaper stove that is just as good--try that--and make it a lot of money to spend--lol She will know you flipped your lid...lol lol. Good luck with your wonderful Mama and "Yes" you have your hands full...Bye the way---I love those bari wood stoves...old mrs clancey
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,229
SE North Carolina
My in-laws have a step down into the mud/laundry room (up into the house). They are now 80. I’ve been married 12 years. I’ve suggested a grab bar for about a decade. They finally said “you know that’s a good idea”. I’ll install it tomorrow. Persistence can pay off. Change can be hard. Maybe the gift of an air purifier or a very thorough chimney cleaning and inspection? Maybe new smoke detectors that have non replaceable/ removable batteries?
Evan
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,564
central pa
She just recently shelled out a pretty penny for a new high efficiency gas furnace to replace the old original one so her heating bill isn't bad. Kind of hurts my "you'll save so much money" argument. Most homes around here heat with oil which makes it easy to argue for wood. No doubt she's sucking heat up the flue though.

A flue extension is something to look at. I guarantee I get "oh no that's ugly" and it's kind of like putting a bandaid on a chainsaw wound. Can't hurt to mention it though!

I could probably find a used stove or go with a budget insert like a Drolet etc and save her money there but those won't qualify for the tax credit and there's no way around a good insulated liner and chimney repairs.

I hear you about the smoking. We wheel elderly people with lung cancer outside at the hospital to smoke. Some things will never change despite the fact it will or is literally killing you. Can't hurt to try tho.
Have you ever had a good sweep look at it to see if anything can be done to reduce the smoking? A smoke shield smoothing out the smoke chamber etc may help a lot.
 

clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,398
Colorado
I would buy her a basic simple type of computer so that she can get on the web and e-mail family and friends...Maybe a high school student could teach her a few things if she is not quite up to speed in this type of field.. Just a idea here. lol clancey
 

Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
962
Massachusetts
Have you ever had a good sweep look at it to see if anything can be done to reduce the smoking? A smoke shield smoothing out the smoke chamber etc may help a lot.

I'll have to ask her about her sweep. I like the guy I use a lot but he's $/busy/likely doesn't go out in her neck of the woods. Maybe I can research a good local guy for her.
 
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