Wood Burning Stove emits a harsh chemical smell

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doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
Hi, I have a wood burning stove fitted into our lounge which continues to emit a harsh chemical smell which I don't believe is smoke. The stove was installed a year ago. It's an Evergreen double doored stove, 7kw. The smell is present even when I burn lots of paper, or dry logs, so it doesn't seem related to bad fuel. The stove is fitted into a recess which is painted with black emulsion paint. The register plate is steel with a trapdoor. The flue pipe is fitted into a steel liner. I recently had a HETAS engineer round who checked the liner and fitting (cctv) and said the liner had no cracks and was fitted correctly. We have an electronic CO2 detector and that is zero. It's driving me nuts and means we can't use the stove as the fumes are too potent.

Any ideas? I am thinking of taking the whole thing apart including register plate, flue pipe and connector and putting it all back again. I just want to get this sorted as winter will be here soon.
 
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fbelec

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2005
3,427
Massachusetts
sounds like paint to me. if you are going to take it out, check to see if it was installed with a caulking / adhesive at the smoke connector pipe. also is it installed with black stove pipe or galv pipe?
 

jimbom

Combustion Analyzer
Dec 19, 2010
1,021
Missouri Ozarks
Since your install a year ago, has it been burned hot ie ~ 600 °F surface temperature? If not, try that before taking it apart.

I repainted our stove pipe this summer and did a test fire. No odor. Then last week a hot little fire got the stove pipe up to 600 °F before I noticed. It stank? stinked? stink? Anyway it smelled bad.
 

doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
Hi, thanks for responses. I have burned it many many times since last year at high temperatures and 99.9% sure it's not paint from the stove. I remember there was a period after the curing when the smell wasn't there. But at some point it started and became very strong. The stove is connected to a black flue pipe which goes through a steel register plate into a chimney liner. The surround is bricks painted with black emulsion and the surround and mantel is marble. Could the smell be from plaster or something used to put the mantelpiece in? I can post pictures if it will help.
 

BrowningBAR

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
7,607
San Tan Valley, AZ
doobydo said:
Hi, thanks for responses. I have burned it many many times since last year at high temperatures and 99.9% sure it's not paint from the stove. I remember there was a period after the curing when the smell wasn't there. But at some point it started and became very strong. The stove is connected to a black flue pipe which goes through a steel register plate into a chimney liner. The surround is bricks painted with black emulsion and the surround and mantel is marble. Could the smell be from plaster or something used to put the mantelpiece in? I can post pictures if it will help.


Please post pics.
 

jimbom

Combustion Analyzer
Dec 19, 2010
1,021
Missouri Ozarks
doobydo said:
... The surround is bricks painted with black emulsion and the surround and mantel is marble. Could the smell be from plaster or something used to put the mantelpiece in? I can post pictures if it will help.

For some reason I cannot get this question out of my mind.

The marble mantel and surround should be inert. If an old installation, it is installed with cement/lime mortar. I have those and don't notice an odor.

Plaster normally is inert minerals, but if it is really old it may have organics. Common was horsehair to add strength. The Romans used blood to entrain air and make the mix more fluid while maintaining low water/cement ratio.

Is it possible to get IR thermometer surface temperature of the surrounding surfaces when the odor is present? Then using a source of heat, test individual areas of the surrounds to those temperatures until you locate an area that produces the smell.

I hate to think you would have to stop using your stove for this problem.
 

madison

Minister of Fire
doobydo said:
The smell is present even when I burn lots of paper, or dry logs, so it doesn't seem related to bad fuel. The stove is fitted into a recess which is painted with black emulsion paint.

Bad fuel? ... "Lots of paper" ... ? Lots of paper can burn very hot , that along with the (?re?) painted stove lends me to think it is the paint.

When we had our class a chimney painted with high temp bar-b-que paint, it had an odor for quite a months, which, would come and go with the chimney temps.

If the stove was actually repainted, I would point my finger in that direction, AND would not burn paper, IMHO (and experience : )) you are asking for a chimney fire by burning paper.
 

doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
I really don't think it's paint as I have burned it about 50 times and at very high temperatures sometimes. The smell doesn't seem to emanate from the stove but from the top of the recess (I know, heat rises so it would gather there anyway). I have burnt it overnight as hot as I could on a number of occasions.

Jimbo, I like the idea of heating up areas around the stove to see if it produces the same smell. What can I use to generate the heat? A blowtorch maybe?

Madison, don't worry, I don't burn paper generally, I was only burning it to test the smell and rule out my wood being the source. Normally I burn coal or plain wood (though sometimes building site wood - is that ok?).

I have added some pics.

Cheers
 

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webbie

Seasoned Moderator
Nov 17, 2005
12,182
Western Mass.
In my experience, these smells have usually come from dust and other things which settled around the stove in the off-season. This happens a lot with gas fireplaces - they have a burning metallic smell which drives some folks crazy! It does not take a lot of dust to make bad smell.

The stovepipe looks like galvanized. That is wrong - at least here in the states. That will off gas at higher temps. If it is stainless, disregard this....

Check the humidity in the room. It may be too dry. This could cause a lot of problems, including more dust and static.

It may be that part of the solution involves humidifier, air filter or ionization.
 

BrowningBAR

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
7,607
San Tan Valley, AZ
doobydo said:
I really don't think it's paint as I have burned it about 50 times and at very high temperatures sometimes. The smell doesn't seem to emanate from the stove but from the top of the recess (I know, heat rises so it would gather there anyway). I have burnt it overnight as hot as I could on a number of occasions.

Jimbo, I like the idea of heating up areas around the stove to see if it produces the same smell. What can I use to generate the heat? A blowtorch maybe?

Madison, don't worry, I don't burn paper generally, I was only burning it to test the smell and rule out my wood being the source. Normally I burn coal or plain wood (though sometimes building site wood - is that ok?).

I have added some pics.

Cheers


What is on the stove pipe and what is the caulking-like material that is being used at both ends of the pipe?
 

doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
Thanks Webmaster - that's something I can definitely try.

And you're sure that won't degenerate under the heat as well? Is there any in particular I should use? (in UK)
 

webbie

Seasoned Moderator
Nov 17, 2005
12,182
Western Mass.
I think the silicone based (they are very watery) should work - that masonry probably does not get very hot. These soak in anyway, and are really just sealers....

Waterglass is a similar compound:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_silicate
Definitely very high temp!

"Concrete treated with a sodium silicate solution helps to significantly reduce porosity in most masonry products such as concrete, stucco, plasters. A chemical reaction occurs with the excess Ca(OH)2 (portlandite) present in the concrete that permanently binds the silicates with the surface making them far more wearable and water repellent. "
 

jimbom

Combustion Analyzer
Dec 19, 2010
1,021
Missouri Ozarks
doobydo said:
Jimbo, I like the idea of heating up areas around the stove to see if it produces the same smell. What can I use to generate the heat? A blowtorch maybe?

I was thinking of an electric heat gun used for stripping paint. Be sure to use an IR thermometer and post a fire watch after doing this. Those things will take the paint right off if you get too close for to long.
 

jimbom

Combustion Analyzer
Dec 19, 2010
1,021
Missouri Ozarks

daveswoodhauler

Minister of Fire
May 20, 2008
1,847
Massachusetts
This happened to me last year once, and once this year as well. I think it was an accumulation of dust/particles on top of the stove. It seemed to only happen once during the burning season, and then didn't happen again until my first burn this year.
 

Swedishchef

Minister of Fire
Jan 17, 2010
3,275
Inuvik, Northwest Territories
For what it's worth, I had a stove that either had : 1- bad batch of steel or 2- bad batch of paint. Every time I lit a fire, it smelled. People would come in my house and be like "what's that smell". I eventually got a new stove and it never happened again. However, I found out that the stove was sold to a company employe who has not since complained about it....perhaps it was all in my mind!

I certainly feel your frustrations.

Keep us posted!

Andrew
 

doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
Latest:

This weekend a friend and I took a closer look at the stove to try and ascertain the source of the smell. First, we used a gas blow torch to heat up areas of the stove. It did emit a slight smell similar to the one I experienced, but it wasn't conclusive enough to convince me that was it. Then we heated/burned some of the black paint on the brick. Again it emitted a smell but was a lot more acrid than the one I normally get. However, I thought that perhaps a combination of the two was the culprit.

By this stage I thought we may as well go the whole hog and take everything apart. So we took down the register plate (after heating that too, but no smell) and took the stove outside.

After taking the stove away we could see a large grey patch where the paint had been burned/dried off behind the stove. The stove was sitting just 1-2cm away from the brick behind.

So my thoughts are:

1. Still could be the stove as the smell from it after being heated was very similar to the one which normally arises.
2. Could also be due to some of the paint being burned as stove too close to back wall.

When it gets a bit cooler and neighbours windows are shut (heatwave in UK at the moment!) I am going to light the stove outside and see if I get more of the smell.

So the plan now is this:

1. Get some professionals round to give me a price for installing a new stove (it might still come to that) and hopefully they will give me some advice.
2. Paint the bricks over with a proper fire resistant paint (rather than seal it - or what do people think?)
3. Reassemble the flue pipe, register plate and stove but try to pull it away from the back wall more. I guess I'll need an S bend flue pipe for this.

Any other suggestions?
 

doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
Another question:

Whilst it may smell bad (stove or paint) - is it actually harmful?? With two kids in the house I don't wish to take any chances.
 

DanCorcoran

Minister of Fire
Jan 5, 2010
2,205
Richmond, VA
You could lower the temperature of the back wall without moving the stove forward if you made a heat shield for the wall. Sheet metal (not galvanized) affixed to the brick with stand-offs (perhaps thick washers or porcelain, or whatever you can find that are the right thickness). That, plus sealing the brick, might solve it.

(I started to say that the stand-offs need to be non-combustible, but since it's only brick back there, there's no need). Be sure to leave several inches clearance between the bottom edge of the metal shield and the floor, so that you can get good convective airflow up behind there).
 

doobydo

Member
Sep 22, 2011
17
United Kingdom
North:

Bought from Machine Mart in UK:

"product: 090321135

500mm x 5" Straight Flue Pipe (N)

Designed for use with the Clarke stoves listed below. Made from steel with a quality vitreous enamel coating, and conforming precisely to all relevant quality standards."
 
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