Since this is the time of year when many people are using wood stoves, I thought I'd touch a subject that is very important. That is the topic of fire safety. Cooking and heating with wood or any fuel source really can be dangerous, as I am sure everyone knows. Some people that contact me worry about the safety of using wood stoves, and will mention it scares them. Nothing wrong with feeling that way! I was the same way when we got our first wood heating stove.
Wood stoves mean having a fire burning inside your house!
You can follow all the safety rules and still have a fire. Or you can be so careful in how you do everything in your house, and then have someone stay with you or visit, who ignores those rules and in turn burns your home down with carelessness. What I have found that you have to do...........is to practice a little tough love on this person. After all, it is your house and all your belongings in it!
Stove is burning red hot!
The chimney is the first place to focus your attention. If you have a straight pipe with no elbows, you should have no problems with it. My cook stove is like that. We have hardly ever had to clean the chimney. My husband will check it and it is clean as a whistle most of the time. For that pipe, he uses a chain and drops it down the pipe. Simple!
Ash pail and shovel to the left, big pedestal sits above the floor!
The wood heating stove in our living room has two elbows. One at the stove where it hooks into the chimney. The other is upstairs where it goes through the ceiling. Because of the way the beams are, it has to have another elbow. My husband is planning on changing that in the future. But for now, we have two elbows, and I can tell you that is the areas where the creosote accumulates.
The first elbow right at the back of the stove!
Don't make a plan of cleaning the chimney once a year or something like that. Please, as soon as you realize it needs cleaning, do it then! One way to judge it is if it smokes when you open the door to the stove and the smoke pours out of it instead of going up the chimney.........it needs cleaning! Pipe is blocked. My husband cleans our chimney as soon as he knows it needs it. Several times a month, if needed. Depends on the type of wood we are burning, and if it banked back more due to not being all that cold.
Creosote is what accumulates in your chimney!
Make sure you do not leave flammable items sitting on your stove or laying next to it. Sometimes you might set something on it when it is not lit, then forget it is there later when it is. Always take stock of what is around it. Keep your ash pail and shovel by the stove at all times. If a coal jumps out when you open it to put wood on it, you need the shovel handy to scoop it up. Not a time to go look for it!
Damper on the wood cook stove is open here.
Never leave the door open while you have gone to another location! I know that seems like anyone would know that, but not all people do. Make sure there is enough room behind the stove to where you stack your wood or where the wall is. We have roofing tin on the wall behind our wood stove. It never even feels hot. But it is way further than the 18-36" that is recommended. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby at all times. Most times when you think you have a fire in the chimney, the first thing to do is to close the damper. That should shut it down.
Damper closed in this picture.
Make sure your floor underneath and in front of the stove is also fire resistant. Our big heating stove has a pedestal that is the bottom so it doesn't even touch the floor. In fact, our cats' favorite place to sleep in the early morning hours is on that pedestal. Our home office is right by the stove, so we are warm and comfy all day while we work. And our fire is never neglected that way.
Wood work is part of it!
Teach your young children right from the start about the dangers of fire and wood stoves. You wouldn't want one of them to start a fire, or do anything with your stove, when nobody is at home. I don't have any young children at home, but if I did, I would make sure they knew NEVER to open the door, or put anything on it at all, unless a grown up was present! If you have very young, like toddlers, I would put something around it so they could not touch it and get burnt.
Cook stove chimney from the kitchen!
I hope this helps you a little bit. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. You can also search online for fire safety and installation precautions. Stay safe and enjoy your wood stoves!
Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2012 Kathleen G. Lupole