Waiting for the chimney sweep

It’s 15 degrees outside and the wind blowing out of the North has fangs of ice. The world outside our well-built modular home is dark and bitter cold at this early hour, and it is sucking heat out of our living space at every possible point of weakness.

This is the tightest and warmest house I have ever lived in and yet it is barely holding off the effects of this weather. We are running our trusty woodstove at full tilt most of the time to stave off the cold.

Our woodstove has been burning nonstop for weeks and ashes trickle from every door. It no longer resembles the "Home Beautiful" photo I posted so long ago on this site. It is a battle-hardened veteran of several winters and is surrounded by a daily litter of ashes and wood chips, even though we take turns sweeping up the debris between firings.

It is keeping the house in a temperature range of 70 degrees at night to 80 degrees during the day, but I have been increasingly concerned that we have not had the flue inspected and cleaned by a chimney sweep. We burn mostly oak logs, but they are not always thoroughly dry and this will contribute to a buildup of wood creosote in the chimney.

From Wikipedia: Creosote has fairly high ignition temperature, and most wood stoves utilizing natural air convection do not have a high enough combustion temperature to ignite the vapors. Consequently creosote just vaporizes from the burning wood, floats up the exhaust pipe with other exhaust gases, and then condenses onto the cool interior lining of the chimney.

When a wood fire is kept blazing for days at a time, chimney temperatures can get high enough to ignite the creosote and you get spectacular and frightening results.

I remember a chimney fire in our childhood home which produced a thunderous roar and a jet of flame out the top of the chimney like a giant Roman candle. It actually shook the house until my father put it out by throwing something on the fire. The chimney fire was caused by creosote accumulating in the chimney from the pine logs that we burned in the fireplace. This was in Massachusetts where we had many pine trees on our land and there were few hardwoods we could use for firewood.

In a few hours, we will have a visit from a local chimney sweep we discovered yesterday and immediately signed up for an inspection and cleaning. I will try to post some pictures of the process.

We have a triple wall chimney with a stainless steel lining that goes from our stove straight up through the roof, so it should be relatively easy to clean.

I heard recently of some folks in Floyd County whose house was damaged by a chimney fire which cracked the tile flue and set the house on fire. I do not wish to chance that or anything like it.

We have a 3 year supply of firewood ready to split and stack. I want to make sure that we are able to use it all without any problems. More later…

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