Creosote Sweeping Log for my smoky woodstove?

alisandeMarch 1, 2012

We've heated the house with this large Yotul woodstove for many years. This year, as usual, the chimney was inspected before we fired it up. It's been an unusually warm winter, but for the most part I'm careful to burn small hot fires rather than large smoldering ones.

I don't know about nighttime, though. I don't load the stove up to the gills with wood, but I turn down the air inlet to a smaller opening. In the morning the top of the stove is hot to the touch, and there's a good bed of coals from which to start the next fire. I shovel some ashes out each morning.

My problem is that the stove has been smoking horribly, to the point where if I need to open the door I hold my breath until the door is close--and then go elsewhere to start breathing again. My son and I took apart the stovepipe and cleaned it all out, and vacuumed the interior of the stove, but it didn't help much, and not for long. So the cause must be in the chimney, yes?

I bought one of those Creosote Sweeping Logs for woodstoves. Reviews online speak of chunks of creosote falling from the chimney. That sounds good, but where do they land? Below is a picture of my stovepipe. As you can see, the chimney extends below the pipe; does that mean the creosote will end up at the base of the chimney? This chimney, by the way, doesn't have an opening for shoveling out debris.

Would you recommend that I use the log? Thanks!

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"This year, as usual, the chimney was inspected before we fired it up."

Who did the inspection? Suggest when you pull the stove pipe out of the thimble, stick a mirror in there and have a look. Burning properly seasoned wood in "small hot fires"
should yield minimal or no creosote on the chimney liner.

Does the stove have a baffle or secondary combustion chamber? Ensure this is clean.

When your son and you cleaned the stovepipe, what was its condition, i.e. ash build up or clean?

Sounds like your problem is draft, not the chimney per se. With mild weather and you cutting the air flow at night, the combustion by-products are not fully venting.

Assuming your fuel is dry, some species will produce more creosote.

Yes, chimney cleaning debris will land at the base of the chimney. If it reaches the thimble level you can bail it out. A good wet/dry vac can be used if fitted with flexible hose.

Lacking a chimney cap, one can find all manner of potential spring inspection yielded a perfectly preserved well smoked duck. How it fit into an 8x5 liner defies comprehension.

I can't comment on Creosote Sweeping Logs. I think they work by burning hot thus igniting creosote. My view is that a chimney fire can be a hazardous thing and it is best to either avoid creosote build up or regularly clean the chimney.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 6:07AM
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Does this chimney have a liner?

On my stove, if it smokes it is because it is not drawing correctly. That is, the chimney cools down and smoke doesn't rise. This doesn't happen often since it is catalytic and needs draw to operate. So I don't throttle it down that much.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 4:11PM
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A stainless liner isn't a solution, stay away from any sweep or "chimney professional" who tries to sell you one. For a chimney to perform well in mild weather it needs to be the right height; generally a minimum of 15' high from the thimble and at least 3' higher than the peak of the roof REGARDLESS of where it exits the roof - the 10/2 rule is minimum requirement, NOT a recommendation.

Where I would start with your chimney is to check the screen if it has a cap on on, these plug with creosote and will reduce draft substantially. If you have a cap, consider removing it to allow for better draft all the time regardless of whether or not its screen is plugged. The second thing I would do is inspect the chimney from the top down visually and determine how much buildup there is, it may simply need to be swept.

I am assuming there is a cleanout below where the thimble for the wood stove enters - if there is not, be sure that debris haven't built up to the point that they are obstructing the opening of the thimble into the stack. If you do have a cleanout door on the stack below the thimble, be sure that it is sealed tightly. If the cleanout door is open or sealed poorly will make a substantial reduction in draft and it will cool your flue gasses which both reduces draft and increases creosote production.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 4:56PM
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Thank you for the input. I could have used a glossary to read along with your responses, but I think I've got the terms straightened out now. :-)

No, there's no cleanout at the base of the chimney. It's therefore possible that the debris has built up to an unacceptable level. This is something we'll check out. We don't have a cap on the chimney either.

For now, I've shut the stove down until we can identify and fix the problem. At least I'm no longer breathing the stuff--or worrying about a chimney fire.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 12:24AM
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My first observation leads me to believe one of your problems is too many 90 degree elbows. Also, if you cut back on the draft by closing the vents, the gases will burn cooler and creosote will more readily form. The Creosote logs use a process which allow chemicals to attach to the creosote minimizing the chances of it igniting. It dries the creosote and over time, the dry flakes start coming loose and fall down the chimney. If there is no place for the flakes to go, they will accumulate and block the opening. I would suggest when you first open the door to the stove, just crack it open for a minute or 2 just to allow a more positive draft to form from the heat of the remaining coals. If that doesn't clear the smoke, chances are you need to do as previously suggested and vaccuum or scoop out the fallen debris.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 12:54PM
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Well, the chimney looks clear, so we took apart the stovepipe. Not clear at all! I removed lots of debris, and used a chimney brush to get the last bits. I'm happy to report that the stove no longer smokes. And my Creosote Sweeping Log is still in its package.

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:01PM
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