Posted on: 19 October 2015
If you have decided to try heating with wood for the first time and have purchased or plan to purchase a freestanding wood stove to use with your masonry flue, you have probably already completed some research on the subject. No doubt, you have probably been reading about how to choose the right wood to burn and how to make sure it is probably seasoned. You may have also spent a considerable amount of time researching wood stove types to determine which one will best suit your particular heating needs. While all of this information is important, it is relatively easy to find. It can be much harder to find specific information, such as how to spot issues with the masonry flue that services your freestanding wood stove. If your home is equipped with a freestanding wood stove and a masonry flue, the following tips will help you ensure that it is operating safely and efficiently.
Evaluate the Condition
Because a masonry flue requires support and is a permanent part of the home, it can be affected by many of the same issues that cause home foundations to shift or crack. In addition, masonry flues are typically only used during the heating season, which allows other problems to develop undetected when not in use, such as:
- damage from being struck by lightning or a stray tree branch that can cause mortar to crack or damage the bricks, stones or concrete blocks
- clogs from debris or nesting birds or rodents that could prevent the flue from drafting properly or present a fire hazard during use
- missing or cracked mortar between the flue blocks that could allow heat from the flue to ignite the building materials that surround the flue
To avoid these issues, homeowners who use masonry flues should insist on having their flue inspected by a reputable chimney sweep or other qualified professional before each heating season. This visual inspection is usually completed along with a thorough cleaning process to remove any existing ash, soot and creosote that is deposited into the flue during normal use. The inspector will examine the flue for any signs of cracking, damage, excessive creosote residue, clogs and other issues that could make the flue unsafe for use. If a problem develops during the course of the heating season, homeowners should immediately stop using the wood stove and order another inspection to determine the issue and the best course of action to alleviate it.
Develop Proactive Monitoring Practices during Use
Even a masonry flue that has undergone a careful inspection process before the heating season can develop issues during use that can interfere with the amount of heat produced or create fire and other safety and health hazards. Homeowners can best protect themselves by developing and maintaining proactive monitoring practices, such as:
- installing carbon monoxide detectors to detect harmful wood gases that could be released into the home if the masonry flue is operating incorrectly or has been damaged
- watching for visual signs of trouble such as puffs of smoke from the seams and connections of the pipe or the flue
- noticing stains, seepage or drips from the flue that could indicate moisture is making its way into the flue
- noticing that the flue piping is turning orange or red, which can indicate that the fire inside the stove is burning in an uncontrolled manner
- listening for noises that can be indicative of a clogged flue or an uncontrolled fire in the stove's firebox, such as gasping, puffing or roaring noises
- feeling the walls, ceiling, flooring and furnishings around the flue to ensure that none are in danger of combusting
Remember that a damaged or decrepit masonry flue can quickly become a fire and safety hazard for your family. However, by learning and practicing careful monitoring techniques along with periodic professional inspections by a qualified chimney care professional, your family can safely enjoy the economical warmth and satisfying comfort of wood heat.
If you want to know more about maintaining your chimney or stove, find out more here.Share