Country Living Series

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

First fire of the year

The weather has been getting chillier here in north Idaho, but we were reluctant to start a fire in the wood stove because it's also been bone-dry.

However we wanted the wood stove to be cleaned and ready to go for when the dry spell broke, so last week we scrubbed out the stove pipe.

We started by removing the section of pipe attached to the stove, so we could move the stove out of the way. The stove is an antique cast-iron parlor stove we obtained for free many years ago, made by Washington Stove Works in Everett, WA (Model #24). I don't know how old it is.

This stove is our sole source of heat for the house. We do have a ventless propane wall heater, but we use that only under two circumstances: (a) it's 15 below zero and the wood stove isn't yet putting out much heat; and (b) we have visitors who aren't used to a house as chilly as ours.

About twice a year (fall and spring) we scrub out the stove pipe to eliminate creosote build-up, which could cause a chimney fire.

The brush itself has stiff wire bristles just a hair wider than the diameter of the pipe. It has a long handle, with additional rods that get screwed on the bottom to lengthen the handle as we work our way up the pipe.

Long ago we discovered the trick of poking the rod through the bottom of a plastic bag, then holding the bag around the bottom of the stove pipe so all the ash and creosote falls into the bag. Let's just say NOT using a bag creates a HUGE mess in the room.

You can see the bottom of the rod poking through the plastic. If you look carefully you can also see it's threaded for screwing on the next rod when the time come.

Even with the bag, cleaning the stove pipe is messy work.

Don scrapes the brush up and down, up and down, scrubbing the creosote out, and gradually working his way up the pipe until he hits the cap twenty feet up. Then we withdraw the rods, unscrewing the segments as we go, scrubbing all the way down. Here Don is peering up the pipe to make sure it's clean.

Lastly he scrubs out the bottom section of pipe that attaches directly to the wood stove.

This is all the ash that got scrubbed out of the pipe. Now imagine all this ash poofing into the room instead of being contained in the bag.

Don and I reattached the lower pipe and prepared to shove the stove back in position The lower pipe has a collar we can adjust to attach it to the upper pipe.

We didn't start the wood stove until this morning since today's weather is cold, windy, and rainy.

What a delight it is to have our faithful cozy wood stove putting out heat!

It must be fall.


  1. Jealous. Here in the middle of Utah, we had to light ours a couple weeks ago, and are up to one or two fires a day now. At least it's not the "always burning" stage quite yet.

  2. We hopefully had our last fire of the season in Australia last night lol

  3. We hopefully had our last fire of the season last night in Australia lol

  4. I grew up in a house with a wood stove as our only heat. I got used to having a chilly house and still don't enjoy having a winter house temperature above 65 degrees and that only because my husband likes it warmer than my choice of 60 degrees. Our daughter always thought that our house was cold but found herself keeping her own house about the same. I always sleep better in a cold room anyway.

  5. We heat with wood too hear in Virginia...haven t started a fire yet but have cleaned out our stove..can t beat the warmth and for cooking/warming food!!

  6. My folks had an Arrow wood stove in a house in Minnesota. Once a month during the winter mom would sew a small strip of elastic into the top of a big garbage bag. She would fit it around the bottom of the stove pipe and dad would go up on the roof and scrub it down. The house was a newer (then - 1976 or so) well built home and they added more insulation. One winter - when they had a new retriever pup and dad got up at 4:00 every morning to let the whiner out - he would throw another log on. It was a long cold winter. The next fall they topped off the fuel oil tank for the furnace. It only took 80 gallons. Not bad for a 2400 ft2 home....on the first floor. It had a full basement with a tuck under double garage too. Five bedrooms, three baths, family room and formal living and dining.....80 gallons. I loved that stove - we called it the "bun warmer" - everyone backed up to it and warmed up. Warm, happy memories......Natokadn

  7. I heated with wood for 35+ years, and for many of those years I had the exact same stove as yours. I eventually got really tired of having to get up at night to feed it due to the short burn time, and broke down and got a Woodstock soapstone stove that I had dreamed of since the 70's. It was expensive, but having a 12 hour burn time made a world of difference on those cold Minnesota nights, plus the woodpile didn't shrink nearly as rapidly.

  8. Hi Patrice,
    I'm really curious, you mention "visitors who aren't used to a house as chilly as yours" - just how chilly does your house get in the winter? What's the average temperature in there for you guys? With gas prices as high as they are we've started setting our thermostat to 67 (I'm near Chicago). Just trying to imagine a house in Northern Idaho heated with one wood stove! Thanks!

  9. Quincy, Mi. 1700 square ft with full basement , Hearth Stone wood burner, very efficient, house stays between 75-82 degrees on the coldest of days.. usually have to open windows to regulate. 6inch walls, well insulated makes all the difference..

  10. I'm a multi-generational Floridian. We cool our house to 80deg in Summer and try to use the (electric) heat sparingly in the Winter. I never knew just what would be the "right" setting, but I think we tend to keep it at 65deg through our Winter months (December through February). I always wondered if that would be considered warm or cold to northerns. Now I know, I'm just as human as other folk apparently. :)

  11. Never heated with wood. Without a readily available supply it does not seem cost efficient to buy cords to heat with. We had a cold snowy winter here in N.W. Illinois. We have 1900 sq. ft. full walkout basement We heat, cook, dry clothes, & heat water with natural gas. We are retired, home most of the time({wife is invalid) and live in the country. Our highest bill was $125.00.And we keep our thermostat on 68 deg..

  12. I also heated with wood when I lived in your neck of the woods. A little trick I would do to keep my stove pipe clean was to burn "green" birch wood. When I would Bank the fire for the night I would put a couple pieces of green birch as my last 2-3 sticks of wood. Because birch has so much water, it would "steam clean" my chimney at night while I was sleeping. I noticed you have your stove pipe attached the right way for doing this (top pipe goes into not over bottom pipe).You should not have a problem with creosote running outside your pipe. Remember to use green birch wood cut in the late fall or winter. Just be careful. Seasoned birch burns really hot. More btu's than larch or doug fir. Idaho Bill

  13. If you have a problem getting the heat to circulate thru the house, open the windows about 1 in. in each room and leave them open.This forms a suction and grabs the heat and pulls it into the rooms for better circulation. We live on the coast on Oregon and heat with wood. Our rooms stay warm and we never have mold and mildew problems.

  14. The rain passed us by here in the south of Idaho, we were disappointed! We haven't started a fire yet, the nights are cool - in the upper 30's low 40's - but the days are warm enough to get by with a sweatshirt layer till afternoon! We have a woodstove (Timberwolf) for the house in general and oil filled radiant heaters for the individual rooms when needed. A fire is comforting on a really primal level I think!

  15. Just cleaned my old Atlanta wood stove, about 50 years old. Fired it up on Thursday night for the first time. In the low 30's in the morning in the Sierra Nevada Mts. Not a air tight, but a friend in the wood stove business told me to keep this one, because of the heat it puts out.

    Stay safe, all flammables about 36" away from the stove, change the battery in the smoke detector, and practice leaving the house in case of a fire, with a central meeting place. Have a fire extinguisher near the wood stove.

  16. Patrice
    Question for you. Do you have electricy?? My husband when
    he cleans out the stove pipe he takes the wire brush up on the roof and works down. And leaves all the stove pipes attached. Then when he gets it good and clean he takes the pipes aprart and using a shop vac on the stuff on the inside. Thank God our
    stove is near a window and he can blow the stuff out the window.
    But it is easier to clean that way and not so messy, but still takes

  17. It's still in the 70's & 8o's here in Oklahoma lows in the 50's. I haven't cleaned out my Lopi wood insert yet but it's on my to do list. Our big problem here in northern Oklahoma is the wind. It doesn't get too cold till after Christmas & can stay that way until March. Winter is coming but it is slow going in God's Country :)

  18. Awesome idea but it raises a concern. Does the government know you are hoarding those evil plastic bags? hee hee
    Montana Guy