September is a great time to get your wood stove ready for the upcoming burning season. An annual wood stove cleaning and inspection, along with some additional safety precautions, will help make this happen.
Wood Stove Cleaning
To prevent chimney fires, annual chimney cleaning is recommended for your wood stove prior to the start of the burning season. In some cases, you might have to clean it more than once a year. The cleaning part is basic, and the purpose is to remove any buildup that may be on the chimney liner that could ignite.
Wood Stove Inspection
An annual wood stove inspection is also recommended by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). On their website, you can find a Certified Chimney Sweep in your area using the zip code search.
Be aware, not all chimney sweeps are certified, and some who are "certified" don't have this specific CSIA designation. Learn more about why we recommend hiring a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to clean and inspect your wood stove.
The inspection is not just for the chimney, but also for the stove, stove pipe to the chimney, and area surrounding the stove.
Chimney and Thimble
Your chimney and the thimble connecting your wood stove to the chimney is a very important transition section that needs to be checked for cracks where embers could fall and flames could reach into the framing of your house and start a fire.
Your stove should be checked to make sure the door gasket is in tack. Although cracking is rare, it doesn’t hurt to inspect the stove metal for cracks and other possible failures.
One thing that I look for, as an insurance agent, is how the stove pipe is put together and enters the chimney. I always look for 3 screws per connection. Also, each section of the pipe should sit inside the section below it so that residue can flow back down the chimney without being interrupted by interior seams. I’ve seen a number of houses that have this backwards because they are thinking of how the smoke leaves the stove, not how the creosote residue flows on the inside of the pipe.
Area Surrounding the Stove: Floor Mats & Mantles
Floor mats are recommended beneath and extending 18 inches out from all sides of your wood stove to catch any sparks or embers. I have seen floors modified using inlaid stone or ceramic tile in that area as an alternative to a floor mat. Floor mats of various sizes can be purchased at your local home improvement store.
Mantles above a wood stove need to be protected from overheating. In many cases, I’ve seen beautiful wooden mantles just inches away from a hot stove pipe. Any mantle within 18 inches of the stove or stove pipe needs to be shielded with some sort of heat sink to prevent overheating.
Safety Tips for Operating Wood Stoves
Get a Chimney Cap. It is also recommended that chimneys of wood-burning stoves have chimney caps. Chimney caps keep water out of the chimney and reduce the sparks getting out during the burning season. They also prevent animals from getting in during the rest of the year.
Stack Firewood at a Safe Distance. Firewood stacked next to a wood stove is a hazard. Firewood needs to be stacked at least 18 inches away from your wood stove.
Carefully Add Wood to the Fire. When you add wood to an operating fire, make sure any nearby doors to the outside are closed to reduce the stove draft from pulling the flames into the chimney. You don’t want to set your chimney on fire!
Now is a great time to prepare for the upcoming burning season with these wood stove safety tips. Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep near you to get your wood stove cleaned and inspected for a safe burning season.