How to maintain a woodstove chimney

Make woodstove heating worry-free with these tips

By Steve MaxwellSteve Maxwell

Woodstove

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Schedule a chimney cleaning for spring, after the burning season, says long-time chimney sweep Dale Wallace of Providence Bay, Ont. Why? Sweeps aren’t as busy then as in fall, and you can repair deficiencies over the summer. Here, Wallace shares more tips for woodstove heating.

Cover up

I see this problem a lot: an insulated metal chimney that isn’t enclosed behind a wall after passing through a floor and entering a second-storey living space. Even if the insulated chimney is in a hallway or an out-of-the-way space, it still needs to be covered to protect against mechanical damage. It’s not just a good practice—it’s Code.

Double up

If you’re installing a new woodstove, I suggest springing for double-walled stovepipe. Insurance companies like it because its surface stays much cooler than uninsulated pipe, and it’s also longer-lasting.

Stovepipe diagram

Illustration by Jacques Perrault

Install a heat shield

A hearth pad can be made of patio stones or bricks laid directly on the floor, but if they’re not cemented or grouted together, it’s not safe—embers can fall in the cracks, and if there’s a fire, your insurer may not cover you. A sheet of metal underneath the bricks or stones will bring an ungrouted pad up to Code.

A heat shield behind a woodstove greatly reduces the clearance you need between a hot stove and combustible wall surfaces, but the shield won’t work unless there’s free airflow behind it.

Add a chimney cap

With all the critters near cottages, screens on chimney caps are essential. Birds, especially, love to build nests under the cap, since it provides rain protection. Without a screen, birds often move down past the cap and into the chimney itself. Remember to check the screen periodically for debris that could block escaping smoke.

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