I have a word of warning for you. Don’t try to get a fire going in your brand new wood stove if it’s warmer outside than it is inside. Actually, don’t even try doing this if it’s only marginally cooler outside than it is inside, unless you’re prepared to smoke out your entire house. Unrelenting and awful smelling smoke. How can I offer you this advice? Hmmm…let me see.
Okay, here’s the story. Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly installing a new wood burning stove in our living room. I created a pad for the stove to sit on (pavers on concrete board), cut a big hole in the wall and connected all the piping. It’s a beautiful setup; one I discussed here. The reason I went about the project slowly is because I simply couldn’t bear to see my bank account drain away so much in one sitting. I figured that if I purchased everything I would need over time, I’d barely miss the money. I’d say that was a good idea, not only because of the financial aspect of things, also because it gave me time to consider how I wanted to place everything. You know, the details. I like thinking of details when it comes to projects like this.
Anyway, the stove is now installed and everything is perfectly aligned and ready for action. Since brand new wood stoves need to be broken in over the span of three short fires, I thought that I’d get the process completed while it was warmer outside and while we could have the windows in the house wide open. We wouldn’t be frozen out from the winter air and I’d also have the opportunity to test out my handiwork and to make sure everything I had done was functioning correctly. One of the aspects of breaking in a wood stove consists of “cooking the paint,” which absolutely stinks. I’ve done this before and for about an hour, I visibly saw the paint smoke from the surface of the stove, only to leave an acrid stench throughout the room in which the stove was installed. It was an unpleasant experience, to say the least. Long story short, I wanted to get that part out of the way.
The first time I attempted to make a fire in this new stove was last month. That didn’t go so well. There was no draft in the chimney because of the lack of inside/outside temperature differential. All the paper that I’d ignited inside of the stove only burned for about a minute or so and then went out. Because there was no draft, all the smoke from the smoldering paper spread out throughout the entire house, which left me scrambling to open the windows and to point the floor fan in any direction that might help reduce the impact of the situation. I don’t even know why I tried getting a fire going. I knew it wasn’t going to work. Which makes me look a bit silly, because, yes, I performed the same routine a few days later.
The next time I tried the same thing, I gave Laura all sorts of assurances that we wouldn’t get smoked out again. She didn’t trust me at all. There’s really no reason she should have because after a few minutes of smoldering paper and the room filing with smoke (again), we were in exactly the same position as the one I’d previously put us in. This time though, I decided to get my torch and light up all the paper in a big way inside the stove. Apparently, this did the trick because after a few minutes, a draft formed inside the stove and the wood began to burn. And after that, we had a full-fledged fire going in our brand new wood stove.
While this was all fine and good though, due to my excitement about getting the fire going and the challenge of doing so, I completely forgot about the “cooking the paint” process. So, for the next hour, Laura and I both enjoyed the stinking awful smell of paint smoking from the surface of the stove. At least we had the windows open and the floor fan at the ready. It wasn’t that bad.
What’s the moral of this story? I have no idea, but I had fun telling you about what we went through a few evenings ago.