Fight Fire With What? ~~ The Farm Files

I’ve been fighting a wicked downdraft for a week, the worst I’ve ever had. Usually, I can light a fire starter, shut down the dampers, open the flu and get the chamber hot enough to develop an updraft or so I thought. I inevitably crack a window to let out any smoke that seeps around the dampers, and I never realized that was the important part of solving the problem.

For the last week, I’ve tried a few times to get a fire going and each time I’ve been driven out by smoke accumulation. At first I thought the chimney was blocked, but airflow and the icy basement temperature swear that is not the case. I’ve been sick, so I’ve not been in the mood to give it my best effort until today. I leaned down to tie my boots this morning and could see and feel the draft from around the stove blowing my hair back. I knew it was colder than usual downstairs, but winter was pouring in like shots on Super Bowl Sunday. Just like that, the appliance I look to for extra warmth was transformed into the creepy uncle of household appliances.

I just had new insulated siding installed. I can’t possibly enjoy the benefits while winter seeps in around the edges of my cold woodstove. It’s raining and freezing right now, so the last thing I want to do is keep a fire going. My Sunday laziness won out briefly, but much to my dismay, stuffing the gaps of the stove frame with barn towels didn’t do the trick. I wondered aloud if I should seal around the stove with something each year after cleaning. Have I been remiss with my maintenance routine? My dog didn’t think so, and neither did I.

Back in my desk chair, beloved Google at my fingertips, I researched downdrafts and cold woodstoves. After sorting through a shit pile of sketchy, ‘you might be a redneck if’ advice, I stumbled across a thread where a firefighter had chimed in. Here is a guy who probably understands fire and air.

As I mentioned above, I always end up opening a window to get the smoke out of the house while I try to warm the air in the stove. I firmly believed heating the air was correcting the problem, opening the window was just treating a symptom. What I never understood is opening a window is what releases the pressure drawing the downdraft and an open window will reverse the air flow whether the stove is warm or cold.  It’s true that warming the air will eventually create a sustainable updraft, but what do you do when you have old man winter blowing down your cold chimney like Santa on Taco Tuesday?  The MacGyver of woodstove advice advised opening a window and allowing the air to reverse direction before starting a fire to avoid any smoke in the house. As long as the window stays open, you will achieve an updraft in the stove while it’s cold. Once the stove is hot, you can close the window and the heat from the stove will maintain the updraft.

I’ve smoked myself out of the house three times this week trying to get the woodstove going. Sure enough, I left the window and cold woodstove open downstairs for ten minutes prior to trying to start a fire today. I could feel the air flow reversing. When I had good updraft, I lit the starters and took on no smoke. I closed the window before the stove was hot enough and the downdraft immediately returned. Opening the window immediately corrected the issue and the fire has been going for a few hours with the house closed up tight now.

It seems counterintuitive to open a window in a cold basement so you can start fire to keep it warm, but there you go.

*slow clap* for the girl catching up.

The Management,
Drafty Ass Acres