I’m not afraid to admit to my fear of heights. It all goes back to my early years on Henry Street where I started out oblivious to the dangers present.
Apparently one day my dad came home to see me lounging in the open, unscreened second floor window. I greeted him cheerily enough, but he ran upstairs, asked me kindly to step down from the window, and then had a long father and son chat about how important it was I not do that again.
To this day, when I even think of stepping on a chair, I get the shivers just imagining another father and son chat.
Actually, I don’t know why I don’t like heights, I don’t think I’m alone in this unintuitively primal fear. In any case, the notion of having to climb to the peak of the cabin to do the stovepipe cleaning was one I didn’t relish.
That’s why last fall I purchased the SootEater. This is a rotary brush that you attach to a drill and push UP your chimney from below, running the drill while you go to ensure the whips on the brush knock off the bad stuff.
As luck would have it, I ended up getting a new flashing put on the chimney to bring it into WETT compliance (even though I haven’t pulled the trigger to get the actual WETT certification yet), and had the fellows run the brush up and down while they were finishing up their work. This got me off the hook last year, but now it was crunch time.
So, last week I got together the SootEater and laid out some cloths and tried to snake the whip end through the woodstove and into the chimney.
No dice! The whip end has a large plastic ball that wouldn’t fit through the holes between the stove and the stovepipe. Sigh.
I then came up with the notion of installing a T behind the stove to allow me to use the SootEater directly in the stovepipe.
I called Dan Vanlenthe, my chimney guy who had arranged the new flashing for me, and ran it by him. After some back and forth with pictures, texts and emails, we finished up with him telling me to purchase the T myself and then get back to him.
I’m feeling a bit guilty, but after purchasing the T and examining the scope of the project, I decided that it was within the realm of my own abilities, especially aided by Grandpa and Donna. With that notion in my head, I asked Grandpa to come by to assist, and informed Donna of my plans. After a bracing cup of tea, I began clearing off the stove, and emptying the warming closet. Just before I could finish, Donna suggested it was time to get out of my pyjamas and into work clothes.
|Before picture for reference.|
With it emptied out, I then removed the four bolts holding the backsplash and warming closet in place. It was a team effort, with Donna taking out the water reservoir as I lifted up the rest.
|I’ll take the high part, you take the low part.|
Kenny opened the patio door, and we took our respective items out onto the deck and deposited them there.
|Right to the porch with you!|
Ugh, there was a fair bit of rust deposited on the top of the stove under the water reservoir and the end of the backsplash – probably dating back to the “macaroni” incident, which we won’t speak of.
|The bottom of the reservoir. A bit funky!|
|And the hidden crimes on top of the stove.|
I tried to clean up the rust as best as I could using steel wool and baking soda and water, and it wasn’t too bad by the time I finished – besides, it will still be hidden theoretically.
|I hate taking steel wool to my stainless, but hopefully it won’t show much.|
We lay drop sheets around everywhere, and just for full preparedness, I demonstrated to Donna how to connect the stovepipe – it’s rather simple, just make sure the proper end is facing down, and slide one end into the other.
|Nice, got everything covered up proper like!|
|Practicing the fit.|
When I was purchasing the T, I wasn’t sure if I had much room to telescope my existing pipe up into the section above, so I also purchased a twenty-four inch section of straight pipe. This would give me the option to completely remove a section of pipe and replace it with the T and this new section. At first when I got home, I decided to just install the T – there was still lots of room to slide the telescoping pipe together. Once I removed the upper section of the stove though, I realized that where I had strapped the stovepipe to the warming closet, the pipe has been scratch and dented noticeably. If I slid it up a foot to accommodate the T, these imperfections would be highly visible above the stove. As such, I then decided that it was worth the price tag of the short pipe length for the better cosmetic appearance.
Grandpa arrived soon after, and we both agreed that he needn’t lift the pipe from the ladder, it was probably safer and easier for him to do so from off the top of the stove. We prepared ourselves, undid the remaining screws, and he lifted.
I set in place the T, and immediately realized that with the original pipe I must have shaped the bottom coupling slightly to account for the angle at which it had to come off of the back of the stove.
|What? This isn’t perfectly flat?|
|I’ll just leave this here for a moment.|
I replaced the piece of stovepipe we had removed and let Grandpa lower the upper sections back onto it. Then I headed outside to find some tin snips. Fortunately, I was able to find them in good time in the workshop, and return to cut out a thin strip from the forward edge of the T. This would allow for a much tighter fit of the pipe.
Grandpa lifted again, and I fussed a bit but got the T in place. I quickly added the twenty-four inch section, and we reconnected, with a minimum of ash falling down.
|Make sure the T is facing the door.|
|And add the upper portion.|
I thanked Grandpa for his help, and he headed outside to continue splitting winter wood for our sauna. Myself, on the other hand, had a glass of water and finished my tea, and screwed together the new pieces.
|Just have to lean into it!|
|Nice and shiny inside!|
|And capped and in place. Perfecto!|
Then I began setting up for phase two – cleaning the pipe with my SootEater!