Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?

...or How do I love my chimney sweep? Let me count the ways.

So the first appointment I had to get the wood stoves inspected and cleaned netted me two guys, three vacuums, a couple of ladders, and a ton of frustration. The stove on the main level has a stovepipe that rises straight up from the top of the stove through the cathedral ceiling and then out the roof. The pipe sections are maybe four feet long nested one atop another...with no wiggle room. Well duh! Wouldn't want smoke to fill the house, right? Unfortunately there also is no cleanout access.

So it's not the best design from a cleaning and inspecting point of view but it does warm the room quite nicely before it exits the roof and doesn't lend itself to nooks and crannies full of creosote buildup. After two hours of trying this and that, the two guys are no closer to being able to get the pipe to separate from the top of the stove thus enabling inspection of the area between the smoke baffle and the wonderful soapstone finish that radiates heat for hours and hours.

I begin an exchange of email with the builder of my house (who also installed the stoves) and the Sweeps agree to find another body to muscle it apart and call me to set a return date. Builder of home tells me how they put it all together to begin with and from his description it's obvious that no one has ever taken it apart since to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection. I dread what may be waiting for us both inside the pipe and the stove.

I madly research new chimneys and wood stoves. I have visions of badly corroded steel chimney sections and a stove top that's one fire away from collapse. None of which come to pass. This Saturday past the three gentlemen arrived promptly at the designated time. That's twice they've been on time and that is such a rarity in Kansas that I can't believe I haven't savored that fact until now.

They brush the pipe a couple of times in place to remove the worst of any buildup and then proceed to separate the stove and pipe, taking the pipe down and completely out of the house for more bushing and inspecting. They'd tried removing the stove top on the first visit but that did not go well and there was difficulty getting back on tight. They removed the top again and replaced all the anchoring bolts that were stripped or damaged from previous servicings. The pipe is good and the stove is the Hummer of all stoves (Hearthstone brand).

They put it all back together, cemented the pipe back to the collar on the stove and handed me a bill. Now mind you, they've made two trips, ended up with a manpower of three and spend a total of six hours on my two stoves (the basement one was a piece of cake). The originally quoted price was x amount of dollars for the first stove and half that for the second. And that's exactly what the bill was for.

God I love Kansas.