Homemade Wood Stoves

By
Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

While I guess I should give the builders credit for trying, one thing that always makes me cringe at a home inspection is when I find a homemade wood stove or fireplace insert. To begin with, in this day of air pollution worries, such a stove which has no engineering or research done on it at all is not likely to be efficient. Will it be safe? What are the safe clearances to flammables? That is hard to impossible to figure as well.

More often than not these homemade stoves or inserts consist of steel welded together by a hobbyist. Sometimes the design or modifications, to remedy unexpected problems, are down right frightening. In the photo below the builder decided that the unit was not receiving adequate combustion air. He put a blower outside under the soffit. A wall switch turns on a fan that blows air back through this ABS pipe (photos) to the inside of the stove.

You read that right --the pipe that is connected to the hot metal at the front of the stove is plastic ABS pipe, such as is used for drains and vents in plumbing. When an inspector sees this sort of thing, strong language must go in the report. An inspector should state that it is a non-conforming device, a safety issue and recommend a complete evaluation of the entire system, including the stove, combustion air, chimney, etc. This should be done before anyone uses the device and this evaluation must be performed by a licensed professional, such as a certified chimney sweep.

Raging fires and carbon monoxide are two issues a home inspector does not wish to, after the fact, be liable for. The builder might have confidence in his concoction but the inspector does not.

 

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspections

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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Steve, I just LOVE the smell of melting ABS pipe.  Don't you?  Sometimes people try to save money in all the "expensive" ways.

Aug 25, 2008 02:39 PM #1
Rainmaker
1,181,314
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Melting pipes and burning rugs are pretty appealing.

Aug 25, 2008 02:41 PM #2
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Paul Henderson
RE/MAX Professionals. - Tacoma, WA
I always put my clients first in any transaction!

Steve, Just think how many of those setups we see and you never get to inspect. I figure if their proud of that handy work just think what the fuse box and wiring look like...

Aug 25, 2008 02:58 PM #3
Rainmaker
1,181,314
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Paul,

I try to get a look at that stuff too but, as you say, sometimes you wonder what is there, but you can't see it.

Aug 25, 2008 03:02 PM #4
Rainmaker
531,769
Liz Moras
Harrison Hot Springs, Cultus Lake - Chilliwack, BC
Chilliwack Realtor, Garrison Crossing,Chilliwack, Abbotsford

the Music Man Inspector..........woodstoves often seem so ummm romantically ambiant........but a serious checking them out is always in good order

Aug 25, 2008 04:46 PM #5
Rainmaker
1,181,314
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Liz,

That is correct. They have their good points, but one needs to be sure they are safe.

Aug 25, 2008 05:13 PM #6
Rainer
406,157
Sean Allen
International Financing Solutions - Fort Myers, FL
International Financing Solutions

Wow, I would NEVER think to try and build something like that myself..... how stupid!!

Sean Allen

Aug 25, 2008 09:42 PM #7
Rainmaker
1,181,314
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Sean,

 

It would probably be better for all parties involved if more people thought like you do.

Aug 25, 2008 11:33 PM #8
Ambassador
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Michael Thornton
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspector - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.0297

Thankfully, I do not see too many wood burning stoves here in this area. I don't think that I have ever seen a home made job in my life...

Aug 26, 2008 04:39 AM #9
Rainmaker
1,181,314
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Michael,

Lucky for you other than, really, they do not take much time. Always have problems.

Aug 26, 2008 09:35 AM #10
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Rainmaker
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Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector
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