You may need to disconnect the chimney pipe for your wood stove in order to clean the pipe, replace damaged parts or correct a problem with the initial installation. Taking a wood stove pipe apart represents an easy task, but it can be messy and hazardous to your health and home if not performed with some important safety considerations in mind. Once you've successfully taken your wood stove pipe apart, you'll next need to know the trick for putting the stove pipe back together for a safe burn and a clean home.
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Safety Precautions and Prep
Before you get started, have a game plan to keep the mess down and to protect yourself in the process. Creosote builds up inside wood stove pipes, which is a highly flammable and dusty material that you don't want all over your home or in your lungs, as the CDC warns it may pose a health risk. Wear a protective face mask and goggles to protect your eyes and respiratory system and wear gloves so that you don't accidentally slice your hand on the metal pipes. Lay old bedsheets or drop cloths out around the stove and work area.
The No. 1 rule of thumb to follow is to never, ever try to take apart a hot stove pipe. You will burn yourself by simply touching the pipe, and you'll also spread hot ash and creosote around your home, which creates a major fire hazard. Make sure there are no hot ashes or embers within the stove and that the pipe is cool to the touch. Keep a fire extinguisher handy just in case.
How to Disconnect Chimney Pipe
To disconnect chimney pipes, locate the first pipe connection. You should see screws or rivets on the bottom or "female" pipe end, which holds the top or "male" pipe end in place. Using a screwdriver or ratchet wrench, loosen the screws or rivets. Locate the second pipe connection and do the same.
It's useful to have a helper at this point because once the top screws are loose, the narrower male end of the pipe will slide down. An assistant can hold onto the pipe to make sure it doesn't crash down violently. The pipe does need to slide down slightly in order to free its top edge, and then it can be angled slightly to the side and lifted free from its bottom connection.
Repeat this wood stove disassembly procedure for as many chimney pipe connections as needed. Put the chimney pipe in a large garbage bag or even into a garbage can to transport it outside without leaving a trail of ash and creosote in your wake.
Putting It Back Together
When you're ready to reassemble the stove pipe, pay careful attention to the male and female ends. What's the trick to putting the stove pipe together? Female on bottom, male on top. Then just retighten the screws or rivets while an assistant holds the pipe in the proper place.
If you get this backward, the wider female pipe on top will allow creosote, ash and even rainwater to fall directly out of the pipe and onto your stove or on the wood stove surroundings. A "male on top" connection ensures all debris falls directly into the stove, where it can burn safely.
Clean Up the Mess
Finally, fold up your drop cloths to transport any mess outside. You can use an ash vacuum to safely clean up the remaining ash that may have settled in your living space.
If at any point you don't feel comfortable performing a wood stove disassembly on your own, call in a professional.