This is a long and ongoing saga.
In 1997 I built an addition on to my 125 year old farm house. Included in this addition, is a firebrick lined fireplace on the main floor, and an additional flue to the basement level. The fireplace flue and basement flue are in the same outside masonry structure, but both are separated from each other by clay flue liners and additional masonry. The fireplace has 12"x12" flue and the basement has 8"x8" flue.
OK, the construction is done, with the exception of finishing the basement room. ... no rush on that. It's fall, "let's have a fire in the fireplace". The fire lights easily, great draft, ... burning along nice. I smell smoke! Look in the basement and it's filling up with smoke. Jamb some fiberglass insulation into the thimble. .. and eventually flue. OK.
Finally, I get around to finishing the basement. My cousin had formerly been in the stove business, so there were a few stoves/burners to select from. I selected an enamel one with open front, kind of like a free standing fireplace. Well, it kind of burned (wood ... I know this is the Anthracite forum). But when the fire died down or you left it go out, the downdraft was strong enough to blow your hat off. ?? Took that stove back and got an airtight unit. While this was better, it still was very marginal due to the poor or part time draft (wood ... I know this is the Anthracite forum).
Every fall, I try some new approach to this draft/burning problem. That's why I'm here now.
As it turned out, the latter stove was a Russo coal stove. Well, I wasn't able to burn wood satisfactorily, so I thought, I might as well give coal a try. Well, the coal seemed like it might be the final answer. It seemed to burn pretty good .... the first time! The next time,it probably took three hours of paper, kindling, etc. to get it to catch. (While I haven't burned coal in 30 years or so, the first 30 or so years were different.) As time went on, I started using charcoal to get it going, which turned out to be a lot easier. It just didn't have the right draft! Keep in mind, the fireplace, directly above, has great draft.
I've had quite few people look at this installation or I've explained it to them, and nobody has come up with a cause or cure. I asked one sweep about a liner, ... he didn't feel it would help. He was on the top of the chimney, blocked off the fireplace flue, we opened doors and windows ...???? No change.
I've tried an additional length of stove pipe on the top of the chimney .. no noticeable change. However, opening the window in the basement room would allow the draft to reverse in about 30 seconds. I tried a vent in the adjacent basement window... it had to be about 4 square feet to work. Note: in the adjacent basement is the hot air oil furnace.
Also, through the course of things, I replaced all of the old double hung windows.
Laying in bed one morning, with the window open, I noticed the curtain instantly sucked in, when the furnace burner started. ???!! This surprised me, as it was so quick and I would have thought the house to be loose enough, that the combustion air would have come from elsewhere. So, I call my HVAC (I don't even know what that means) guy. We look over the furnace and he says the heat exchanger must have a crack ... he'll be back with a smoke bomb. Well, the smoke bomb didn't show anything. However! ... running the blower, forced air out of the combustion chamber hole.!! So, I get a new furnace and "yes" the old one did have a crack. While we were installing the new furnace, I incorporated a combustion air source blower (Field Controls CAS-3). I figured if the house was "that tight", it would be a good thing for the furnace, and also, figuring it would help the coal stove in the adjacent room.
Right after the furnace installation, I started on a kitchen remodel, which turned out to include everything else on the whole first floor of the original house! One of the facets of this remodel, included laying plywood underlayment over the original floor, which was a single layer of tongue and groove pine (loose and drafty). Hardwood was installed over the plywood underlayment. Plus, all of the first floor walls are now insulated.
Now, we're up to FALL 2007, time to see what's going on with the burner. I'm figuring, maybe sealing the floor will have made a difference, maybe insulation, maybe ???. I start a fire with a small amount of kindling, which burned along good. Added some coal, which caught easily and things progressed fine. A day or two later, after it had been burning pretty good, while it wasn't totally burned out,it was waning, I had quite a job getting it back to life. Tonight, the same thing. The whole stove was full of red coals, I shook it down a bit and added a thin layer of fresh coal .... hmmm ... It's not doing much!
The stove has a barometric damper, but no pipe draft. Back in "the good old days" we had pipe drafts, but no barometric. ??
So, I'm playing with this thing (you can tell I'm starting to get irritated, can't you?) and no matter what I do, I'm losing ground. I've got the CAS-3 running in the adjacent room, I tried opening the window, I took the baffle out of the stove, I closed the bottom draft part way, I opened the draft all the way, I opened the ash door and I opened the top door. Now!!, opening the top door, seemed to allow the flames to appear and dance around a little bit. Close the top door and the flames would disappear. The flapper on the baro would indicate a bit of air flow at that level. But, what it really seemed like, was there was pressure on the top of the fire, as well as pressure under the fire. I say this, because there didn't seem to be any air flow through the coals until I opened the top door and the flames would appear (weakly!). It has been sitting down there for 3 hours with a few red coals, fresh coal lightly over the top and doing nothing!
I just went down and put the hairdryer in front of the draft ... it didn't do much good. Maybe the coal is junk! Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that the outside temp is around 40 degrees. If it were colder, it would act a little better ... I think.
So, last night before going to bed, I checked. It had perked up a little bit. (we're looking at a 6" diameter area of live (?) coals). I put a little coal on it, closed the draft to where I would usually leave it and went to bed. This morning, it was a little warm in the basement, the pipe was only "warm" to the touch, but there were some red coals ... down under. The thing, had laid there all night in a coma! (I've decided "coma" is the perfect word for this fire.) I know it's not generating enough heat to create any huge updraft. The barometric pressure remains fairly high, even though it's a bit overcast outside.
As I'm waiting for the forum to get updated and come to life (which I know, will happen faster than the coal stove), I turned on the CAS-3 to see if it would breathe any life into my coals. After about an hour, I looked, and they were going into a deeper coma! Too much air? It almost seems like there is stagnant air in the chimney, which can't be overcome with the hot gases or the positive pressure from the CAS-3. And the fire bed is located right between these two pressures.
After the long coma, the patient has died of Asphyxiation.
OK, the forum has been updated and come to life, so I'll let this fly.
Glad to meet you all, Tom
Thanks for any help you might come up with.