Portland Home Testing: Wood Stove Removal 2020

oregon wood stove removal guide

A 2014 DEQ survey of Portland residents found that more than half of those who burn wood for heat are doing so with uncertified wood stoves. In fact, there may be as many as 80,000 uncertified wood stoves in Oregon! 

Why are uncertified wood stoves a problem? They’re one of the biggest sources of air pollution in Portland. According to a Multnomah County report, residential wood smoke accounts for 11% of all cancer-causing air pollutants in the area. In addition to containing particulate matter small enough to enter the body through the lungs, wood smoke can be source of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds. 

“Certified” wood stoves control emissions by re-igniting toxic compounds in the smoke before it escapes out of the chimney. Some are constructed with catalytic converters similar to what you would find in a car. Either catalytic or non-catalytic wood stoves that are EPA-certified can be a safe and cozy addition to a home. It’s the dirtier, older and uncertified wood stoves that cause trouble. 

Is your wood stove in compliance? 

Since 2009, Oregon law has required that uncertified wood stoves and fireplace inserts be removed before a home can be sold. Most wood stoves and inserts manufactured prior to 1990 were uncertified. To be sure, check for a certification label. On wood stoves, they are usually found on the back side. For fireplace inserts, check just inside the fireplace opening or underneath the front, bottom brick panel. The EPA certification label looks like this: 

EPA certification label circa 1988 to present

Unfortunately, uncertified wood stoves and fireplace inserts can not be modified to reduce emissions and make them eligible for certification. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, “Certification occurs at the time of manufacturing and cannot be granted to devices that are already in use.” Uncertified stoves need to be removed and decommissioned before the home can change hands. 

Steps to decommission a wood burning device in Portland

Decommissioning an uncertified wood stove or fireplace insert from a Portland home to comply with the law is fairly straightforward, but could involve some heavy lifting. If you’re not the DIY type, a decommissioning specialist will perform some or all of the following steps for a fee: 

  1. Removal (may be skipped if you want to keep your wood stove in the house for decorative purposes). This involves disconnecting the the stove from the chimney or removing the insert, then taking it out of the house. 
  2. Destruction. The device must be “rendered inoperable”, which means taking off the doors and putting large holes in the top and sides. 
  3. Disposal. Turn the device over to a local scrap metal dealer or recycler. They may perform the destruction step for you if you’re dropping it off, but call ahead.
  4. Obtain Proof of Destruction. This is the numbered receipt from the scrap metal recycler who accepted the device. Save it, because you may need it later when you sell your home.
  5. Submit an Uncertified Woodstove Removal Notification form to the DEQ. Once you’ve completed the online form, you’ll receive a confirmation number. Print and save it as documentation that you’ve met the removal, destruction and disposal requirements for uncertified wood stoves and fireplace inserts. 

Finding a decommissioning specialist in Portland is not difficult. Buck’s Stove Palace on Foster is a trusted local expert in wood stove removal. Many junk haulers will also do the job. They usually charge by the hour because of the many variables involved in getting the stove disconnected and out of the house. 

Skip wood stove decommissioning?

Not complying with the law to decommission your wood stove or insert when selling your home can result in a $750 fine. It’s just not a good idea and your uncertified wood stove will show up in the home inspection. In addition to the fine, it’s not worth risking your home sale when the buyers find out!

Take note that it’s illegal in Oregon to sell or give away an uncertified wood stove or fireplace insert. The only option is destruction, then keeping the stove for decorative purposes or bringing it to a scrap metal recycler.

However, sellers who don’t want to go through the hassle of decommissioning a wood burning device can sometimes negotiate with the buyer to have them take on the responsibility. The agreement should be clearly spelled out in the sales contract. 

DIY Tips for Removing a Portland Wood Stove or Fireplace Insert

If you no longer use your uncertified wood stove and you are selling your home in the future, you can go ahead and remove the stove or insert to save yourself the hassle down the road. Even if you plan on hiring a pro to haul the stove away (a good idea unless you happen to own furniture moving equipment), any step you take to prepare the stove for removal will save them time and you money. 

Wood Stove Removal 

1. Get ready. The first step will be removing the stove pipe inside the house, which will be messy! Cover the area around the wood stove with tarps or painter’s cloth. Have garbage bins on hand to place the pipes into. 

2. Disconnect the stove pipe. Using a screwdriver or ratchet wrench, take off the screws or rivets holding the pipes in place. Then turn the pipes until they move freely, and pull them apart. 

3. Lighten the load. If you haven’t already, clean the wood stove and remove all ashes. A shop vac can get the nooks and crannies normally missed. Remove the door, then turn the wood stove on its side and remove the legs if possible. 

4. Truck it out. A hand truck or furniture dolly is the best option for loading up your wood stove and bringing it outside. From here, it’s a matter of calling a scrap metal dealer or junk hauler for pickup, or hauling it away yourself. 

5. Patch up the hole. An uncovered wood stove pipe hole is unsightly and can lead to drafts. It can easily be covered with a metal plate, then patched with sheetrock. 

Fireplace Insert Removal

Wood-burning fireplace inserts use a previously existing chimney for venting, so there’s no stove pipe to worry about. Gas inserts don’t need to be removed before selling a home in Portland, and removing them is a bit more complicated so we won’t go there in this blog post. 

1. Free up the insert so that it can be pulled out of the hearth. This may involve removing nails, screws and bolts holding it in place. Remove ashes from the insert before feeling around inside for its connection points. 

2. Use a crowbar to pry off surrounding trim and to begin moving the insert itself.

Caution! Wood stoves and inserts weigh in around 250 pounds! Before proceeding, protect the floor in front of the hearth with a large piece of rolled-up carpeting, which is also useful for dragging the insert out of the house. Get a buddy to help you safely pull the insert forward from both sides, never standing in front of it when you pull. Use your legs and good posture to avoid injuring your back. 

After an insert is removed, the chimney flue can be closed off with a damper or chimney balloon. 

To learn more about wood stove decommissioning in Portland, head to the Oregon DEQ’s Wood Stove page.

To learn more about preparing your Portland home for sale, contact our Top 1% real estate selling team. We’re always happy to answer your questions.

August 24, 2020

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

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