Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Woodstoves & Earthquakes

  1. #1
    New member
    Join Date
    Nov 2008

    Default Woodstoves & Earthquakes

    Obviously if it is a large one kind of a mute point but for the smaller shakes do any of you take any precautions securing your wood stove, flue pipe etc?

  2. #2
    Member cdubbin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    KP, the dingleberry of Alaska


    It would have to be a dam big quake to shake a properly installed chimney loose, or move a stove; might tip over the coffee pot, though, THAT would be a tragedy!
    "Ė Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

  3. #3


    Look at VI and VIII below where it describes heavy furniture moved or overturned. In a strong earthquake, the lateral accelerations can approach 1 g of force. So imagine your 400 pound woodstove with a blazing fire. The thermometer on it shows 350 degrees C. Now imagine applying 400 pounds of lateral force alternating back and forth about twice a second until it breaks free from the stove pipe. Consider the smoke, gases and embers and hot coals being scattered around the interior of your cabin as it rolls, slides, or bounces around from wall to wall. This goes on in your waterless cabin for about 2 or 3 minutes because itís a substantial earthquake. Then recall what they did in San Francisco without water to fight the fires: they watched it burn.

    I knew a fellow who watched his familyís grand piano bounce from one room to another, and then back to the original room during the 1964 Earthquake. His familyís house survived. Iím pretty sure an unsecured blazing woodstove would be a headache during a strong earthquake. A well-built cabin could survive a strong quake, but not a fire caused by a loose stove.

    The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale of 1931 is the basis for the U.S. evaluation of seismic intensity. Unlike earthquake magnitude, which indicates the energy a quake expends, Mercalli intensity denotes how strongly an earthquake affects a specific place. Whereas magnitude measures how big an earthquake is, intensity measures how bad it is.

    The Mercalli scale has 12 divisions, using Roman numerals from I to XII:

    I. Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable circumstances.
    II. Felt only by a few persons at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings. Delicately suspended objects may swing.
    III. Felt quite noticeably indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings, but many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibration like passing truck. Duration estimated.
    IV. During the day felt indoors by many, outdoors by few. At night some awakened. Dishes, windows, and doors disturbed; walls make creaking sound. Sensation like heavy truck striking building. Standing motorcars rock noticeably.
    V. Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened. Some dishes, windows, etc., broken; a few instances of cracked plaster; unstable objects overturned. Disturbance of trees, poles, and other tall objects sometimes noticed. Pendulum clocks may stop.
    VI. Felt by all; many frightened and run outdoors. Some heavy furniture moved; a few instances of fallen plaster or damaged chimneys. Damage slight.
    VII. Everybody runs outdoors. Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction slight to moderate in well built ordinary structures; considerable in poorly built or badly designed structures. Some chimneys broken. Noticed by persons driving motor cars.
    VIII. Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable in ordinary substantial buildings, with partial collapse; great in poorly built structures. Panel walls thrown out of frame structures. Fall of chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls. Heavy furniture overturned. Sand and mud ejected in small amounts. Changes in well water. Persons driving motor cars disturbed.
    IX. Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb; great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations. Ground cracked conspicuously. Underground pipes broken.
    X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations; ground badly cracked. Rails bent. Landslides considerable from river banks and steep slopes. Shifted sand and mud. Water splashed over banks.
    XI. Few, if any (masonry), structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Broad fissures in ground. Underground pipelines completely out of service. Earth slumps and land slips in soft ground. Rails bent greatly.
    XII. Damage total. Waves seen on ground surfaces. Lines of sight and level distorted. Objects thrown upward into the air.

    The San Francisco Peninsula lies astride the San Andreas fault where it passes
    northward from the land to the ocean. In 1906, the city was burgeoning as the preeminent
    cultural and economic center west of the Mississippi. At 5:14 a.m. on April 18, the cityís
    fortunes suffered a severe setback:

    ďAt first came a sharp but gentle swaying motion that grew less and less; then a heavy
    jolting sideways Ė then another, heaviest of all. Finally a grinding round of everything,
    irregularly tumultuous, spasmodic, jerky.Ē (Aitken and Hilton, 1906)

    Damage was greatest in the Marina District of the city, where liquefaction and settling in the
    underlying soft sediments and artificial fill crumbled many buildings. In most of the city,
    however, damage was minor, and some residents simply returned to bed
    . Over 70% of the
    damage done in 1906 occurred in the fire that followed the earthquake
    . In the Marina
    district and other pockets of damage, stoves and lamps toppled, igniting scattered blazes.
    Firefighters rushed to contain the fires, but watched water pressure drop to a trickle and
    then to nothing because water mains had been cut during the shaking. For four days, fire
    ravaged the city, consuming 490 city blocks.
    (Pinter, Southern Illinois University)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    I would think you would have a lot bigger problems coming if we had a quake large enough to move a wood stove. I had a stove business for years in the lower 48 and as stated above if the stove was installed properly the average tremor we would get will have very little affects on your stove. If the quake was large enough to move your stove chances are your house may or may not still be standing either.

    Wasilla, (when not overseas)
    '' Livn' The Dream ''
    26' Hewescraft Cuddy, twin 115 Yam

  5. #5
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


    Quote Originally Posted by rifleman View Post
    Consider the smoke, gases and embers and hot coals being scattered around the interior of your cabin as it rolls, slides, or bounces around from wall to wall.
    Having it tip over and get rolled around is one thing.......having the door come open, or tipped over to let out all the burning embers is another.....

    Depends on the stove I guess......
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  6. #6
    Member Grayling Slayer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Fairbanks, AK


    Homeowners insurance covers fires but not earthquakes.
    "I'd rather be fishing!"

  7. #7
    Member Akheloce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by Grayling Slayer View Post
    Homeowners insurance covers fires but not earthquakes.
    Speak for yourself, mine covers earthquakes.

    IMO, a properly installed woodstove has no problems with earthquakes, mine has been through several, and the stove and chimney are the last of my worries. In fact, like most earthquake prone items, generally the looser the better. With single wall, I have one screw holding each piece together, and they are more than capable of handling my 2x4 smacking against them to bang out the creosote, so I assume they can handle the big quakes. I can't remember the year, but not too long ago, we got a pretty big shaker in SC AK, while I was upstairs. It got be out of the cabin faster than I remember ever getting out before. My Blaze King and related pipe never moved a descernable amount.

  8. #8


    If an unsecured stove is loose and being shaken around, the stove pipe would have given way creating a 6 inch opening. Even if the blazing fire stays contained in the stove, and the hot coals donít come out of the stove pipe opening, the stove could still be 350 degrees Celsius. It wonít be good when it bounces into the mound of books spilled on the floor, or a scattered stack of newspapers, or the curtains, or a flammable rug.

    Sure, a big quake is a big problem. But if a cabin is well-built and tied together from foundation to rafters, it can survive a very powerful earthquake including one that can overturn heavy furniture (see the Mercalli Scale). If a stove is well-secured to its resting place, it will match the shaking of the cabin, and no stove pipe connections will be broken.

    But an unsecured heavy stove will resist moving with the cabin. Because of Newtonís Laws of Motion, the heavier the stove, the more inertia it has. It behaves like popcorn in a pan: the popcorn appears to move in the pan, but actually, the popcorn is doing its best to remain still while the pan shakes around it. A heavy unsecured stove tends to remain still while the cabin shakes around it. So, itís the unsecured heavy stove that can break free from its stove pipe and then be shaken around the room. After all, the stovepipe connection relies on sheet metal and probably three screws.

    I get it that the kind of earthquake that is powerful enough to dislodge or overturn stoves is rare. We have more routine risk exposure getting to our cabins by boat, ATV, or plane than we have from fires caused be earthquakes.

    I donít mean to say what anybody should or shouldnít do with his wood stove. One of my wood stoves is chained down to its hearth. Another in a rough cabin is not secured in place. For the time being, Iím satisfied with it that way. We all get to choose.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts