Thursday, November 4, 2021

HearthMasters Publishing announces the release of Wood-fired Heating and Cooking

HearthMasters Publishing announces the release of Wood-fired Heating and Cooking: How to choose, maintain, and operate a wood-fired appliance

Kansas City, Missouri, November 4, 2021

Wood-Fired Heating & Cooking is a guide for homeowners, preppers, and homesteaders who are planning to install a wood-fired heating appliance, improve their existing masonry fireplace, or install a wood-fired cooking appliance. Industry veterans Gene and Marge Padgitt explain how each type of appliance works and how to properly locate, operate, and maintain them.

Heating appliances covered in this book are masonry fireplaces, Rumford fireplaces, circulating fireplaces, furnaces, wood-burning fireplace inserts, freestanding stoves, masonry heaters, and rocket mass heaters. Wood selection and preparation is included. Cooking appliances discussed are wood-burning indoor cook stoves, indoor and outdoor brick ovens and oven kits, Tandoori ovens, grills, and campfires along with cooking tools and utensils.

The authors provide references and suggested reading, online groups, and educational resources. A bonus section contains delicious recipes for cooking with a wood-fired appliance by the authors.

The release of Wood-Fired Heating and Cooking comes at a time when people are thinking about being self-sufficient and prepared for any disaster or power outage. The book is an excellent resource for persons who need help trying to navigate through all of the choices available to heat their home or cook with a wood-fired appliance.

Marge and Gene are available for radio interviews. 


Marge Padgitt

Tis the Season for Chimney Fires


By Marge Padgitt

Chimney Fire: Source: Marlboro FD, VA
It’s that time of year again – the season for chimney fires. As a chimney and fireplace service company we see the results of the lack of proper maintenance and improper installation that can cause fires and destruction of property, and in some cases injury or death. Chimney fires are preventable and should be avoided because of the risk that they could escape the chimney and catch the house on fire.  

All types of wood – even hardwood- creates creosote when burned. It accumulates on flue and smoke chamber walls and must be periodically removed. Chimney sweeping should be done by a professional chimney sweep who has the proper equipment to do the job right. First, tarps and a vacuum are set up. Then the sweep brushes the flue with wire brushes for masonry flues, or poly brushes for metal flues, and removes the creosote from the flue and fireplace or wood stove. Next, the sweep should run a chimney camera through the chamber and flue to inspect it and make sure there are no broken flue tiles, missing mortar, or blockages, or in the case of a manufactured fireplace or stove, that all of the metal pipe seams are solid and unwarped. The chimney sweep will then do a visual inspection of the interior and exterior chimney, check for proper clearance to combustibles and proper installation of components, then provide a report on its condition.

Chimney sweep  Source:
It is very common for repair issues to arise with any type of chimney. Regular maintenance is
needed in order to keep the system functioning properly. Exterior masonry repairs should be done in the spring or summer, but if the chimney needs a new flue liner this can be done any time of year. Chimney fires can cause costly damage to a masonry or metal chimney system. If relining is necessary, it will cost thousands of dollars. Fortunately, chimney fires are covered by homeowner’s insurance. However, it is best to avoid a chimney fire in the first place.  

According to the U.S. Fire Administration there were 83,300 house fires caused by heating in 2018.  The National Fire Protection Association’s latest press release dated November 22, 2010 estimates that 66,100 home fires caused 1.1 billion in property damage, 1,660 injuries and 480 deaths in 2008, which was a 0.5% decline from 2007.  15,200 (23%) of all home heating fires are creosote fires, which the NFPA calls “failure to clean” fires that were confined to a chimney or flue, or involved solid-fueled space heaters, chimneys, connectors, and fireplaces.  See the entire news release at


1.       Never burn a dry Christmas tree in a fireplace.

2.       Only burn dry, seasoned hard or soft cordwood in a stove or fireplace

3.       Only burn one piece of hedge to two pieces of other types of wood.

4.       Have the chimney inspected and swept annually, or twice per season if using a wood stove.

5.       Have a Draw Collar installed for hard-starting wood stoves.

6.       When purchasing a new home have the chimney inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep prior to closing so you know what you are getting into.

7.       If you hear a whooshing sound, or freight-train like sound, or the room fills with smoke, get out of the house and call the fire department. Go outside and see if flames are shooting out the top of the flue.


See more information about chimney and fireplace maintenance and how to choose an appliance in Marge and Gene Padgitt’s new book Wood-Fired Heating and Cooking: How to choose, maintain, and operate a wood-burning appliance at or

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Chimney Ghosts and Portals

 By Marge Padgitt

Are chimneys portals to other dimensions?

Since our company does chimney inspections and repair, we are around fireplaces and chimneys all the time.  We have noticed a pattern of ghostly activity and orbs around chimneys, and I am beginning to think that this sort of activity is common. I also have a theory as to why paranormal events happen around chimneys, but more about that later.

 Over the years my company has taken thousands of pictures of chimneys and fireplaces with digital cameras. I started noticing that orbs were showing up in the photos when an extremely dramatic photo with colored orbs showed up in May of 2003. This was the first time I noticed anything unusual in the photos, and this prompted me to watch for other anomalies around chimneys when inspection reports come in. We started using digital cameras around 1999, before that we used 35 mm film which never showed anything out of the ordinary. Digital cameras pick up more of the UV spectrum, so they sometimes get things that the naked eye cannot see. In all but one case, the inspector did not see anything at the time, but the strange items show up when the photos are on the computer.

In the past two years we have collected quite a few photos that show something unusual in them such as colored orbs, white orbs, white streams of heavy fog, and in one instance—a clearly defined face of a man in a back fireplace wall. In every case, I compared the rest of the photographs taken at the same time and of the same chimney, and in all but one case they show nothing unusual. It is usually ONE photograph that catches something, then the rest at the same location do not show anything. There is only one chimney so far where an orb showed up in three different photos from different angles, and in the case of the face in the fireplace it can still be seen with the naked eye at the home. 

We do approximately five inspections per day with 10-20 photos taken at each house, so the photos with anomalies are only a small fraction of the total number of photos we have on file.  With this in mind, that means that it is fairly rare to catch an orb or ghost on film.  

Now for some ghostly experiences. In 1989 our company swept 350 chimneys at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. We ran into three ghosts at Leavenworth that were rather uncooperative and apparently did not appreciate us disturbing them. The fort was established in 1827 and has a long history of spirits. At least nine ghosts have been officially reported, but there are likely more that have not been reported. During our work, several highly unusual events occurred that can only be attributed to the paranormal. Unfortunately, we do not have photos of any fireplaces since photography is not allowed on the base. All the chimneys are constructed with bricks and mortar.

Historic Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

House #1:
This house was the oldest building on the post and was originally a chapel.  The chapel burned down in approximately 1827, and a clergyman named Father Fred was killed in the fire.  A new house was built on the same spot in the 1830’s— presumably using the same chimney.   While we were sweeping the chimney, coal dust started coming through the entire masonry wall in the living room.  There were no holes or cracks in the masonry!  The entire lower level of the house was dusted with fine, grey coal dust and we had to go back and spend 8 hours vacuuming and cleaning up. What a mess! I was mortified, as nothing like that had ever happened to us. 

The colonel’s wife was not upset at all, and calmly explained to me that the problem must have been caused by their resident ghost!  She told me that right after moving into the house, they hosted a party for the officers and their wives. During the party, a woman screamed when she saw a face of a man in the fire in the fireplace. Everyone saw the same thing and ran screaming out of the house. Evidently, it was quite a scene. After that, the family saw the apparition of a man floating on the landing next to the chimney on several occasions. He was wearing a clergy outfit, but his feet did not materialize when he appeared. He also appeared on many occasions in the fire, so the family quit using the fireplace. Well, at least it is clean now. I hope that ghost appreciates it.

House #2: Built in the later 1800’s, this is a large three-story home. The occupant (the wife of an officer) notified us upon arrival that the room we were going to be working in was haunted, and the ghost often closed the door. She noted that she was leaving the door open all the way and that the door was off balance leaning in towards the room, then she left us to our work. I tarped off the fireplace, then sent a tech up to the top of the chimney to start sweeping.  While standing alone in the room, the door suddenly slammed shut. I quickly ran over to the door and opened it to see if anyone was around, but there was no one in the hall. I then heard strange noises and talking coming from the fireplace and called the sweep on the radio to see what was going on.  She said she did not say anything, and of course there was no one else on the chimney with her.  When the lady of the house returned, she was not surprised to hear about the goings–on.  She also told me that it was common knowledge among the residents at Fort Leavenworth that there is a lot of ghostly activity going on in the older houses. We packed up our gear and got out as quickly as possible.

House #3: Built around 1840, this is a two-story brick house with slate roof and brick chimney.  I was outside by the van talking to the homeowner. One tech was inside at the fireplace, and another tech was outside on top of the roof doing the sweeping.  Suddenly the ladder fell over on its side—seemingly pushed by someone who was not there. The occupant and I both saw it fall over. The sweep walked over to the place where the ladder was but could not get down until we got the ladder back up again. This was a 40’ heavy aluminum ladder that weighs 80 lbs.! There was no wind that day and it was tied down to the gutter with a bungee cord!  I had to call in another crew to get the ladder back up so the sweep could get down. The occupant of the home told me that they have a mischievous ghost who lives with them and causes havoc frequently.  He said that the ghost hung around the fireplace most of the time.

I did an internet search to see if there was any information about the Fort Leavenworth ghosts, and it turns out that there are several books written about the subject that are available. From I found the following information regarding the fireplace at 605 McClellan, located in the McClellan Officer's quarters. This house is a large three-story home. Apparently when a family moved in this house in 1975, a spirit made itself known to them. While enjoying a warm fire in the fireplace, the family was “gripped with fearful fascination” when an apparition of a man with a mustache and goatee appeared in the middle of the flame. When the fire died out, the face of this ghostly man appeared and remained on the back of the fireplace. This case sounds like the face in the fireplace I mentioned earlier.

A program about these spirits was presented on the Discovery Channel. The occupants of the house said that every psychic investigator that has gone through the home notices that one of the entities comes in through the fireplace damper and stands in front of the fireplace. The temperature where the ghost stands is noticeably colder than the surrounding area.

Thurnham Hall, Lancaster, England built in 1060

 We made a trip to Lancaster, England in April of 2005 and got to stay in a wonderful stone 10th century hall or “manor house” called Thurnham Hall. On the third evening of our stay, the activities director presented a tour of the building and told stories of the ghosts that choose to occupy several rooms in the large hall. Our guide showed a VCR tape in one room that had been occupied by a man who killed his wife in the 1700’s. The tape had been made by a film crew from British television who brought along a psychic to do research for a program on ghosts. I filmed the TV screen so the quality of my tape is not that great—but it is digital so you can plainly what is going on. Everyone in the room watching the tape gasped as they watched hundreds of tiny white glowing orbs appear from the fireplace. The orbs exited the fireplace into the room, then went through the walls in several directions. This continued for at least two full minutes. 

I am not sure what the orbs, fog, and impressions are—perhaps they are spirits of people who have passed on, or spirits that have never inhabited a human body. or maybe they are life forms that we do not yet understand, or beings from another dimension. I speculate that spirits hang out in the fifth dimension and sometimes enter our fourth dimensional space and time through a portal of some type. Perhaps chimney are portals.

I believe is that ghosts like chimneys. Why? Here is my theory – in doing research on ghosts in the Kansas City area I talked with several ghost hunters including Chris Breathwaite, a local Kansas City paranormal investigator and author. Chris and others have mentioned on several occasions that there is more paranormal activity around rivers, streams, and railroad tracks. I got to thinking about what those features have in common with chimneys. It is movement. There is a flow of energy in any river, stream, or railroad track. And the correlation with chimneys is DRAFT, the only difference being that chimneys are vertical. 

All chimneys are designed to create draft to remove toxic flue gasses and smoke from the fireplace or appliance without mechanical means. It is simply physics that makes a chimney work. The temperature differential between the outside of the chimney and the inside of the house is basically what creates draft. Draft is different at certain times of the year, being stronger in the cold winter months. That is also the time of year that people spend more time around the fireplace and fire up their gas furnace. Are there more sightings in the winter as a result?  That will be my next project to pursue. But draft in a chimney occurs all the time, even when it reverses because something is wrong with the system or house. The pictures we have taken of orbs are from all seasons of the year.

I plan to continue my research on this subject. If the reader has photos of orbs, apparitions, or ghosts around fireplaces or chimneys, I would like to have a copy for our research project on this subject. Contact me at


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Be prepared for price increases

Consumers should be prepared for sticker shock when it comes to chimney repair or hearth appliances, since everything has gone up in price. Not only that, but wait times can be weeks or months due to the increased demand. Manufacturers are having a difficult time keeping up with the demand for products. 

This is frustrating for the homeowners and their providers as well. In some cases, standard freight costs no longer exist and the dealers must pay whatever the freight lines charge. This makes it impossible to tell a buyer what their final price will be for a hearth appliance.

  • Aluminum prices have increased by 20%
  • Cold Rolled steel has increased by 160%
  • Stainless steel price increase is 10%
  • Lumber price increase is 130%

Domestic Freight has increased by 5% and is expected to rise due to gas price increases. 

Expect to pay more for gas hearth appliances, wood-burning stoves and inserts, aluminum flue liners for gas, and stainless steel flue liners and chimneys for wood-burning appliances, plus additional freight cost. 

There is some good news, however. The 26% tax credit is in effect, so could offset costs for a hearth appliance and it's chimney, plus installation costs. For this reason, now is the time to purchase a hearth appliance.  Read more about the tax credit at the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue website.  


Marge Padgitt is the CEO of HearthMasters, Inc. chimney & fireplace restoration company in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Firewood Allergies? Yes, it’s a Thing.

By Audrey Elder


The massive chunk of walnut sat nearly a year next to the woodpile before we gave up on the idea of turning it into a new kitchen floor. Our woodpile consists of whatever fallen trees come our way. This particular behemoth was once part of a massive tree that fell on a friend’s farm property with no where to go but my yard. It was finally time for gloves, glasses and a chainsaw. The freshly cut chunks were quickly split into perfectly sized pieces for the woodstove. They smelled wonderful as I stacked them onto the pile, although my nose burned a bit with each whiff I took. Once alit in the living room, my sinuses reacted with vengeance. As it turns out, different kinds of firewood can create allergic reactions for different people. One might notice a sensitivity to oak while I sit on the other side of the room when burning walnut. 

There are a large range of allergic reactions or sensitivities that can be brought on by wood including a sinus reaction or rash from touching wood. Nearly all woods have the potential to cause a reaction in some people. Unfortunately, there has been little research done on how different woods can cause a reaction when burned. It is unknown if having a known allergy to a specific wood based on a physician performed allergy test also means you will have a reaction to burning that wood. If you have a known allergy to mold however, make sure you are not burning firewood with mold present. If you have experienced sensitivity to your fireplace or woodstove keep a journal of what type of wood you are burning and if that particular wood is bothering you. If a type or types are confirmed this way try to avoid sitting close to the fireplace or stove or discontinue using that type all together.

It is also important to note that smoke never has a place in the home, it should only be going up the chimney. We often tend to think of keeping our chimney clean for the sole purpose of preventing a chimney fire. Where avoiding chimney fires is an obvious top priority, a dirty chimney won’t allow for a good draft to take place. It makes it harder to start a fire and keep all that smoke where it belongs. If you are still having trouble getting your fire to draft, it could be an issue of negative air pressure or just super cold air. Consider having an outside air supply, draft inducer, or whole house ventilator installed to fix this issue.

So far, walnut has been the only wood I have to avoid burning. I was overjoyed last summer when my husband announced a friend offered him a fallen….oak! An entire winter back in my favorite spot in the house, next to the woodstove was happily in my future. May your home be warm and your sinuses happy!


Audrey Elder is an historian and writer living in Independence, Missouri. She works for HearthMasters, Inc.