yes, I knew the staves would dry---but my barrel is 50 years old, so I figure it is as dry as it will be. My mistake is I took it apart to clean etc. I wish I hadn't. It seems then I had issues with the staves. I have had 3 cooks on it and the staves are not moving any. I did screw each one down. I knew they made a caulking for repairing mortar etc with fireplaces. I will try and see if it works, but should seal the gap to maintain temps. In most cases, you probably dont need an exhaust pipe on top, and just let smoke go out of staves.