Home Repair - Other

Installing a Wood Stove



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Last October (2007), my husband and I fulfilled a long-time dream by installing a wood-and-coal burning cookstove. We had already heated exclusively with wood for three years, using first a simple barrel stove, then a Colorado Gatling woodburner, and decided we were ready for more challenge (and lower utility bills). We found a 1930's cookstove - a Dixie model "V", which is a 32" high, plain-Jane affair, without reservoir, heating tank, or warming ovens. Installation was simple.

Where to Find Your Stove

Selection of a woodstove can be a highly personal decision, akin to choosing a car. There are many brands of wood heating and cookstoves, and many variations within brands. Lehman's is a good place to start, as they carry both stoves and parts: http://www.lehmans.com/jump.jspitemType=CATEGORY&itemID=671&iMainCat=671&iSubCat=671

Cumberland General also sells many accessories and some parts: http://www9.mailordercentral.com/cumberlandgeneral/

Don't overlook antique dealers' shops, and possibly friends' storage sheds. Stoves range widely in price - from free, to several thousand dollars. They also range widely in quality and condition, so educate yourself before striking a deal. Know which parts are replaceable, indispensable, or beyond repair. Be realistic about your abilities, and about how much time and effort you can put into restoring or refurbishing a stove.

Insurance?

As with any wood stove, we had some decisions to make before bringing it in the house. The first thing YOU should consider is whether your homeowner's insurance allows you to use wood stoves. Some policies become void if you install a stove that actually burns fuel.

How Much Room Does a Woodstove Require?

We first had to consider how much space was necessary around the stove. I originally wanted a much larger, Victorian style, and we determined there was no safe way we could fit such a thing into our kitchen, even without the hot-water reservior. We knew we ought to figure for a space roughly twice the size of our chosen stove, to give adequate area to work around it, and in order not to bake the finish off our furniture. We expected the wall back of the stove to get much hotter than it does, and installed a piece of sheet metal about 4" from the wall to guard it. (In many older houses where the plaster has been torn down, the wood behind was charred, though there was no evidence of damage on the outter surface.) Our Dixie is well insulated, and this guard turned out to be unnecessary. However, a different stove might make it crucial. We left at least 18" between the stove and other objects on other sides. We sacrificed some light while installing our stove, as the only suitable place was in front of a window. We took the bottom pane out (it leaked anyway), and substituted a square of sheet metal and a piece of R-Tech insulation, then ran our chimney out through that.

When determining the necessary room, don't forget your wood box or rack. Unless your stove is mostly decorative, you don't want to have to run elsewhere every time you need more fuel. I suggest you leave at least enough room for the necessary fuel for an average evening. Enough for two or three days is better.

Installing the Pipe

The next question was, What kind and size of pipe should we use? The Dixie takes an odd size (7" diameter) for the first section, and our local hardware store had only one piece available. This meant crimping a piece to adapt the first to the second section, which was 6" pipe. (This adapter is called a reducer.) We manufactured our own double-walled chimney, installing an 8" diameter piece on the outside of the 6" pipe, which cost us around $60 to do. If we had bought a double-walled pipe, it would have been $250. We went only as far above the roofline as necessary, according to local and state codes. The higher you go, the faster the pipe will cool once it exits your house, causing horrendous creosote build-up. Be sure to use materials according to your local and state laws these laws are for your safety, as well as your neighbors'.

Once your pipe is installed, you have two other decisions to make regarding it. 1) Install a screen to keep birds out? 2) Install a weather cap? We tried a screen on our regular heating stove the first year, and decided against it. The screen facilitates plugging, and we became unhappy when one morning we lit our stove, and all the smoke backed up into our house. We do advocate the use of a weather cap, as it keeps rain and snow from knocking soft creosote to the bottom of the pipe, and plugging it.

Conclusion

So, installing a wood stove does not have to be difficult (unless you can't get your neighbor to help you get it through the front door). But, it does require planning, a knowledge of what you want and need from a stove, and a respect for fire. Choose wisely, and may your stove be a friend for years to come.

More about this author: Joilene Rasmussen

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