If you have never felt the heat coming from a wood stove loaded with Oak on a cold winter day – you don’t know what you’re missing. We just made it through our first winter using our new Dutchwest 2462 Extra Large Catalytic Wood Stove. I am happy to say it heated our 2500 + square foot house nicely. Most days it was 70-72 degrees on the first floor and 66-68 degrees on the second floor (which is the perfect sleeping temperature). The stove worked so well we didn’t even try to turn our furnace on until mid-December, which is when I found our furnace had died and needed to be replaced. We could have continued to only use the stove through the whole winter, but lazyness set in and I did not want to wake up at 6:00 am to start a fire everyday. So, the furnace would kick on when I felt lazy and we would save money and enjoy a toasty house when I felt motivated! We burned through about 2 to 3 full cords of wood (fire 24/7 until mid-December and then 3 or 4 days/week the rest of the winter).
I want to show what was involved in installing a free-standing wood stove in a house that originally had no fireplace and no wood stove. It was really more simple than you may think.
Step 1: Decide on a stove. This was probably the hardest part of the entire process. It is really a balancing act. You can purchase a “barrel stove kit” (50 gallon drum conversion kit) for $45.00 or a beautiful Vermont Castings stove for $4000.00+. We’re not rich, but we didn’t want to burn our house down, so we settled for somewhere in the middle. I am extremely glad we decided to go with a catalytic stove because I hand split all of our firewood for the year. The catalytic stove uses a catalytic converter much like a car to burn the smoke (at 1100 to 1200 degrees) which increases the efficiency, saving trees and my back.
Step 2: Plan. It pays to go with a stand-alone fireplace/stove store instead of a big box store like Home Depot. We purchased our stove from Buttelwerth Stoves in Cincinnati – They know what they are doing and will help you through each step of the process. Stoves require certain clearances around them and there are quite a few safety requirements….because…it’s fire…inside your house…I went through the Hamilton County Building Department permit process (several hundred more dollars) because I want our insurance to cover our house IF something ever were to happen. And it’s the law…so…
Step 3: Bite the bullet and plop down a whole lot of money. It hurts but it is well worth it- Especially when the power went out this winter and E (wifey) and I looked at each other and smiled…because we still had heat and light from the fire! What a nice night that was. Cozy and quiet.
Step 4: Build or buy a hearth pad. If you don’t already have a wood stove, you will need to have a hearth pad to prevent burning the floor out from under the stove. Again, worth the money. I decided to build our hearth pad myself – which was fun and saved us several hundred dollars! Here’s how it went:
Layer 1 – Cut out carpet under hearth pad area (scary when we JUST bought the carpet)
Layer 2 – .20 gauge steel sheet metal (last line of defense for any hot embers that may somehow slip through a crack in the hearth).
Layer 3 - Micor (high R value insulation board to prevent the subfloor from bursting into flames). The red goo is a fire barrier sealant. Another line of defense from burning the house down.
Layer 4 – Wonderboard! (Base for the top tile layer). I used Flexbond mortar to attach the wonderboard to the Micor.
Layer 5 – Tile and grout…and a handmade walnut frame with cocobolo splines
The guys from Buttelwerth Stoves then came in to install the chimney and the 550 pound stove.
And the final product!!!
A wood stove fits well with my other hobby of woodworking. The worst that can happen if I mess up a woodworking project is that the project will keep me warm for the winter!