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1986 VC Defiant Encore 0028 - Help With Rebuild / Restoration

Post in 'Vermont Castings & CDW Dutchwest older Models' started by stevedar, Jan 25, 2011.

  1. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Ok, I believe I've made another mistake, but in typical male fashion, I am probably going to push on and make another one. I bought a small 860 sq. foot house which I intend to make into a rental. It had a really old and very large wood stove that seemed to be made out of tin it was so light, but it does have a perfectly good 8" chimney stove pipe that goes into a double walled pipe through the attic, so I thought if I could get another stove which took an 8" pipe I would be ok.

    So, one Saturday morning I am looking at Craigslist and there's a guy selling one who lives just 3 miles down the road. I have not heard anything good or bad about Vermont Castings, but they obviously look very cool and I don't even know how much a person will use it if they're only renting, so I bought it. The guy that sold it to me knew a little about wood stoves and he pointed out that the damper had lost one of the pegs that allowed it to go up or down properly, meaning that the previous owner had probably left it burning wide open for awhile. I thought this would be easy to fix or else I would just do the same, let it burn at all out all the time.

    Somewhere along the line the linkage to the damper came undone, so we took off the side cover and finally my son decided to just take out the plates along the back wall. There was a top and a bottom piece and once the top one was out I took the linkage piece into the hardware store to get a fastener so it would not come apart again. I could see that this styrofoam piece that the catalytic combuster sits in was very fragile, with the top of it already breaking off into pieces. As I was trying to get those two plates back in and screwed down I ended up damaging it further. Luckily (I thought) we have a very good Vermont Castings dealer within 25 miles so I would just add this to my order for a damper replacement. I had already purchased the oval to round adapter from them.

    Then I found out from the dealer that this is the refractory assembly and it was going to be $210 + tax + shipping, which would bring it up to about a $250 part. I had saved all the pieces so I asked them if I could just put it back together with duct tape :lol: but they said that wouldn't work at all. Maybe, maybe they said it could be cemented back together, but that would be a poor substitute. The catalytic combuster looks pretty good - it has one little piece of the honeycomb broken near the corner, but it probably is original equipment. The refractory assembly is fine at the bottom, it's the top part that surrounds the catalytic combustor that is

    Then I found this site and lots of people who say these stoves have some drawbacks. They are expensive (I'm beginning to see that now :ahhh: ) and they can be difficult to run if you're not familiar with wood burning. And then if you have air leaks they can be hard to fix and can run too hot and so on.

    I paid $200 for the stove itself. I have invested about $100 in stove pipe and replacement parts so far. I am inclined to just go ahead and buy the refractory assembly rather than piece it back together. I am hoping that the catalytic combuster can be salvaged. One thing that is sort of disturbing though is that as I had it all apart and was shop vaccing the inside behind that wall I was finding something that looked like metal ingots. Not sure where they originally came from, but it looked like melted steel.

    The real question I have is - is there any chance that after I buy all these parts and put it back together that it will work as it was originally intended? Or will I be fighting air leaks and so on. From my naive point of view, other than needing this refractory assembly and possibly a new cat, it looks to be in good shape. It doesn't "appear" to have any warpage, but maybe I don't know what to look for? I do expect it to be used very lightly as the house is super small and generally those who rent don't have the means to haul in firewood. I' feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but it seems like I'm committed now...what should I look for to help me decide if I should just back away from this one. The thing is so heavy it's probably worth $200 in scrap, but it's so cool looking I hate to just give up on it.

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  2. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    Hi, welcome to the forum. First, check out this very recent thread:

    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/forums/viewthread/68912/

    It talks about the pros and cons of the Defiant Encore Model #2190, but as far as I can tell its very similar to the #0028.

    You seem to already be aware of a lot of the issues surrounding it. Those damper tabs are prone to breaking, as is the top of the refractory package due to the damper plate slamming into the top of it. Some folks weld a bar across the top to prevent that from happening. Even if that didn't happen, the refractory is fragile enough where it will eventually wear out with moderate to heavy use. Then, there are a lot of moving parts, lots of seals, etc etc. How does the inside of the stove look over all? Are the firebacks warped at all, or cracked? If so, they should be replaced as well. Those bits of metal you describe may be from a warped fireback breaking down, or pieces of stove cement that have fallen out of the factory-sealed joints. If the latter, that could indicate that the stove will need new cement along all the typical seams, etc. Otherwise it will leak air causing it to overfire. Finally, you said this is going into a rental? This stove has a pretty big learning curve if there were to be a bunch of different people operating it.

    Sorry for all of the negatives, but I've been running one for several years now. When they're freshly rebuilt, they can be great stoves and efficient heaters, but it sounds like you have some work ahead of you. Plus, if you were going to be operating it and dedicated to fiddling and tweaking it to get it in its "sweet spot" while running that's one thing, but I don't think it would be a good stove for a rental. Of course, in such a small space you could probably just run it on bypass a lot of the time, but that would negate some of the reason for having the cat in there, and I think you would definitely want that feature in an area where air pollution seems to be a concern. If you want out, you could probably sell it as is for the $300 you have in it already.
  3. Shari

    Shari Minister of Fire

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    Let's turn back a couple of pages in this discussion: You said you will be installing this in a property you intend to rent out to tenants. Have you checked with your homeowners insurance company to see if they will insure a non-owner occupied rental unit with a wood stove?
  4. Kenster

    Kenster Minister of Fire

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    I've owned several rental properties over the years. I don't think I would consider ever putting a wood stove in one. Too much of a learning curve to learn how to properly and safely run one - IF the tenant was even interested in doing it properly - and that's highly doubtful. I doubt a wood stove is an enhancement that would bring in extra rental income. I would cut your losses and sell the stove as is, or go ahead and fix it up nicely and sell it for a premium. Then I'd remove the stove pipe from the house, patch the holes, and be done with it. You'll sleep better at night.
  5. Fsappo

    Fsappo Minister of Fire

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    If you paid $200 for the stove and had to dump another $400-$500 in parts into it AND were sure you could put it back together using factory parts NO DUCT TAPE AND CEMENTING PARTS TOGETHER, and you could end up with a fully rebuilt Encore for under $700 + your time, you still have a hell of a good stove for a good price. I used an Encore for more than a few years back when it was the cats (no pun intended) meow. A fine stove. Burns very clean, super easy to operate. Those older stoves were designed to work off an 8" chimney though. May want to keep that in mind before going ahead with the install.

    I've rebuilt dozens of Encores in the day. If you have any questions you can feel free to PM or email me.
  6. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    Why did the linkage come apart? More importantly why wa sthe refractory falling apart? What else might be wrong in there? Franks would likely concur that the Encore is great when everything is working well, and that means everything has to be fixed at the sane time, otherwise you'll find yourself always fixing something and nothing is right. It's not that this can't work out for you, but the chances are remote that you can make all necessary repairs ,maintain the thing so that your tenants have years of trouble free burning, and not spend a ton of $ on it. Good luck, you'll get no shortage of good advice here, even we're not all of the same opinion..Happy heating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Thank you sir, for the quick reply.

    There's maybe a 50/50 chance that my son will move into the house, so I'm going to treat this like my own house. I really want to restore this stove - it was only a couple hundred bucks, it's exterior is in good shape, it will look Great even when it's not being used, and if I can make it anywhere near as good as my old Avalon, then I want to give it a go.

    I went to my local dealer and they can get the refractory assembly for $210 and he said that included the part that tucks in over the catalytic combuster. When I took it into the dealer he said my cat was ok and I guess that swayed my decision because I could at least run it for a couple more years with the new refractory and the old cat combuster.

    I asked the dealership to look at the upper and lower fireback and he really didn't see any problem although he didn't run a laser across the edge or anything like that. He commented that the gaskets looked pretty good and I told him I had already replaced them ;-P.

    Now I just hope that I can get it back together again and not have air leaks or other issues...
  8. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    Well, sounds like you're committed to doing this. Is the exterior painted, or flat black finish? If its painted and in good condition, that's a good sign. Paint flaking off and chipping is a sign that it was consistently over-fired. If the firebacks look nice and straight they probably are OK. Give it a good cleaning. Look for any problems along the factory sealed joints. You may need to take it apart some to do this. If need be, chip out the loose or cracking cement and put in new stuff. Vacuum out the cat, don't blow it out with compressed air. Check the operation of the secondary air intake and the bi-metal spring and probe.. clean it, or replace if its really dirty. Oh, and treat the refractory assembly tenderly.. like an old french car. You might even save the old one to use as repair pieces in the future. Have fun!
  9. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Thanks Brewz! The stove is painted (I should have the picture, sorry). It looks a lot like the newer models - bright and shiny black all over it and no signs of paint cracking. It has glass doors and they had just the faintest amount of smoke on them. The firebacks do look straight and are uncracked. It sounds like the parts are a long time coming though, so I will have to be patient.

    However, if my son doesn't rent it from me, I am still strongly considering the possibility of just putting in maybe a fake electric fireplace :long: because I do see that a wood burner could be a big problem/headache/lawsuit etc. I can probably make my money back if I get it all fixed up again.
  10. pgwisn

    pgwisn New Member

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    I just rebuilt my 1986 Defiant Encore 0028. The clip of the pivot-clamp assembly that holds the actuating arm for the damper had broken, and cracked the refractory chamber.
    I welded up a new, more robust clamp to replace it.

    To repair the refractory chamber I used a product manufactured by Unifrax, called Fiberfrax LDS.
    It is a ceramic fiber product, suspended in a sticky, water-based matrix, which comes in caulk tubes.
    I was able to 'glue' the refractory chamber back together, build up thin areas and chipped edges, and once heated it has bonded back together nicely.


    Since it is a similar material to the original ceramic refractory pieces there is no issue with using cement or other bonding agents which might have dissimilar rates of expansion and retraction and lead to further cracking.
    The stove has been back online for a solid week now, and it is burning as sweet as when it was newly placed into service in 1987.

    BTW, you can get the Fiberfrax LDS from McNeil* in Robbinsville, NJ:

    http://www.mcneilusa.com/

    * Only problem is it a water-based product and can not be frozen, so tey are hesitant to shoip it in this weather. I drove the hour and a half north to pick it up, as I really didn't want to risk it being no good, as it costs about $20/tube.
  11. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Thanks for the tip! I think your on to something especially if the unit is still repairable. In my case, I'm not so sure. I am not very well versed in wood stove technology, but it seems to me that a refractory assembly is a little bit like putting a big brick in your toilet - it displaces air is about all it does, but I went ahead and ordered the new unit, so I'll probably stick with it. At $20 a tube though, your idea sounds much more economical - then I could replace the cat too.
  12. pgwisn

    pgwisn New Member

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    Actually the refractory chamber isn't just a brick in the toilet.
    The catalytic converter causes the exhaust gases to re-ignite and the immediate area can reach very high temperatures.
    The refractory surround takes the brunt of that increased heat and protects the cast iron from becoming deformed.
    It is a safety feature to have that ceramic refractory material surrounding the "reburner" of your stove.
    Jet aircraft fitted with "afterburners" need special alloy stainless steel cones at the jet engine exhaust ports due to the increased heat.
  13. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    Very true. Anyway, if its in not too bad of shape you could repair it. The whole refractory package appears to be held together with refractory cement and sheet rock screws. You'll see if you purchase the new one. If its flaking excessively or has holes, etc, just go ahead and replace it. You might as well do it right and have the peace of mind while its operating.
  14. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Still waiting on the refractory unit. Seems that it takes several weeks (3+) to get that unit delivered then I still have to drive to my local dealership to get it. In the meantime I wanted to post a few of the pics I took recently...

    Attached Files:

  15. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    The refractory unit is in so I'm ready to put it all back together. Now a question about the Primary Air Supply. If I am reading the diagram right, the smaller handle on the right hand side as you face the stove (thermostat lever) should operate the primary air supply, but as I move it around and stick my finger into the primary air supply, I feel nothing moving. Does that mean I have to tear that apart too and see if it came unhooked?
  16. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like the steel cable which attaches the lever to the shutter is either broken, unattached at either end, or the tension spring on the lever is not set right.
    So, you may have to take some of the interior paneling apart to investigate. (PM sent)
  17. defiant3

    defiant3 Feeling the Heat

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    More times than not it's the draft control that fails, not the cable. Remove the small cover inside the firebox on the right side CAREFULLY. The draft control is actually 2 pieces riveted together, and if you're lucky it's the rivet that has come out. Hopefully it hasn't fallen down behind the core side and you can grab it, pull it ut and replace the draft control( or thermostat, some calll it) Good luck!
  18. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    FYI, the Encore and the Acclaim are all EPA models, even though made before (and after) 1990....they were made to the 1990 standards.
    That's why I moved out of the classic forum to the Hearth Room.
  19. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Thx, that makes sense. I had no idea that there was so much inside a wood stove...
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Some woodstoves are complex inside and some are simple. Both get the job done. I prefer the KISS principal of design, but the Encore wins in the looks dept.
  21. Wyld Bill

    Wyld Bill New Member

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    I have the same exact stove that I am currently using to heat my house. I am getting ready to replace it with a newer slightly larger Vermont Casting stove. I'm actually NOT going to bother fixing mine. It is blue enameled & the enamel is all chipped up all over the place. The damper "ear" is snapped off for the third time, both ardirons are snapped off, the automatic primary air set up is broke (much like yours), the windows are junk, so,...just too much wrong for such an old stove. I was going to advise the same for you until I saw the pictures. Your looks to be in better shape. That automatic temp control could be a huge pain to try to fix so good luck with that.

    Attached Files:

  22. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    You know, in hindsight, I probably should have just turned it in for scrap metal and just cut my losses. Bill, it looks like you got your money's worth out of yours - probably is time to buy a new one!!! If I were buying a new stove, I would got with another Avalon. I had the Ranier I think and I loved that thing. It almost made me cry to see it go because it had served me so well for so many years. Very low cost to maintain - put in new bricks once in awhile, that's it.

    Today was a good day though. Despite being absolutely sure that the primary air vent was not being controlled by the knobby on the side, today when I look at it in good light, it's working fine. I was more than a little freaked about having to tear apart another spot inside the firebox, but not having to do so allowed me to *almost* have my first fire in it. I need to bring back the metal shears to shorten up the stove pipe and I think I'll be set. Bought a very cheap thermometer down at Ace and hoping that it will work fine.

    The new refractory fit like a glove. My wife helped me cinch up the two backplates - I was trying to do it by myself last time and it was really an uphill battle. Got the new damper in there (I almost forgot that was supposed to be the "only thing wrong" with the stove according to the salesman) and somehow, by the grace of God, the linkage all seems to work. Although, I am wondering now how long that will last? The arm that brings it up and down seems to have the capacity to float a little bit and right now I've got it push up there as far as it would go. Could not get the old screw out of the one legged damper so had to buy a new one and was then able to tighten the bejesus out of it in the hope that it won't loosen up on that bar. I can see how having a bar or something to stop the damper from slamming the uber-expensive refractory unit every time you open it would be helpful.

    The day wasn't all rosy though. The one other thing in addition to the damper and the refractory unit that I had to buy, it was also missing the ceramic pull out handle (might be called something else?) for the front door, so I ordered that up from the dealer too. The door didn't want to close so I sort of leaned into it and tugged at the end of the knob while turning it, so the tab would slide into the groove along the top. It finally did and given that the stove just received about 65 feet of new gaskets it seemed like a pretty normal thing, but as I'm putting the handle down I see it's just crumpled. Doesn't bode well for the quality of VC products, so maybe I just need to replace it with a wooden one or something? I feel cheated - broken on the very first use!
  23. Wyld Bill

    Wyld Bill New Member

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    You could try a wooden one but I don't know if it would hold up to the heat,...I suppose,..the cooktop has a wooden knob on it & that gets pretty hot. As far as your door closing tight maybe the gasket was not the correct size or type. Also make sure the handle is spun in all the way clockwise.
    Good Luck & God bless
  24. stevedar

    stevedar Member

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    Want to put in a good word for the VC dealership in Woodinville, WA, Sutter Hearth. I went in with my broken handle, the guy at the desk smiled kinda sheepishly :roll: and said he could probably "fix me up". Came back with a big box full of ceramic handles that would fit my hardware. No cost, no wait, just Great Service.
  25. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Sutter started in Ballard. We got our Resolute from them in 1980. They are good folks. When I wanted to rebuild the 602 they provided a lot of good info.

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