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Advice for would be first time wood stove owner

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by GDuncanson, Oct 28, 2008.

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  1. GDuncanson

    GDuncanson New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2008
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    Loc:
    Coastal CT
    I realize the experienced owners here must get tired of this type of post; I appreciate your knowledgeable responses all the more.

    I Recently bought a cape cod style home built in 1935. balloon framed with no insulation in the walls. foundation footprint is 22ftx32ft. the fireplace is centrally located and is 29"H x 36"W x 18"D. In the cape cod, the house is basically divided into two halves on either side of the centrally located front door, vestibule and staircase going up (same upstairs, except stairs go down). doing the math, that's 600sf per floor. I built a single floor addition off the rear of the house which added 600sf of living space. when I did the addition I replaced all the old windows and the failing 30yr old oil steam boiler with a Buderus gas fired boiler that pushes hot water to a radiant floor heating system. upstairs I use low profile panels. In hindsite, I regret removing the old 1pipe steam system.

    the problem is the old half of the building. The heated radiant floor just can't compete with the cold plaster walls that radiate cold. The new portion of the house is toasty. The first floor is a single zone with thermostat by the front hall; with the temp set to 68F, the rear is in the mid 70's. The upstairs is a seperate zone and comfortable. (I have installed insulation in the attic). I see two alternatives which could be taken together but for finances I only want to do one at the moment. Insulate the walls in the old half of the house or supplement the radiant by installing a wood stove in the fireplace and distributing the warm air across the hall and up the stairs.

    I have educated myself a little on the pros and cons of insert vs freestanding, pellet vs wood. I've found this site helpful and am starting to search through the archives but my primary need is identify the brands which are not worth the steel they're made from. For example, I personally wouldn't be comfortable buying a stove from Home Depot. But is that founded? I'm leaning toward a free standing wood stove to put right in front of the fireplace. There are many brands out there; good brands that people are loyal to. I'd like something attractive, efficient, easy to clean and easy to light, trouble -free operation. I prefer simple and well built to one that is feature rich; just a personal opinion that it costs a lot for manufacturers to add bells and whistles without compromising the primary purpose of the car, appliance, bicycle, whatever.

    Anything in my post is open for discussion, but I'd like to talk primarily about shopping for a stove and how to find out if a particular stove historically meets it's claims and basic user expectations.

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  2. CT-Mike

    CT-Mike Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
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    Loc:
    New England
    I am not going to recommend a stove since I am a first year burner, but if I were in your shoes, I would insulate the original part of the house. If you don't, you are just throwing away money, regardless of what fuel you are burning.
  3. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Massachusetts
    As much as I would like to go out and get a stove/insert for heating, I think you need to address the insulation first like the prior poster indicated. My inlaws have a 1900's victorian, and 3 years ago they had blown in insulation put in the home....cut down the oil usage by about 30-40%. Cost was a bit more than an insert installed..but not too much more. I think the insulation is the way to go, and then look at the supplemental heat sources. (However, if you have a "free" supply of wood...screw the insulation and get a stove in there ...just kidding :)
  4. paulie

    paulie New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2007
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    Loc:
    SW Mich.
    INSULATE! by all means first if not completely at least get around those windows. And then get yourself a nice size free standing stove. I preferr a soapstone because they heat very evenly and they are very attractive to have to look at
  5. pyro68

    pyro68 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2007
    Messages:
    171
    Loc:
    east coast
    just an opinion, but you may want to start with deciding what your approx. budget is. Advantages of a free standing stove are less dependant on the blower, more heat radiating off stove, more styles ect. Advantages of an insert could be taking less floor space. Definately some advantages in purchasing from a retailer with good service, but depending on your budget & how long you plan on using the stove the "box stores" may offer reasonable temporary solutions. One thing to check if you are going freestanding is the clearances to combustable materials. If you are limited for floor space, watch that closely. Some of the "cheaper" units require greater clearances. Some great deals can be found on sites like craigs list or ebay if you do your homework first. Good luck and many happy woodburning years, there's nothing like it!!
  6. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    "Attractive" is pretty subjective. Everything else you described seems to me to be embodied in an Englander stove, which is, in fact, sold by the Big Box stores like Home Depot, so if you refuse to cross their thresholds, you'll not avail yourself of a terrifically built and performing woodstove at a very reasonable price. (BTW, I don't own an Englander stove...but I wouldn't hesitate to join that club). Rick
  7. Money pit

    Money pit New Member

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    Feb 28, 2008
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    Loc:
    Connecticut
    I am a newbe to but I agree to get your house in order first is a good idea. No sense in wasting the wood either. When it comes to the stove I chose the PE Summit insert and have been very pleased in my very limited experience. Good luck and welcome to the world of wood burning.
  8. elmoleaf

    elmoleaf Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2007
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    Loc:
    Southeastern Massachusetts
    I agree with the others. Get some insulation blown in those walls. Weatherstrip doors and anywhere else leaking air. Insulate any exposed hot water pipes in the basement if it's cold & uninsulated down there.
    Spend this winter learning about stoves etc. Myself, I'd lean towards the freestanding stove because no electricity needed and you can burn any clean wood. However, maybe you have a bit more money and don't want to monkey with lugging or buying wood and the mess? Maybe wood isn't readity available and you don't worry about the electricity going out in the winter? Then perhaps you might want to consider a pellet stove.
  9. GDuncanson

    GDuncanson New Member

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    Loc:
    Coastal CT
    My budget for a stove was the lowest estimate I received on insulating the old part of the house; a little over 3k. Insulation is one of the least sexy things things one can do with 3 grand. It's not attractive, but I hear all of you and my own voice saying it's the right thing to do.

    Thanks for the help.
  10. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    27,816
    Loc:
    Michigan
    Yes, insulation is hard to beat! For a heating unit, it is difficult to beat Woodstock. Get some of their literature (free). You aren't far from them so you might even want to take a drive to their factory. They are nothing short of a top-notch company and perhaps the easiest to deal with too. btw, they are having an open house, I think on Nov. 8th. There is a thread on here somewhere inviting all to attend. Wish we were closer as we'd go for sure. Good luck to you.
  11. mainemxz

    mainemxz New Member

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    Loc:
    Foothills of Western Maine
    Ha, i love all the shepards in the profile pics. Do a majority of woodburners have GSD's?
  12. CT-Mike

    CT-Mike Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
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    497
    Loc:
    New England
    Dunno about that, but they are the only dogs we will ever have. Can't beat them for companionship, intelligence, and protectiveness.

    We currently have two, Mercedes (our female - my avatar), and Mickey a rescued male. We also donated Jaro, our previous male to the CT State Police K-9 squad. He is currently certified as a patrol, search and rescue, and cadaver dog.

    Mike
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