Question: I recently purchased a home with a wood stove in the family room. I've never owned a wood stove before, and have learned a great deal from your site. I hope you can help me with a question, however. The stove is (apparently) an older-model Vermont Castings "Defiant" (I think it says "parlor furnace" on the back, somewhere), with solid doors, i.e. no glass. It's quite large, compared to some new stoves I've seen at dealers. When I cleaned the inside of the stove after moving in, I noticed a sand-like substance on the bottom, under the ashes. The bottom of this stove has raised ridges about an inch high, running from side to side. My local stove dealer suggested it probably was actually sand in the bottom and that I should replace it with low-sodium sand. Now, the older fellow at the stove store said it's a while since he's actually seen the model I have, and they don't sell anything quite like it anymore, so I just have to ask; was he correct? Should I put sand in the bottom of my stove before using it, and if so will the washed "play sand" I can buy at my local hardware store be good enough for the purpose? Answer: Yes, those ribs are designed to hold a layer of sand or ash in the bottom. The play sand will be fine. This layer of sand or ash serves to insulate the bottom of the stove against both heat shock and downward radiation. In addition, many users find that deep bed of ash in the stove bottom helps maintain a longer fire, as it cradles the embers and keeps them "live" longer.