Advice on which wood stove to buy

jfowler10

New Member
Feb 13, 2021
17
Burke, VA
We are going to build our retirement house in West Virginia, a one story with a walk out basement, about 2300 sf on the main floor and about 1800 finished in the basement. Since it is a new build, I was advised to not build the traditional fireplace with insert but have a free standing wood stove. I have been researching different companies and models and would appreciate advice. We have never had a wood stove, so please excuse my ignorance :) From online research, we are considering Hearthstone, Blaze King, Woodstock, and Lopi. Is there another brand to consider?
1, Is having the Soapstone on the stove as critical as they make it sound? We would very much like even heating and it sounds like soapstone delivers that.
2. Is cooking on top a great option for power outages? They make it sound so. Some soapstone models look like we couldn't do that.
3. If we can afford it, would you recommend having a 2nd wood stove in the basement? Would it be worth about doubling the cost?
4. How does the heat circulate to the other rooms? We have an open floor plan for family room/kitchen/dining room, but the bedrooms and bathrooms are of course separate rooms. Does the traditional furnace air handler move the heat around if we set the blower to "on" constantly?
Anything else to consider?
Thanks so much in advance for advice!
Take care,
Julie
 

NickW

Feeling the Heat
Oct 16, 2019
439
SE WI
Lots of variables... budget?

A wood furnace could be installed in the basement for when it's cold and you want heat distribution to the whole house or wherever you decided to run ductwork to. A stove is better than a fireplace for heat distribution, but a zc fireplace could be pretty good on the main level. Remember a woodstove or fireplace is a space heater and getting the air to circulate is the biggest challenge. A wood furnace is ducted to heat wherever the ducts go.

Each unit must have its own flue, but a chimney can have multiple flues in it.
 

jfowler10

New Member
Feb 13, 2021
17
Burke, VA
We can afford to do what we want by making trade-offs in other areas so we really just want to do what is best. We will have electric heat pump and water heater, but want the warm "free" heat of the wood stove (lots of trees) to hopefully heat the house. As we age we would probably not want the workload to run a wood furnace, but honestly I don't even know what that would involve. When it's just the 2 of us, we won't use the basement much except the workout room will be down there (which means he'll use it lol). For holidays we may have as many as 9 or more (hopefully the family expands) people home. Getting the air to circulate -- would running the heat pump on just fan pull the heat around the house? The way the house is laid out, if we put a 2nd wood stove in the basement, it would be right below the one on the main floor so they could have both flues in one chimney. That leads to another question: would we need a chimney (expensive?) Someone told me the fireplace inserts are really for retrofitting existing fireplaces and for new construction, the best option is wood stove in an alcove for more efficient heating. I prefer the look of a traditional fireplace but am willing to give that up for the added heat.
Thank so much for helping us!
 

GENECOP

Minister of Fire
Jan 31, 2014
726
Ny
Put the stove on the walkout basement lower level, set up a small area for wood storage to make it easier for you. Put some design elements in place that will help to convect the warm air below, to the floor above..
 
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Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
671
Massachusetts
I think it would be wise to consider a large cat stove in the basement for your purposes. Longer burn times so much less loading wood for you as you get older. Burning wood is still a lot of work but a big firebox box cat stove would at least save some of that work and provide the even heating you want. The basement to keep the mess down there and less lugging wood.

You can design ways for the hot air to rise through the stairwell and cold air to drop into the basement to create natural convection. There are lots of success stories out there heating this way. Basement might be 75-80, upstairs 70-75, something like that. You'll never get heat downstairs from an upstairs stove.

Soapstone looks nice and does provide even great but does have tradeoffs. The biggest being that it takes longer to heat up all that mass. If you're in a situation where you want big heat fast its not ideal.
 
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moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,667
Iowa
A standard wood stove install that is centrally located is a solid bet for performance. Centrally located being the important part if you are in the home planning stages.

My opinion on your questions.

#1 Soapstone importance...... Zero.
#2 Cooking on stove.... Novelty at very best. I have 3 grills if need be. Keep the mess off my stove!
#3 Stove on both floors.... Yes, and perhaps each corner as well ;lol Kidding. Having one on each floor is a great way to insure you always have heat.
#4 I would never plan on a central heat system blower moving a substantial amount of heat created remotely (freestanding wood stove). It has been a waste of time in my experimenting.

The brands you are looking at are well respected.
 

jfowler10

New Member
Feb 13, 2021
17
Burke, VA
Thank you for the advice so far. On having one in the basement only, I really want a fire "place" on the main floor. I'm attaching my draft floorplan b/c the stairway is not central so the heat would not come up through there to the usable space. Soapstone heating up slowly shouldn't be too much of a deterrent b/c we will be home a lot so I would think we'd just keep it going. If we don't go soapstone, what material do you think is best: steel or cast iron? Again, we're new to all this but would really like a consistent warmth, not hot and cold swings.
11 Feb 21 main level.jpg
11 Feb 21 basement.jpg
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
553
Eastern Long Island NY
Random thoughts:

-If you want even heat, a cat stove with thermostat works well. I'd say better than a soapstone stove, but I have no experience with those, so this is speculation based on the arrogant "it's not possible to improve on best"...

-Getting heat from the basement up through the stairs (if the basement stove would be at the black square) seems tough in your case as it'd need to go around a lot of corners to get to your living room. Moreover, you have a vaulted living room, meaning you'd need a lot of heat to heat the living room b/c a lot will go up. (Ceiling fans mitigate that a little bit - but it's not ideal.)
You also would need to provide a return for cold air to the basement stove - i.e. a second (big, 16") "hole in the floor" for optimal heat convection, creating a loop for the air to travel.

-I do not see your master bath going to get any heat here.

-I have not heard very good stories about moving heat around with a ducted fan system (that is used with a heat pump).

-A stove in the main living room (put at a place where the flue can go straight up inside) seems best. Get one with a big window for the flames. That'd provide heat for most of the time (when no guests, and working out does not need much heat...). If you want to shell out more $$ for a stove downstairs that you won't use much, that's of course fine.

-Cast iron or steel - I've had both. I don't think that should be a concern. For good stoves either way is good.

-If your home is new, and thus "tight", you may need an outside air kit; the stove uses air and sends it up the flue. That needs to be replenished by air coming in from outside. An (air)tight home might result in trouble there. So your stove *may* be best situated at an outside wall for the air connection.

-Check chimney height requirements for stoves you are interested in before you build...

-See if your builder can estimate the BTUs needed for your home (he'll be sizing the HVAC unit anyway, so he should know) - and compare to data on different stoves.

-I second the remark above: it's ideal if you can walk in with wood to the stove without too much of a trail of dirt winding through your home. The screened in deck could hold a rack, but is it above the patio? Stairs? (When getting older...)


Finally, some personal recommendations: I hope that other folks with other stoves chime in as well, but Blaze King is (for me, in my situation...) fantastic. Long even heat. And, since you have HVAC, see if you can put solar panels on your roof - gives you free heat pump heat...
 
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Rearscreen

Minister of Fire
Dec 21, 2014
697
Vermont
I assume your insurance company would want a main heating system, here in the north it is a requirement. If you want absolute even heating you should consider hydronic radiant floor - and a contractor who knows all about it and can install it properly. And, for the basement it is put in the concrete. Very efficient heating.
 

vatmark

Member
Jan 5, 2017
70
Nebo NC
Here's our experience. We have the main floor (I've attached image) and daylight basement which has 2 bedrooms, office, exercise area, bathroom, laundry room and mechanical room. You can see where our stove is positioned. It is a Jotul F500. We did not get it to heat our house 24/7. We wanted something that was nice looking but would also help heat the main floor if we were to lose power. We heard fireplaces lost most of the heat up the chimney. We have a heat pump for our heat. When we do run the stove it heats the main floor nicely except for the master bedroom which is fine with us because we like to sleep in a very cold bedroom. We put a floor fan at the other end of the house in the dining area to help move some heat to even things out. No heat makes it to our daylight basement. If you want to heat both your main floor and basement I would get 2 stoves.
 

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GENECOP

Minister of Fire
Jan 31, 2014
726
Ny
If you like the soapstone concept you could go much further, a Russian Stove, Masonry Stove will give you the most even heating off one or possibly two fires per day. Much less wood, much less loading for you, the downside will be the upfront cost, but I would go this route next time around..
 
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Caw

Minister of Fire
May 26, 2020
671
Massachusetts
What's the box above the firebox in his video, a door for an oven? Masonry heaters are pretty cool if you plan them out ahead of time. They just take up a lot of space and are very expensive.
 

GENECOP

Minister of Fire
Jan 31, 2014
726
Ny
What's the box above the firebox in his video, a door for an oven? Masonry heaters are pretty cool if you plan them out ahead of time. They just take up a lot of space and are very expensive.
yup, an oven..this guy explains things pretty well, downdraft VS cross draft...cleaning, wood usage..if you have a few minutes watch it..regarding size, his has a pretty small footprint considering the output you get. This guy burned a traditional stove for years in the same location, he just switched it out for the masonry heater..
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
553
Eastern Long Island NY
I do not believe the "much less wood". They can't be driving as much energy from the wood into the room as a modern tube stove or cat stove. While the heat release into the house will be more even due to the thermal mass, it's efficiency (btu per pound of wood) can't ever be as good. Simple energy flow balance will tell you that.

Hence it'll use more wood for the same house temps.
 
Dec 14, 2020
108
Lisburn, PA
Congratulations @jfowler10 on retirement and the new home. I never got to build a new home but have modified my family homestead built in the 1850's and my wife's family homestead built in 1971.
On my old log house I was able to install hydronic radiant heat in the floors with an outdoor wood boiler and a backup propane boiler.
We kept the wood stove with glass door in the living room and a antique functional Kalamazoo cook stove in the kitchen.
I highly recommend the radiant heat on a new build with an outdoor wood boiler.
On my wife's sprawling farmhouse, I removed the 2 oil furnaces (oil was cheap in '71 and I had to do a lot of adding insulation) and installed 4 water sourced heat pumps for both heat and central air. The fireplace currently has a small wood stove with glass door in the family/dining room which we use from Thanksgiving until spring truly arrives. We have a woodstove in the basement also which heats most of the other end of the house and preheats our electric water heater. The heat pumps siphon off heat in the summer to preheat our hot water so even when running AC full time in the summer our electric bill stays the same.
In both cases you can leave home and not have to worry about feeding the fire and when the electric goes out you can heat the house with the wood stoves.
We like to have the fire in the living room, but also enjoy being able to go away.
Good luck with the new build.
I'm jealous.
Perry
 
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GENECOP

Minister of Fire
Jan 31, 2014
726
Ny
I do not believe the "much less wood". They can't be driving as much energy from the wood into the room as a modern tube stove or cat stove. While the heat release into the house will be more even due to the thermal mass, it's efficiency (btu per pound of wood) can't ever be as good. Simple energy flow balance will tell you that.

Hence it'll use more wood for the same house temps.
Here is a past spirited discussion..
https://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/masonry-heater-vs-wood-stove.109766/page-2
 
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jfowler10

New Member
Feb 13, 2021
17
Burke, VA
Congratulations @jfowler10 on retirement and the new home. I never got to build a new home but have modified my family homestead built in the 1850's and my wife's family homestead built in 1971.
On my old log house I was able to install hydronic radiant heat in the floors with an outdoor wood boiler and a backup propane boiler.
We kept the wood stove with glass door in the living room and a antique functional Kalamazoo cook stove in the kitchen.
I highly recommend the radiant heat on a new build with an outdoor wood boiler.
On my wife's sprawling farmhouse, I removed the 2 oil furnaces (oil was cheap in '71 and I had to do a lot of adding insulation) and installed 4 water sourced heat pumps for both heat and central air. The fireplace currently has a small wood stove with glass door in the family/dining room which we use from Thanksgiving until spring truly arrives. We have a woodstove in the basement also which heats most of the other end of the house and preheats our electric water heater. The heat pumps siphon off heat in the summer to preheat our hot water so even when running AC full time in the summer our electric bill stays the same.
In both cases you can leave home and not have to worry about feeding the fire and when the electric goes out you can heat the house with the wood stoves.
We like to have the fire in the living room, but also enjoy being able to go away.
Good luck with the new build.
I'm jealous.
Perry
How on earth does the heat pump push the heat to the water heater? Did you hire a specialist to design this?
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
553
Eastern Long Island NY
There are heat pump water heaters. More efficient than resistive heating of water.
 

Rearscreen

Minister of Fire
Dec 21, 2014
697
Vermont
I have basically a dehumidifier hot water heater and it works fine if you don't have teenagers.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
553
Eastern Long Island NY
A tiny bit off topic, so I'll stop after this as we don't need a spirited discussion about that here, but there were a lot of claims, and no proper data regarding efficiency. There are advantages (small heat fluctuations, aesthetics - for some), but unless a dedicated secondary air system is present, it can't be as efficient as a modern stove. IF it were possible to contain and route the fire through simple channels as in a masonry heater, and get it more efficient than modern stoves, you'd be buying stoves designed like that in your neighborhood stove shop. In the end the masonry heater argument is thermal mass (which is not an efficiency argument), and the rest is essentially some baffling. The latter trick has been learned by stove mfg's and been optimized in modern stoves. I don't think they have missed the much more optimized version akin to a masonry heater...
 
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qwee

Member
Jan 17, 2013
93
A masonry heater can reach up to 2000 F. The smoke, the gasses don't have a chance to get out the chimney. One could say accurately, a masonry heater is nothing but a giant catalytic combustor. The guy in that talk (other masonry heater thread) said something like, after 8 years without cleaning he got less than a coffee can of ash out of a masonry heater. There is a reason why there are always masonry heaters in those wood stove challenges. There is a reason why many parts of Asia and Europe burn with mass heaters.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
553
Eastern Long Island NY
A masonry heater can reach up to 2000 F. The smoke, the gasses don't have a chance to get out the chimney. One could say accurately, a masonry heater is nothing but a giant catalytic combustor. The guy in that talk (other masonry heater thread) said something like, after 8 years without cleaning he got less than a coffee can of ash out of a masonry heater. There is a reason why there are always masonry heaters in those wood stove challenges. There is a reason why many parts of Asia and Europe burn with mass heaters.
This is the fallacy (and I'll really stop now): "no smoke, so it's better than the rest".
I have no smoke either. And I have no masonry heater. Any modern tube or cat stove, when operated as designed, is like that.
Moreover, to get the masonry heater up to temperature (so that there is no smoke) takes much longer than in my stove - because thermal mass... . Moreover, if you have 2 small fires per day (which is what is advertised for these heaters), you have 2 of those polluting start up phases.

I'm not saying these can't be decent heaters, that they don't have advantages (even heating - though my t-stat controlled cat stove does the same, for 24 hrs on one load), but it's not more efficient. At most it's as efficient as modern tube or cat stove.

I'll zip my lips now on this subject.
 

jfowler10

New Member
Feb 13, 2021
17
Burke, VA
Masonry is not an option for us, but thanks for the information. After reading all the valued advice, I think we might like a gorgeous bigger unit on the main floor and a smaller, quicker heat up (and less expensive?) unit in the basement to use when company is over. I've been trying to compile a pros/cons list. Long burn time overnight would be ideal so we don't have to start the fire from scratch in the morning. Not over/under heating is very important as well.
Which models of Hearthstone, Blaze King, Woodstock, Lopi and now Jodel would you recommend? (Was hoping to stay American-made). Will possibly start a new thread on lessons-learned advice on building a new home :)