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lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
My wife and I moved into a small, single-story brick home late last winter. It is just under 2,000 sq ft. About a thousand of finished living space on the first floor, with a basement the same square footage. Basement is unfinished, and the block walls are 7' to the floor joists.

The home is very poorly heated with electric baseboards, so we ran a Harman pellet stove in the basement to help supplement. It did help, but we did not get the heat transfer I was hoping for to the first floor.

We discussed putting a wood insert in the upstairs fireplace, but after a quote of $7k for the install, I am now considering venting the floors and putting something like a HearthStone Mansfield in the basement.

I like the idea of keeping the head/wood/mess in the basement, and I'm afraid the insert might have cooked us out anyway. Is the idea of a bigger/more efficient stove down there better thinking?
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
25,476
central pa
My wife and I moved into a small, single-story brick home late last winter. It is just under 2,000 sq ft. About a thousand of finished living space on the first floor, with a basement the same square footage. Basement is unfinished, and the block walls are 7' to the floor joists.

The home is very poorly heated with electric baseboards, so we ran a Harman pellet stove in the basement to help supplement. It did help, but we did not get the heat transfer I was hoping for to the first floor.

We discussed putting a wood insert in the upstairs fireplace, but after a quote of $7k for the install, I am now considering venting the floors and putting something like a HearthStone Mansfield in the basement.

I like the idea of keeping the head/wood/mess in the basement, and I'm afraid the insert might have cooked us out anyway. Is the idea of a bigger/more efficient stove down there better thinking?
Start by insulating the basement. With uninsulated walls you are sending as much as 1/3 of your heat to the ground outside.

If the basement is unfinished why spend the money on a hearthstone like that? Just get a basic looking steel plate stove that will crank out heat. No need for a fancy soapstone stove where no one will see it
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,532
South Puget Sound, WA
That is a pretty steep quote for a one story chimney. If it will fit, Costco sells a Drolet Escape kit with liner for about $1500. Add insulation for the liner and it is still under $2K.

Heating from an uninsulated basement is expensive with about 1/3d of the heat heading outdoors through the walls and floor. And a woodstove in the basement will still need a proper and safe flue system. I agree that if the intent is to heat from the basement, start by ending the heat losses through the uninsulated walls and floor. Do you leave the stairway door open when the pellet stove is running?

Post a sketch of the first floor plan including the location of the stairwell and the pellet stove.
 

lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
Start by insulating the basement. With uninsulated walls you are sending as much as 1/3 of your heat to the ground outside.

If the basement is unfinished why spend the money on a hearthstone like that? Just get a basic looking steel plate stove that will crank out heat. No need for a fancy soapstone stove where no one will see it

I didn’t realize the loss was that significant. The basement WAS quite frigid without the stove. We’re planning to finish the basement much sooner than later.

After we insulate, what are some stoves to look at? I would prefer to spend the money on something quality. I was set on an insert upstairs until I received a quote.

Does venting still make sense?

Thank you!!
 

lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
That is a pretty steep quote for a one story chimney. If it will fit, Costco sells a Drolet Escape kit with liner for about $1500. Add insulation for the liner and it is still under $2K.

Heating from an uninsulated basement is expensive with about 1/3d of the heat heading outdoors through the walls and floor. And a woodstove in the basement will still need a proper and safe flue system. I agree that if the intent is to heat from the basement, start by ending the heat losses through the uninsulated walls and floor. Do you leave the stairway door open when the pellet stove is running?

Post a sketch of the first floor plan including the location of the stairwell and the pellet stove.

I probably should have added that my chimney has two flues, one for the fire pace and the other leads to the basement where the pellet stove ran.

The stairway is actually open, and does not have a door to the basement. I will get working on a sketch of first floor and basement !
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,532
South Puget Sound, WA
Considering the Harman is new and paid for, the first thing that makes sense is to improve its performance by insulating the basement walls and if possible the floor too. That will make a big difference and will increase the heat available to head upstairs. Then it is worth figuring out whether that is adequate or if switching to a wood stove is desirable. When switching to wood there are several other considerations about whether the flue is suitable or needs a liner, negative pressure, and how the wood gets to the stove. Is this a daylight basement with easy outside access?
 

lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
Considering the Harman is new and paid for, the first thing that makes sense is to improve its performance by insulating the basement walls and if possible the floor too. That will make a big difference and will increase the heat available to head upstairs. Then it is worth figuring out whether that is adequate or if switching to a wood stove is desirable. When switching to wood there are several other considerations about whether the flue is suitable or needs a liner, negative pressure, and how the wood gets to the stove. Is this a daylight basement with easy outside access?
The harman was free. It was given to me by a friend that no longer needed it. It is old and a little finicky. Though it did put off heat, it sounds like my problem boils down to insulation.

It is not a daylight basement, but I do have very easy access. There are bilco doors and the back door leads down to the basement as well.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,532
South Puget Sound, WA
The harman was free. It was given to me by a friend that no longer needed it. It is old and a little finicky. Though it did put off heat, it sounds like my problem boils down to insulation.

It is not a daylight basement, but I do have very easy access. There are bilco doors and the back door leads down to the basement as well.
Insulating the basement will be a win regardless of choice of heat source. Post the sketch and we can look at improving convection to upstairs.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,187
SE North Carolina
My install was let’s round up and call it 6k$ for a very nice stove upstairs. It really was a splurge. I really like the way it looks. It heats the ok. I knew it was under sized a bit. There are always compromises. The Basement will get a budget Drolet insert from Costco. Sounds like you have the basement heat source. How much time will you spend down there? Get another quote with the same /similar brand and then ask for the cheapest option and make a decision. I understand why you might want to heat from the basement but I don’t spend time down there and I like watching the fire.
Just some thoughts.
Evan
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Yeah, insulate the basement so you can get an accurate idea on how much heat you actually need. Air sealing the ceiling on your house is an incredibly effective, yet inexpensive thing to do too. Once you find out how much heat you need, it'll be easy to figure out how much stove you need.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,472
Northern NH
You said a "dirty word" when it comes to heating a basement. Bilco Doors are one step away from leaving a window open. The are designed to be waterproof but not air proof. If you add up the width and length of cracks its a big hole plus the steel has zero insulation value. Mice also can pop right in and out. Many homes do not have an interior door to the basement or the door is cheap hollow core door. If you have the space the best thing to do is to build an insulated " doghouse over the bulkhead with a standard door but that only works with certain houses. The alternative is pick up an insulated exterior door and caulk the seams with a rodent proof caulking (if you ever have mouse issues). Wide gaps can be filled with spray foam. Some spray foam contractors will spray the interior of the bulkhead door but I have heard mixed results on how well it sticks in the long run .

They are convenient for sure but probably the second biggest heat loss in typical home (an open fireplace is number 1 by far). If you look around there are frequently surplus building material stores that sell damaged and salvaged building materials like exterior doors. A exterior door with a dent or used will work perfectly well for a bulkhead for cheap. Weatherstripping can be added to all the seams.
 

lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
You said a "dirty word" when it comes to heating a basement. Bilco Doors are one step away from leaving a window open. The are designed to be waterproof but not air proof. If you add up the width and length of cracks its a big hole plus the steel has zero insulation value. Mice also can pop right in and out. Many homes do not have an interior door to the basement or the door is cheap hollow core door. If you have the space the best thing to do is to build an insulated " doghouse over the bulkhead with a standard door but that only works with certain houses. The alternative is pick up an insulated exterior door and caulk the seams with a rodent proof caulking (if you ever have mouse issues). Wide gaps can be filled with spray foam. Some spray foam contractors will spray the interior of the bulkhead door but I have heard mixed results on how well it sticks in the long run .

They are convenient for sure but probably the second biggest heat loss in typical home (an open fireplace is number 1 by far). If you look around there are frequently surplus building material stores that sell damaged and salvaged building materials like exterior doors. A exterior door with a dent or used will work perfectly well for a bulkhead for cheap. Weatherstripping can be added to all the seams.

Lucky the Bilco doors lead down to a door that IS an exterior door! It might be the only good thing I have going for me haha!
 

lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
My install was let’s round up and call it 6k$ for a very nice stove upstairs. It really was a splurge. I really like the way it looks. It heats the ok. I knew it was under sized a bit. There are always compromises. The Basement will get a budget Drolet insert from Costco. Sounds like you have the basement heat source. How much time will you spend down there? Get another quote with the same /similar brand and then ask for the cheapest option and make a decision. I understand why you might want to heat from the basement but I don’t spend time down there and I like watching the fire.
Just some thoughts.
Evan

I spend some time down there now, and plan to spend much more once we finish all or most of the space. Unfortunately that was the second call I made, which was about inline with the first one :(
 
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lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
The backdoor leads to a small landing and down the steps to the basement, or up two steps to the left and into the kitchen. There is not a basement door at the top of the steps, just a back entrance door. Meaning air can flow freely. I hope these are not overly confusing, thank you!

IMG_7303.JPG IMG_7301.JPG
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,532
South Puget Sound, WA
That helps. If I have this correct, the basement stairs unfortunately are not oriented the best for supply convection. It explains why, along with the uninsulated walls, the pellet stove was not as effective as hoped for.



For basement heating it looks like a large fire-dampered supply floor register in the LR would be needed to aid circulation with the stairs acting as the return.
Screen Shot 2021-07-14 at 8.19.54 AM.png
 

lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
That helps. If I have this correct, the basement stairs unfortunately are not oriented the best for supply convection. It explains why, along with the uninsulated walls, the pellet stove was not as effective as hoped for.

For basement heating it looks like a large fire-dampered supply floor register in the LR would be needed to aid circulation with the stairs acting as the return.
View attachment 280246

That is correct, the stairs are not oriented properly... at least for heating purposes! Your depiction makes a ton of sense, thank you very much!

... I met with a very good friend last night that is a builder/remodeler (and conveniently heats with wood) to ask about insulating the basement. He agreed it was a good idea and will make a dramatic difference, but advised to hold off until the cost of goods come down (whenever that may be).
 

moresnow

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2015
1,781
Iowa
I'd leave the pellet stove as is/where is. Sounds as if it works fine down there. Even better if you insulate properly.

Put the new stove/insert upstairs. Perhaps the Drolet package that is very reasonable. Heating your upstairs from that basement arrangement is going to be a real challenge without significant alterations. I've had questionable success with a basement located stove in a much better configuration. If the pellet stove covers the basement your good.
I believe your back door, kitchen, living room and stove placement almost mimic my place to a T. Works great. My stove is actually in the corner nearest to where your stove would be. I load 3 or 4 days worth of splits in a vertical wood rack next to my hearth and have a couple cord outside the back door. I keep 2/3rds of a cord on the front porch and a cord in the basement for use during very cold snaps (no going out for wood). My 2 cents worth. Not to muddy the water......
 
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lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
I'd leave the pellet stove as is/where is. Sounds as if it works fine down there. Even better if you insulate properly.

Put the new stove/insert upstairs. Perhaps the Drolet package that is very reasonable. Heating your upstairs from that basement arrangement is going to be a real challenge without significant alterations. I've had questionable success with a basement located stove in a much better configuration. If the pellet stove covers the basement your good.
I believe your back door, kitchen, living room and stove placement almost mimic my place to a T. Works great. My stove is actually in the corner nearest to where your stove would be. I load 3 or 4 days worth of splits in a vertical wood rack next to my hearth and have a couple cord outside the back door. I keep 2/3rds of a cord on the front porch and a cord in the basement for use during very cold snaps (no going out for wood). My 2 cents worth. Not to muddy the water......

I haven't looked into the Drolet path yet, perhaps even just for the time being. All info is welcome and greatly appreciated.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,532
South Puget Sound, WA
Make sure your contractor understands the proper method for insulating basement walls.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,472
Northern NH
Make sure your contractor understands the proper method for insulating basement walls.
As usual the good content on GBA is behind a paywall;(
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,532
South Puget Sound, WA
As usual the good content on GBA is behind a paywall;(
Yeah, that is a pita. Here is a video. There are several with different approaches for moisture control. This one has some good pre-insulating tips. Check those gutter drains.

 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,472
Northern NH
One critique of the video, they should have removed the fiberglass from the sill boxes and foamed the sill boxes down over the sills and around the carrying beam once the pink foam is in place. The sills are a major potential infiltration point and once that walls are up, its very difficult to do it right. Foaming after the pink stuff is up will seal that area real tight.

With a nice high basement like that, they should lay down foam on the floor.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
1,501
Eastern Long Island NY
And lol, thisoldhouse - my was that basement new....
Also, I'd tape the seams between the foam boards...
 
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lawn717

New Member
Feb 15, 2021
37
PA
Yeah, that is a pita. Here is a video. There are several with different approaches for moisture control. This one has some good pre-insulating tips. Check those gutter drains.

That's a stark difference than how I was intending to insulate, thank for sharing!
Are floors mentioned at all?