Need help choosing Jotul F45, Craftsbury, or VC Aspen for my small fireplace with robust mantel

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New Member
Mar 24, 2019
North Carolina
We are redoing the fireplace in our 100 year old bungalow. Tasks are:

1. Replace mantel with period antique mantel made from beautiful quartersawn white oak. The mantle has hollow columns that need to be filled with something.. my thought was brick that works as hearth / shield (see pics)

2. Have attractive stove professionally installed in fireplace. (Must meet standards set by the Committee of Wife Decor)

3. Add beautiful art tile from Motawi tile to replace ho-hum brick
  • House is 1.5 story built in 1920, with 2300 sq ft, (1500 ft down / 800 ft up - finished attic)
  • Heating needs are supplemental, we want ambiance of fire
  • Though.... 6' from the hearth, in the wall, is 18" 2nd floor HVAC return... we could tap into that to get stove heat circulating
  • Stove room is 14x18 living room connected to 16x14 dining room via 4' opening
  • We have a new 100K BTU LP HVAC furnace with variable speed fan that does a great job.

Jotul F3CB in BBE is what we have our hearts set on after much research per my other thread. If a F400 Castine fit, we'd go with that.

We are stuck at #2 because of clearances. We are having a hard time finding someone who will think through shielded details with us (seems backyard fireplaces are much more appealing than wood stoves). We have spoken to 2 installers so far... they want to go insert or with something that doesn't need shielding or pull the stove so far into the room, there are horizontal draft issues.

The fireplace has a ~3" smoke shelf opening to the flue. The flue inner dimensions are 7" x 14"

Thanks for any help with the shielding requirements per pics below (and shield value of brick extension if we go with that.)

Chimney Open.jpg Chminey Mantel 2 Dimensioned.jpg Chminey Mantel Shielded.jpg 2019-03-19 20.01.03.jpg 2019-03-17 14.31.22.jpg
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Current thinking and assessment of all stoves:

1. F100 shielded works, but no ash pan annoys me and is too small. Pretty, but too small.

2. F3CB Mantel clearance of 34" looks like a typo. Why would it have a *higher* clearance than it's big brothers, the F400 or F500 ? It looks like it should be *24"* from top of stove thus falling exactly between the F100 and F400.

3. F45 shielded works out of the gate, but with the plain door, my wife is "not as excited about that". If only it had that pretty Jotul door... And why would an F45 work someplace where an F3CB would not? again it makes no sense.

4. Morso 3440 has alcove side clearance of 8", so it works with a 2" mantle raise or shield. My wife is "not as excited about that" (looks of stove)

5. Vermont Castings Aspen works out of the box, but VC apparently isn't the company it used to be.... I am "not as excited about that"

6. Moving the stove anywhere except the hearth is not going to work for aesthetics ( flue piping running across the living room ain't gonna work with my wife ;-) ) and practical reasons (limited floor space in a 100 year old house).

7. If we redo the entire firebox, does that change anything? We are looking for secondary heat, and having a nice fire warm the living room. A true alternate heat source would be great... but the 98% efficient gas furnace is very affordable to heat the whole house.

8. Raise the mantle. I have included a picture below with the mantle raised to meet the (insanely high) published, unshielded spec for the F3CB. According to the numbers below, I could drop it 8" to meet the larger F400 (again makes no sense...)

2019-03-23 19.19.35.jpg

9. Shield I understand that a non combustible shield, w/ 1" spacers gives you a 2/3 reduction according to NFPA 211 specs. Even at 50% reduction like the F45, this should get us somewhere for an F3

F3CB in BBE is what we really want to make work and it seems like it should with some simple shielding.
So I don't think you will get a cast iron stove in there. Your installers said an insert because they don't require the same clearances. I saw your other posts where you realized you can't go less than MFG specs. I do happen to agree with you about the looks. The reason the F45 has lower clearances is because it isn't a real cast iron stove. The F45/55 are steel stoves with a cast iron jacket.

I just moved to Maine from NC. I understand how cheap it is to heat a home there. However, I think you will want to heat full time with wood if you manage to get a cast iron stove in your house. Your wife sounds like mine. She will be happy all winter if you can even a small stove in there. Even a more convective design, like an insert, with a blower will probably feel better than the LP forced air heat. Your wife is hesitant now, but she won't have any ragrets, not even a single letter.
What about restoring your beautiful fireplace with ceramic LP gas logs and then putting in a wood stove in the dining room?
Thanks for thoughts. NC to ME? Dang. I'm happy with the cold, but even VA is too far north my wife.

For the Jotul F45, The Committee of Decor put out a statement "I would be fine with that"... and in our house "fine" is a euphemism.

We have found the Hearthstone Craftsbury clearances work (another iron over steel jacketed stove as I understand it). Has great looks, longer burn times and soapstone heat sinks. So that is the current plan. I've read reviews on here, and it seems they've redesigned the ashtray. Not sure of the baffle, but I know what to look out for...

I contacted Woodstock and they said their catalytics would work with shielding, but the manual says 12" clearance on page 5, but rep said shielded on page 8 goes down to 7". Getting clarification on that...

Gas seems pointless for all this money since we have a killer gas furnace. And gas stoves have that amusement park vibe where every-fire-is-the-same-every-day.

Mason coming in 2 hours to get quote of firebox and chimney work. I'll be done just in time for 70F lows. :-/
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The Craftsbury is a cast-iron stove, not jacketed. It's 22.375" wide and has 14" side clearances to combustibles, 36" top clearance. The 41.5" width between the mantel legs is shy by 9" needed and the 50" mantel height is 10" shy of the clearance required. There would need to be shielding extending out all around the fireplace opening to make this work. Is that ok?
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Thanks begreen. Page 9 of the manual explicitly lists fireplace install of 8" to side trim clearances, 14" to mantel. Wouldn't this work?

STOVE .. Width. x Height x Depth Clear MANTEL TOP SIDE >= MIN OPEN W X H (TRIM/MANT)

CRAFTSBRY PDF 22.38" x 26.13" x 17.38" .. 14" 10" 8" >= 38.38" x 36.13" / 40.13"


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Maybe. I have an old, original copy of the manual. Looks like it's time for a new one. For some reason the fireplace specs are much later than the clearance specs, on page 14. Thanks for pointing that out.

How deep are the mantel side legs? 18" + 22" = 40 so if they are less than 4" thick you are good on the sides. How deep is the mantel shelf? 18" + 26" = 44". The mantel shelf looks ok but it looks like the heavy brackets are below that requirement. Maybe discrete mini-shields on the bottom of the two middle brackets would help?
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Definitely clarify the Woodstock clearances, they are a favorite around here.

The Hearthstone is handsome if it can fit your clearances, especially in the enamel.

Also, my wife certainly would not live in Maine without a wood stove. It was her idea to move here, and she's even from Mass, but after winter really set in she was never more than ten feet from the stove.
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