New! Please help me figure out what stove/insert/hearthmount to get and how to get a good installer

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OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
Hi! This is my first post here. Reading articles and some other posts has been a help. But I am feeling lost and stuck as to trying to figure out what to get and how to get it to come together as a working system.

The more I can find a solution that is doable as to getting the unit, getting it installed, using it safely and easily, and so on, the better.

I am living in an old approx. 1930's bungalow house with an old cast iron what I think would be called insert (it is part in and part protrudes from the fireplace with metal sheets blocking off around it) in a fireplace. The chimney is not okay, needs a liner, and the old insert thing also needs to be replaced. I am afraid to use the unit as is, but very much want wood burning heat back up for when electric goes out as it does nearly every winter, and also probably more often for the ambience once I had it. It also needs things like caps to keep birds out and spark arrestors. I am not sure if there is anything else needed???

Apparently the chimney is too small for a regular stove pipe and would need an oval--I do not really understand what that means beyond the words. Also insulation, would I guess be a good idea, but I am not sure what that entails...filling perlite or something like that into the old chimney around a steel flue liner was suggested. It also needs the mortar repointed, and while I do understand what that means, finding someone who can do it is something that I have so far not managed.

This morning I got the website www.nficertified.org. I am going to be looking for certified installers in my area. Any suggestions as to questions to ask and so on, in order to find someone good would be appreciated. Or any other leads on how to find a good installer and how to work with them?

My son and I have allergy-like issues and are sensitive to outgassing, so something that does not create smoking paint or smoke into the room, fumes, odors, etc., would be very important. Also a unit that allowed at least some water to be heated on top, or a stew to cook would be very helpful when we lose power, so that something that comes at least part way out into room would be helpful, or else something freestanding that vents into chimney... or even something that doesn't involve the old chimney area at all--though the way the house is set up how/where to do that is not obvious.

I am thinking that maybe something with soapstone would be good for us. If so, the two companies I have identified are Hearthstone and Woodstock. Are there others? Or other suggestions you might have?

I think Hearthstone where there is a dealer in the nearest city might be far easier than Woodstock (and also I think the Hearthstone Hearthmount would fit the space we have probably), but reading on the ratings here, there was a one star rating for the Hearthstone and expression of great dissatisfaction with the local dealer/installer, which gives me pause. I have read that some people have also had problems with the ash pan and the door not fitting well or hardware that is flimsy or something along those lines. ????

I also saw a Lopi Revere which looked like it could fit and give cooking spot in an emergency, but I thought maybe the longer radiant heat from soapstone could be better, and also not having as much painted metal area to smoke since I was told that they often smoke when new. Though I do not know for sure.

The opening of the old fireplace as best I can tell behind the metal is a bit short of 29" tall, and 34 or 35" wide.
When I put in a tape measure it only goes in 14" from the brick front, but I am not sure if the metal was put forward from where the real back is. The existing hearth area has what I believe is concrete coming out 18" from the brick edge (less from the front of the old insert), plus a line of 8" tile in front of that, flush with a wood floor.

A wooden mantle starts 50" above the floor, with wooden side edges out 34" from the center point of the fireplace. The brick is painted, but I presume red brick under the paint on the inside. Outside the house the fireplace and chimney masonery is, I believe, a concrete block that was formed so that it looks like stone ("ashlar"?) on the outer surface. It is not in great shape. The chimney looks like it would only be 8" deep at deepest, but I think it could be smaller than that for the sweep to have told me it is too small for a round steel liner. Alas, I did not get actual dimensions recorded. No cold air seems to pour in from the old fireplace area, so I am thinking maybe someone stuck fiberglass up there when they put in the insert or something along those lines.

The house is 2 stories plus a basement, and I'd be wanting the stove on the main (first) floor (at least I think that would be best for heating, enjoyment, not having to carry wood/ash so far and also for good draft reasons. If, however, the existing fireplace/chimney cannot be used, the only place that gives a largish space to perhaps site a completely freestanding wood stove would likely be in the upstairs, or perhaps down in the basement.

I live in Western Oregon where it tends to be wet/damp for a lot of the year, with extremely cold/freezing less often (though electric often goes out when it is freezing and icy). The house is not insulated. Rooms are small, but there is an opening from the living room to dining room, and a hole was cut into the ceiling up to the bedrooms to allow hot air to flow up (at least to some degree). The household includes myself, my rather rambunctious 12 year old adoptive son, and dog, cat, so also, things that are not too delicate or that would require a strong adult man to manage it are plusses. We have a lot of Douglas fir and maple trees that tend to lose branches or more during storms and being able to use those (once seasoned) would be ideal. Would a branch that has been cut into suitable lengths be okay?

I am sorry this was so long. Any help would be tremendously appreciated!
 
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branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,758
southern NH
Welcome to the forums. When you visit the local hearth shops, you should get some feel for whether they are honest or just trying to sell you. When they give suggestions for stoves and liner systems, ask WHY they suggest such and such, and report your findings back here. The forum members can help give an idea of when a dealer is talking sense or nonsense. Do the same thing with local chimney sweeps.... even if they do not sell stoves, they may have suggestions as to lining and installing. Get quotes from them all on insulated liner systems and installs, independent of which actual stove you might be considering..

If you find a sweep/installer that you like and trust, rather than a stove shop, I would seriously consider a Woodstock.If that sweep/installer will work with you and Woodstock, you will find Woodstock to have both a wonderful product and a wonderful customer service and tech support staff, and dedication to successful burning that goes well beyond a a standard warranty. That is not to say there are not other great companies too, but if you end up with an installer that lets you down, you can be assured Woodstock will not let you down. Most other manufacturers leave it to their dealer networks to iron out problems, so with Woodstock being its own dealer, you don't run the risk of getting stuck with a non-supportive dealer.

Due to frequency of power outages, I suggest a freestanding wood stove rather than an insert, which needs an electric blower to be most effective. As for the type of wood you use, as long as it is fully seasoned, any species or size is fair game. (My first season I had no dry cordwood, and scrounged dead and dry branches that fall and winter... hence the handle "branchburner".)
 
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Sons924

Burning Hunk
Mar 7, 2013
243
any new insert or stove will off-gas and release fumes into the air each time a new burning temp is reached. Just open the windows and doors it will go away and not happen again.
 
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OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
I think the first thing I need advice on is how to work with (talk with) shops and others in the field. I live a way outside of the nearest city and it is hard to get people to even come out.

One person who deals in Tulikivis did, but it seems like putting one in as a retrofit would be extremely difficult--and in a catch-22 it seemed like he could do the stove/chimney part, but I would need others to rebuild certain aspects of the house and that got into a dead-end of being unable to achieve it. Anyway though, it was this person who said that the chimney needs an oval liner and that putting in perlite would be needed to insulate it. A chimney sweep is who told me the old chimney would not be safe without a new liner, and that a new liner cannot be put to the old no longer code stove. (Incidentally, as I read more, I am starting to think the old stove may be not an "insert" but rather a very small freestanding stove placed part way into the old fireplace, and vented up into the chimney.)

Let's say I walk into a dealer in the city nearest us. I can look around at what is in the showroom, get brochures, but so far, that is about it, salespeople are mostly polite, but not forthcoming. It seems more like if one knows what one wants and has a checkbook one can buy it. Are they supposed to make suggestions and advise and so on? That has not happened. How does one get that to happen?

This review here https://www.hearth.com/talk/ratings.php?do=viewrating&ratingid=3857 is the only one I found that was from someone dealing with a dealer in my same nearest city area. This was the most forthcoming dealer I have found so far, just to talk to, not yet at the point of them coming out, and they even carried a brand I am interested in, so I was terribly disappointed by that review.


Suggestions please?
 
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Cynnergy

Feeling the Heat
Oct 15, 2012
451
Coast, BC
I have found that the old saying of a picture being worth 1000 words is really true. Perhaps you could draw a diagram of your current setup (with some measurements) and email that or take it around to various stove shops? Pictures are good too - get inside from a couple of angles, plus pics of the chimney from the outside at a minimum. Once you have a better idea of the stove you might want, the dealer or a sweep might be more likely to come out to have a look. Post them here and we can give advice too - a floor plan and the approx size of each floor will be helpful. A freestanding stove on the hearth will likely be cheaper than an insert and better for power outages, and you can cook on it.

It sounds like the advice that you've been given is good so far. An oval liner is just that - normal liners are stainless steel tubes that are round, most modern stoves take a 6" diameter liner. More if it's insulated (they come in unlined & lined with insulation wrapped around them - you can also put an unlined liner up the chimney and insulate it with something you pour down around it - there are a couple of options there too). If there isn't space to put in a round liner because the chimney is small and rectangular, you can put in an liner that's oval-shaped. It won't matter to the draft or anything as long as it's the proper size and you have the correct adapter part to fit it to the stove.

If you want to burn full-time, and you don't want to buy wood, you'll need a chainsaw. I can't even start DH's chainsaw because it takes too much 'man'-power, but I think there are some spring-assisted saws that some other sistas on the forum use. If you can drag the branches over to the house, you could also look into an electric chainsaw. Don't forget safety equipment like bucking pants, etc. A stove shop should be able to tell you where to get this. And if you're on the wet side of Oregon, you'll need a woodshed or somewhere dry to keep the rain out - you'll need wood dried at least a year to get the best performance out of a stove.
 
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kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,924
07462
OregonMom - all stoves whether insert or free standing will smoke for the first couple of fires, It is the paint that is curing, some brands go further and run a thin film of vegetable oil to keep the metal from rusting if its sitting in a warehouse, unfortunately everyone with a new stove has to go through this problem, but its usually on the first couple of break in fires and the smoke isn't really that bad, it only takes a couple windows open to clear out..as what others have said, shop around if you can and look at different stoves, have a certified sweep come in and look at the existing chimney and explain to you what type of liner you would need and why, also keep an open mind, just because you have a room with a chimney in it doesn't mean you have to use it, if the current chimney is going to cost big $$ to get up to par with a liner then ask if a separate triple wall chimney can be ran, I don't have any pics or a layout of your house, but with a good UL listed triple wall chimney you can either go strait up through floors or attic from your stove and out the roof, or do a more traditional and have the pipe on the outside of the house. I hope this helps, and do not hesitate to ask questions
 
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phishman

New Member
Nov 19, 2014
11
Scamville NJ
O-mom, as a fellow neophyte who is learning the hard way, I would just add that the more you know going in before talking with salespeople, the better. Take more time to fully understand all the different ways to line & insulate an old masonry flue. I believe there's a page on the wiki of this site on that. If not, do a web search. Also, make absolutely sure that a thorough cleaning will be done prior to any installation. Every hour that you spend in research will pay dividends (or avoid potentially serious problems down the road). And double check everything that is pitched to you BEFORE pulling the trigger. I know you're a bit late in the game with winter coming, but don't let that get in the way of making an educated decision. This is a long term investment, treat it with the respect it deserves.

Also, did both the Tulikivi guy and the chimney sweep recommend an oval liner with perlite?
 
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OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
O-mom, as a fellow neophyte who is learning the hard way, I would just add that the more you know going in before talking with salespeople, the better. Take more time to fully understand all the different ways to line & insulate an old masonry flue. I believe there's a page on the wiki of this site on that. If not, do a web search. Also, make absolutely sure that a thorough cleaning will be done prior to any installation. Every hour that you spend in research will pay dividends (or avoid potentially serious problems down the road). And double check everything that is pitched to you BEFORE pulling the trigger. I know you're a bit late in the game with winter coming, but don't let that get in the way of making an educated decision. This is a long term investment, treat it with the respect it deserves.

Also, did both the Tulikivi guy and the chimney sweep recommend an oval liner with perlite?

The chimney sweep did not say anything about that as I recall--only that there would be no point in trying to clean it to run old stove even in emergency because I might end up with a fire if I tried to do that....that I needed to figure out new stove options etc. The sweep was not in business of selling stoves etc. --they clean furnaces and chimneys and I was also getting my central forced air heat ducts cleaned, so we just left it at the ducts.
 

OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
I have found that the old saying of a picture being worth 1000 words is really true. Perhaps you could draw a diagram of your current setup (with some measurements) and email that or take it around to various stove shops? ...


Lots of good thoughts and info, thanks! I am going to start working on pictures. Can't post any from home, but my son says he can help when we are at a place with wireless.
 

OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
When I used the nfi Cerified installer search, it came up that there are no certified installers for wood stoves (yes for gas and pellet, but not wood) within 50 miles. There were only 2 for the gas or pellet, and one was (I think) the dealer for whom I linked the negative review about up in message number #5. Is there a way to search a wider area? But then where people do not want to travel out less than 25 miles, would there be any point in that? How important is being nfi Certified?
 

Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,416
Long Island, NY
Hay Omom, welcome to the forums, always nice to see another Sistah here !!!

Pics and a layout are going to help.

Thinking about some insulating in the house is going to help you retain heat. It's going to be a plus.

Do you have a local fire wood supplier to help you get started? If not, wet firewood is going to be an issue, and frustrate you endlessly.

If you want to cut branches, etc a battery operate small bar chain saw would be a help, I have one, and love it. With carpel, I don't trust yself with a full blown chain saw any more. I leave that to the Dixette and my friends.

Hang in, here. We'll get it figured out.

Trust your gut !!
 

OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
Hi, Thanks for all the welcomes and ideas so far! We are still working on pictures.

For questions about things like certified installers should I make a new separate thread with thread title that fits?
 

F4jock

Minister of Fire
Nov 12, 2014
1,603
Red Rock, PA
When I used the nfi Cerified installer search, it came up that there are no certified installers for wood stoves (yes for gas and pellet, but not wood) within 50 miles. There were only 2 for the gas or pellet, and one was (I think) the dealer for whom I linked the negative review about up in message number #5. Is there a way to search a wider area? But then where people do not want to travel out less than 25 miles, would there be any point in that? How important is being nfi Certified?
One question: Why do you want to go wood? I'm assuming you are a single mom? If so wood is a lot of work to realize the max economy - unless money is not a problem. What is your preference and why? Have you considered pellets?
 

Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,416
Long Island, NY
Hi, Thanks for all the welcomes and ideas so far! We are still working on pictures.

For questions about things like certified installers should I make a new separate thread with thread title that fits?

I would keep it all here, it'd be your own personal thread ;)
 

OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
One question: Why do you want to go wood? I'm assuming you are a single mom? If so wood is a lot of work to realize the max economy - unless money is not a problem. What is your preference and why? Have you considered pellets?


When you write that it is a lot of work to realize the max economy, what do you mean? What would it take to be able to heat by wood for maybe 3 weeks per year when there is no electric service due to storms, plus woodstove fires other times during the fall and winter as desired, but not necessarily every day (or am I missing something and do the fires have to be done daily or some problem develops?) Part of why I am interested in soapstone is to be able to have longer heat with less time burning.

The main reasons for wood are:
1) I need a woodstove (or equiv.) to work without any need for electricity. The only pellet stove I know of that can do this is "WiseWay"--do you know anything much about this stove? I cannot find much info about it, and other than that so far as I know pellet stoves require electric--I need something that will work during electric outages, without generators, battery packs etc.
2) wood seems to put out a less toxic smoke (at least if done right) from the pov of allergies and chemical intolerances than other combustible fuels--including pellets. -While inside an area heated with a pellet stove has sometimes seemed okay, (though not always) the outside has often seemed very polluted by them, esp. in this area where smoke tends to hang around and not rise up and blow away. Even the pellets themselves as they are when being stored seem sort of toxic/outgassy sort of like particleboard is. Do you know how the WiseWay is in this regard?
3) speaking of the difficulties of wood, this is probably not the right forum, but if we were trying to get wood that is already down right now ready for seasoning and so on, what do we need to do? Does it need to be split before it dries or does that happen later, or does it matter?
4) yes, I'm a single mom of a son, a relative's child who was left orphaned who I adopted ... I am getting older and weaker, but he is getting bigger and stronger, so maybe he will be able to help with the wood soon.
5) The effort of dealing with wood does worry me, but we are out in the country and we have it here, probably enough to do what we need to do for back up when electric goes out, plus some fires for fun and ambience just with what comes down in storms or is cut by the electric co when they clear under wires (that is what is available right now which it would be good if I do with it whatever needs to be done so it can season properly). In fact, my son cut down some smallish trees that were shading out our vegetable garden/blueberries, and that too is available right now...well, he says he is going to use it to make a log cabin, and a few of the trunks have been made into tipi poles, but practically speaking preparing most of it for fire use would probably make sense. Anyway, the effort and learning curve with the wood seems like it would be a lot, but so far as I can tell, with wood there would be a few tools to buy, but once bought we would have them and the wood grows here. With pellet stove we would always have to buy the pellets.
6) I love the look and feeling of woodfires, so long as I am not getting a smoke problem from them. The pellet stoves I've seen have not been ... I dunno. I can't really quite explain it. Gathering around the pellet stove just doesn't feel the same to me.
7) I think with a WiseWay I would still have the same issues of how to line a flue properly, find suitable installer, have a suitable hearth, etc. as I do with a wood stove.


????

Thoughts?
 

branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,758
southern NH
if we were trying to get wood that is already down right now ready for seasoning and so on, what do we need to do? Does it need to be split before it dries or does that happen later, or does it matter?

The effort of dealing with wood does worry me

Live/green wood should be cut, split and stacked off the ground (on pallets, for example) for at least a year for best results. Stuff that's long-dead and fairly dry can be used much sooner -- cover the tops of the stacks to keep it dry.

If you get a wood stove, keep in mind: you can always BUY wood, just as you might buy prepared meals that you could have instead prepared yourself. Some people, like myself, are so cheap they can't conceive of paying for something that grows for free behind the house... but why not? If I was to buy my wood I'd still be saving a huge amount compared to oil. (On the other hand, I'v grown too lazy to garden because food is relatively affordable and plentiful).

The biggest problem with buying wood is it RARELY is fully seasoned, even when advertised as such. A few lucky souls have found honest wood guys who supply truly ready-to-burn wood at affordable prices... may you be that lucky, if the need arises.
 
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branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,758
southern NH
As I mentioned earlier, a good local sweep who doesn't sell stoves might do a fine install of a $2500 Woodstock soapstone... but if you are not going to use the stove that often, he could also help put in a $700 Englander from Lowe's or HD that will be just as functional.

I agree with your sentiments about wood over pellets. For your needs, I wouldn't worry about the differences in heat retention between steel, cast iron and soapstone... when the power goes out, they all amount to the exact same thing: perfect heat from dead trees.
 
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Cynnergy

Feeling the Heat
Oct 15, 2012
451
Coast, BC
I think your rambunctious adopted son will be a huge help to putting up wood and it will be a great way to burn off some of his energy. For only 3 weeks of wood a year, it shouldn't be that much - 1/2 a cord if that I would think. By the time he hits 16 you will probably be heating with wood all winter! Just make sure you both stay safe and ask questions in the wood shed for how to cut stuff up, etc.
 
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OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
Well, I'm about to try to post pictures, but have never done it before and not sure if it will work! If they work, the first will show the existing fireplace area with the old no longer code and not in use either woodstove partly fitted inside or insert as the case may be. (Obviously when we get things into working shape we cannot have books on top, desk right there, etc., but right now it is being used as a homeschool area.) The second picture if it comes shows more of the hearth area in front. I'll be trying to draw a floor plan and will also post that, if I can make things post.
 
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OregonMom

New Member
Nov 18, 2014
14
Oregon, USA
I can see the pictures I tried to send, but when I tried going onto another computer here at a library where I am, I can't. Could someone let me know if the pictures show or not?
 

Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,416
Long Island, NY
Well, I can't see them.
 

Grisu

Minister of Fire
Nov 1, 2010
4,121
Chittenden, VT
You are trying to upload them directly from your mail account. Put them first on your computer, then upload them into the forum software.
 
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Dix

Minister of Fire
May 27, 2008
6,416
Long Island, NY
Grisu, she's at the library.
 
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