Wanna help me choose a soapstone or cast iron stove?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Annalea

Member
May 1, 2012
22
Hi everyone,

I'm a brand-spankin'-newbie here, and can't tell you how glad I am to have found Hearth.com. We're finishing our place on a tight schedule (owner of the rental is selling, and we don't want/can't afford to move twice, especially when we're so close!), and I really need to get the stove figured out.

Details:

Smallish space (700-ish sq ft). Building is 24x36, but due to attic trusses, the floor space inside is smaller than the 836 of the footprint. Ceiling is close enough to usual to not be a factor. (Higher in the middle, at 11', but only 7.5' in the living room & bedroom, due to attic trusses.)

We've got a corner to put the stove in, in the kitchen area, that's 32" deep x 50" wide (or within a few inches). I'm fine with having the tile come out into the walkway, as it'll be the same height as the hardwood. I just don't want the stove to reach out into the traffic pattern. I'd love a side-loading stove for this very reason; but it's got to load from the left. (Fwiw, I'm planning on ceramic tile on the walls (basic subway in white) and some kind of stone tile on the floor--just have to find something that'll match the height of the hickory wood flooring.)

There are a lot of us (eight in the family--I know, we're crazy, but just trust me that minimalist living for a few years is a really good thing for us), so I'm thinking that a stove a little bigger than one would think would be a good thing, as we'll have a lot of airflow in the place just so we all don't asphyxiate in winter, (we'll spend most good weather days outside in the garden, woods, etc.). I also want something that will still have a good bed of coals after eight or so hours so we won't wake up to a frigid house.

Lest you think we're certifiable, this is on 12 acres, with woods and pasture, and we'll be building an ICF home in a couple years (gotta save for that while we have such a low mortgage). So, plenty of room for the kids (heck, all of us) to have some space and freedom outside of the little box that will keep us from freezing in the winter.

I've got my eye on Hearthstone stoves . . . I really don't want a catalytic converter because I'm worried about it failing or needing to be rebuilt. We need a stove that's going to be something we can maintain ourselves as much as possible. (If such a thing still exists . . . ;o) I love the soapstone, and the more gentle heat and less blistering surfaces . . . growing up with wood heat, I think it would be much better for a small space than a steel stove. (Or maybe cast iron would work, too? I love the look of them, but don't know much else.) My brothers and I lived in fear of the black steel stove we had. lol I do want something I could use to cook on if the electricity went out, or we went off-grid. (Both very real possibilities.) I'm thinking the Tribute is a little too small; the Homestead looks about right, but there's no side door, and I worry about how shallow the box is for loading & spillage; and the Heritage looks nearly perfect, (maybe a little big?) . . . but I've been around various blocks enough times to worry that there's really no perfect solution. (Which I'm okay with. ;))

I've been encouraged by the friendly and chatty feel of all of the threads I've read, (trying to figure out if I needed to post this question, or if it had already been answered), and I look forward to hearing what y'all have to say, both expected and unexpected. I really do love the Hearthstone stoves, but I'm open to discussing other options. (And my DH would love to hear about other, less expensive options. lol) I've done what research I can, but with packing and everyone sick this week (don't ask--it's not good timing! lol), I'm a little strapped for spare minutes in which to google something that I know so little about.

Sooooo . . . enlighten me, please! :)
 

BrowningBAR

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
7,607
San Tan Valley, AZ
Where are you located? How cold is your winter?
 

tfdchief

Minister of Fire
Nov 24, 2009
3,336
Tuscola, IL
myplace.frontier.com
I have the Hampton H200 in my kitchen, which is about the same size as Tribute. Check my signature for a review. Just an option. Welcome to the forum. If you want, members can be very helpful. Just keep posting.
Hampton 2012.jpg
 
  • Like
Reactions: ScotO

Annalea

Member
May 1, 2012
22
Where are you located? How cold is your winter?
Lol. Oops. Northern Idaho/Inland NW. USDA zone 5/6. We get a couple weeks of sub-zero temps each winter (ranging from a few degrees to -30, depending on the year), and usually need heat about seven or eight months out of the year. It stays pretty cloudy most of the Fall, Winter & Spring.

Thanks so much, BrowningBAR and Steve! Off to look at that review now....
 

Punky

New Member
Apr 28, 2012
9
Merrimac Valley, MA
Annalea:

Welcome to the Hearth site, lots of great stuff here.

I understand what you are saying about not wanting to deal with the calalytic converter, but you are eliminating some fine stoves from Woodstock Soapstone Company. Their Firevew and Keystone wood stoves have a long, proven track record of performance and will heat your smallish house nicely. I know there are other members (such as Dennis aka Backwoods Savage) who were unsure about the catalytic converter, but now are now very pleased with their stove. Many owners of Hearthstones are very happy, but if you want Soapstone there is not alot of choice out there, so I suggest you research Woodstock.

Advantages of Soapstone (in my opinion) are that it is a more "comfortable" heat than emitted from a similar sized steel or cast iron stove. The peaks and valleys of temperature extremes are moderated by the high thermal mass of the soapstone, so the room temps stay more even. I also like the looks. I never cooked on my Fireview, but I know some people have. Woodstock has been installing a cooktop on their big Progress stove, I wonder if they might consider making one for their other stoves? Good luck and keep asking lots of questions.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Backwoods Savage

Annalea

Member
May 1, 2012
22
Thanks, Punky. My main concern with catalytic converter stoves is that if it were to need maintenance in the dead of winter, when the power is out and we're snowed in, that it could be bad news for our safety. What's the story on cats? On the life of the converter? How well would the stove work without one (either a non-functioning one still in the stove, one with it removed), and what does it take to rebuild one? We don't live quite at the end of nowhere, but with small children and severe winters, I need to have something that wouldn't have the ability to turn traitor. Is there cause for concern in this kind of scenario?
 

BrowningBAR

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
7,607
San Tan Valley, AZ
As a Hearthstone owner, I would purchase a new Woodstock over a new Hearthstone. They are less expensive, more efficient, offer longer burns, and have better customer support.

That isn't to say the Hearthstone line is bad. But, if I were buying a new soapstone stove, the cost, burn times, and efficiency of the Woodstock stoves would beat out the Hearthstone stoves easily.

In regards to the Soapstone vs. Cast iron, I do not notice much of a difference between the heat of a soapstone versus a cast iron stove. For the most part it is personal preference between the two materials.
 

BrowningBAR

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
7,607
San Tan Valley, AZ
Thanks, Punky. My main concern with catalytic converter stoves is that if it were to need maintenance in the dead of winter, when the power is out and we're snowed in, that it could be bad news for our safety. What's the story on cats? On the life of the converter? How well would the stove work without one (either a non-functioning one still in the stove, one with it removed), and what does it take to rebuild one? We don't live quite at the end of nowhere, but with small children and severe winters, I need to have something that wouldn't have the ability to turn traitor. Is there cause for concern in this kind of scenario?
That's a pretty extreme scenario. I use both, non-cat and cat stoves. The only maintenance you will need to do, for the most part, on a Woodstock cat stove would be to swap out the old cat for the new cat. Not a big deal. A cat will last 3-5 years for the most part. Proper inspection before the burning season begins should eliminate the possibility of the catalytic combustor failing mid-season.

That doesn't mean I am suggesting you go with a cat stove. Some people just do not like cat stoves. But, if you are going with a soapstone stove, Woodstock is the way to go. They just happen to be cat stoves.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
In soapstone a Woodstock Keystone or Palladian would be my first choice for this setup. In non-cat, a Pacific Energy Alderlea T5. The T5 might be a better choice if there is a desire to use the stove for cooking too.
 

BrowningBAR

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
7,607
San Tan Valley, AZ
How well would the stove work without one (either a non-functioning one still in the stove, one with it removed), and what does it take to rebuild one?
A cat stove without the cat would be incredibly inefficient to use and you would lose a ton of heat. The only cat stove that needs to be 'rebuilt' is VC cat stoves. Blaze King and Woodstock only require you to swap out the combustor with a new one. Not difficult at all.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,349
Unity/Bangor, Maine
Random thoughts . . .

Welcome to the forum.

Soapstone vs. cast iron vs. steel . . . all have pros- and cons- . . . but the truth is, all get plenty hot to heat up a place and all can burn down a place or burn you if you are not careful.

Speaking of burning down a place . . . be aware that some stoves require specific insulation (R) value. Just putting down a non-combustible hearth of ceramic tile may not be enough for some stoves and their hearth requirements . . . something to think about. Two things you don't want to do when it comes to woodstove installation . . . cheat on the hearth insulation requirements and cheat on the distance to combustibles.

I like your thinking . . . while bigger is not always better . . . and you can go too big. In general, more folks here seem to buy stoves that are too small rather than too large for their needs. The advice I followed that worked out well for me was to figure out my spacing needs . . . and then pick the stove rated for the next size up.

Getting an 8 hour burn usually means a bigger stove or catalytic combustor . . .

Don't fear the cat . . . I am sure Backwoods Savage will be along shortly to tell you about his experience, but from what I've read (secondary burner myself) cat maintenance is very easy -- typically just pulling the cat and brushing the fly ash from it with a paint brush. The cats themselves seem to go for several years . . . they are not something that just breaks one winter in middle of a burn and you suddenly cannot burn any more. While it is possible to burn without a cat by bypassing it, you are missing out on the one-two benefits of burning cleanly and burning more efficiently.

Cooking can be done on pretty much any stove if you are looking to simmer a stew or soup . . . or even fry up a steak on some hot coals. I cooked some great rib eyes in my cast iron stove this past winter in fact after seeing pics from another member.

If money is an issue, Englander is highly recommended here. It's a steel stove, but it has a very good reputation. If I was to buy a steel stove today, I would go with an Englander or Lopi. If I was to buy a soapstone stove, I would buy a Woodstock stove in a heart beat with no issues. That said, I have a cast iron Jotul and it has been near bullet-proof . . . and it's why I will stick with my beloved Jotul.
 

Annalea

Member
May 1, 2012
22
Okay, this is FANTASTIC. Tons of info, several new stoves to consider (all of which are available locally! Yes!), and well-written, informative posts. I could kiss the lot of you. ;-)

Try as I might, I just can't like the Woodstock stoves. Their looks just aren't working for me, but the biggie is that I can't get past the idea that it would be unusable after a fairly predictable lifespan if I couldn't get a replacement part. I can stockpile gaskets, and even door glass, but those aren't expected to fail usually, are they?

So, that leaves me with the Hampton H200, the Alderlea T4/5, and a Jotul (can't remember which ones, but if I switch tabs on this iPad, I'll lose my post.). If there's something less expensive than the Hearthstone that would really work well, then the Heritage, et al, are out of the running. Now I need to look over the install requirements, and see what will work in our space, and go to the local place and see some of these for myself.

FYI: If the hearth pad needs to extend into the walkway, I really need a stove that doesn't require a really thick base. If I can get away with keeping it under 33", then thickness isn't an issue. There's no way I'll skimp on the hearth....for the same reason I have trouble with a catalytic stove--to keep peace of mind. :)

Keep the ideas, opinions, and all the rest of it, coming. I'm so grateful to have found this forum. I have a feeling I'll be posting here a lot more over the years, about all kinds of wood heating stuff. THANKS!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
Regarding the hearth, be sure to check on the stove's requirements. It sounds like you want an ember barrier only hearth in order for it to be flush with the current floor. If this is essential, it will narrow down the stove options.
 

PapaDave

Minister of Fire
Feb 23, 2008
5,739
Northern MI - in the mitten
Welcome to the Hearth, Annalea. Your climate sounds similar to ours here in northern Mi.
When I finally get around to getting my new stove (I have an older pre-epa plate steel), I'm starting to reconsider a soapstone cat.
Low, long, clean burns in the fall/spring, and more heat if/when needed in the dead of winter can't be beat.
From all I've read on here, cats need a cleaning occasionally and infrequent replacement. Folks with cat stoves will probably chime in soon enough.
Even with a side loader, your hearth sounds undersized after rear clearances and 16-18" in front are accounted for. That'll depend on the stove.
House layout/description, and maybe some pictures would better allow the real experts on here to help.
Hang around, we don't usually bite.;)
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
86,546
South Puget Sound, WA
Castiron stoves that would work: Jotul Oslo, Enviro Boston and Hearthstone Shelburne. In the Hampton line I would look at the H300. In Idaho I think you will be burning a lot of softwood. If so going up a little in size is going to help with longer burntimes. This is also why I recommend the Alderlea T5 over the T4.
 

mellow

Resident Stove Connoisseur
Jan 19, 2008
5,193
Salisbury, MD
Same technology in a Cat stove that is in your car exhaust, your car will not die and stop running if the Cat goes starts to go bad, it will just not be as efficient. You can run a Cat stove without the Cat in extreme circumstances, heck some people have removed the cats and run the stove for years, it reverts the stove to pre-epa standards and would need to be burned hot to discourage creosote buildup.

Long burn time + small firebox = cat stove

Sounds like you will already have a lot of body heat BTU's going, you just need a stove that can burn slow and low, take a look at Buck Stoves as well, they make a nice small cat stove.
 

Wade A.

Feeling the Heat
Nov 4, 2010
360
South
Hi Annalea...I'll let others try to sell you on a CAT stove, and I've owned both. Sounds as if the possibility of non-self-sufficiency with a CAT stove is a deal breaker for you, and that is that.

I will join with those who advise that the set-off from combustible requirements, and hearth R value requirements, are what is going to dictate your range of choices. They vary remarkably from manufacturer to manufacturer, and between the models. The unit you may have your heart set on may not necessarily be suitable. My advice is to download some stove manuals and most are available free on PDF. Then, take some careful measurements. Measure again. Have some coffee. Think. Measure again....you get the idea. A good practice is also to cut out a true-life footprint of the stove from a sheet of paper or cardboard. That will help you picture how it will sit. Shoot, you can even do a full sized mock up from the stove dimensions and really get an idea of how much space it will take up.

If it hasn't been said yet (and it will) you'd do well to get yourself busy on getting your first season's wood cut. Nothing takes the fun out of your first season of burning like fighting with damp wood.

And far from thinking you are certifiable, I want to see if y'all are taking in lodgers. Will swamp for room and board!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Annalea

PapaDave

Minister of Fire
Feb 23, 2008
5,739
Northern MI - in the mitten
Wade makes one of the most important points.....get your firewood. Don't delay, unless you have access to KNOWN dry wood.
Most don't.
I have an older stove, and had loads of fun (read that noting strong sarcasm) the first 3 years.
 

Backwoods Savage

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2007
27,812
Michigan
Okay, this is FANTASTIC. Tons of info, several new stoves to consider (all of which are available locally! Yes!), and well-written, informative posts. I could kiss the lot of you. ;-)

Try as I might, I just can't like the Woodstock stoves. Their looks just aren't working for me, but the biggie is that I can't get past the idea that it would be unusable after a fairly predictable lifespan if I couldn't get a replacement part. I can stockpile gaskets, and even door glass, but those aren't expected to fail usually, are they?

So, that leaves me with the Hampton H200, the Alderlea T4/5, and a Jotul (can't remember which ones, but if I switch tabs on this iPad, I'll lose my post.). If there's something less expensive than the Hearthstone that would really work well, then the Heritage, et al, are out of the running. Now I need to look over the install requirements, and see what will work in our space, and go to the local place and see some of these for myself.

FYI: If the hearth pad needs to extend into the walkway, I really need a stove that doesn't require a really thick base. If I can get away with keeping it under 33", then thickness isn't an issue. There's no way I'll skimp on the hearth....for the same reason I have trouble with a catalytic stove--to keep peace of mind. :)

Keep the ideas, opinions, and all the rest of it, coming. I'm so grateful to have found this forum. I have a feeling I'll be posting here a lot more over the years, about all kinds of wood heating stuff. THANKS!
Welcome to the forum Annalea. You sound a bit like my wife and I when we last went stove shopping. We too were afraid of the cat stoves and the Hearthstone line was the first ones we looked at and loved the looks especially of the Heritage. Now we are very happy that we shied away from the Hearthstone line. We also liked some of the Lopi stoves. But in the back of our mind, we had seen some brochures or advertisements from Woodstock many years previous so we talked to them. Awwwwwwww. The danged things have a cat. No.

Long story short, they set me up with a Woodstock owner and we paid them a visit. I laughed when I first saw the stove. "How on earth would that little stove heat our drafty old house?" It turned out that I had some business dealing with this man many years ago and he is very well respected. He told us things about the stove and especially about Woodstock that just about blew our mind. Could any company possibly be as good as this man projected?

We ordered a Fireview. That was in February 2007. We installed it in September 2007 (the 6 month guarantee was extended for us). There was a short learning curve with this stove but we caught on right away. Here is one picture showing the stove and the wood rack on the porch. Notice how close to the stove the wood is but still outdoors. Nice.
101_0523.JPG

But what about the stove? Best thing I can say is that it cut our wood needs right in half! That's right, we burn only half the wood we used to. Actually now even less after adding some insulation to the house. Another thing is how clean this stove burns. We have cleaned our chimney one time in 5 years. It was 3 years ago. Today the chimney is still clean as is the cap. This means less work.

So we have less work in cleaning the chimney and less work putting up the firewood. What about this maintenance thing? Good question and I'm glad you asked. The cat does need to be cleaned every now and then. Of course if you have good wood, which any stove needs, then you can do like we do. We clean it once during mid winter and once during the annual summer cleaning. We could easily skip the mid-winter cleaning and probably will next winter. So how is this cleaning accomplished? Glad you asked?

To clean the cat, you wait until the stove needs wood. We wait until a nice warm day, like a January thaw. Rather than adding wood, we do let the coals burn down a little bit more. Woodstock naturally says to let the stove get cold. We just wear welder's gloves, which happen to be the same pair we always wear when adding wood. So we put the gloves on, lift the top lid, reach in with one hand and lift out the cat. I take it to the porch and lightly brush it with an old paint brush. Put the cat back in, close the lid and add wood. Total time to clean the cat is usually 2-3 minutes.

What about gaskets? Woodstock had a maintenance kit they put together that has everything you need including instructions. We have replaced one gasket as we were not happy with the way it came from the factory. No charge for the gasket or cement. We replaced the cat last winter. No charge.

Customer Service. Woodstock is second to none! You can do a search on this forum and read many, many posts about Woodstock's customer service. You can call them six days a week on a toll free line. The are extremely helpful in all aspects. And do not forget that famous guarantee. If you buy their stove and decide it is not the stove for you, there is the six month full money back guarantee. Not many that I know of who can match this.

Oh yes, what about this cooking thing? Well, during the winter months it seems to be quite rare that my wife does not have something cooking on this stove. It works great.

Good luck to you no matter how you go on the stove.

Now I could and probably should go on and on about the wood. If you intend to burn wood, it should already be split and stacked and out in the wind to dry NOW! Do not make the common mistake of putting in the stove and then getting the wood. It does not work! Wood needs time to dry and if you buy wood, beware. You no doubt will not be able to buy dry wood even though you will be told it is ready to burn. So do yourself a favor and get the wood now.
 

tfdchief

Minister of Fire
Nov 24, 2009
3,336
Tuscola, IL
myplace.frontier.com
So, that leaves me with the Hampton H200, the Alderlea T4/5, and a Jotul
I should have said, the Hampton H300 is a little bigger and maybe a better choice if you are considering that brand. There are a lot of really good choices offered here by many.....always a tough choice.
 

Annalea

Member
May 1, 2012
22
Okay, to help clear up some confusion about placement and hearth size, here is the floor plan. Please be sure to read the notes below it. :)



Okay, here's the key:

Black box: Ikea's approximation of a woodstove. 24" x 24"
Blue square to the right of stove: Approximation of water heater closet.
Blue skinny rectangle to the left of stove: approximation of a railing to help keep small children away from stove. (Our youngest is about 18 months.)

The space for the stove isn't an alcove--just an L-shaped wall that's open to the kitchen & living room (living room is off to the right, not visible in this plan).
The L shape is 30" deep and about 50" wide. That's why the non-combustible floor needs to extend into the kitchen. So far, I haven't seen anything mentioned about hearth material thicker than tile being necessary for any of the stoves that I'm interested in. (Haven't read up on the Hearthstones, but the Jotul, Hampton, and Alderlea seem to all be good with that.) Half inch cement board and tile will match the height of the hardwood perfectly, and will meet code and install requirements.

I'm not willing to install a stove that would extend out into the room further than 30" (including rear clearance), so that eliminates the bigger stoves (the Alderlea T5, Jotul Oslo, etc). Speaking of clearances, how do I find out the recommended clearances for non-combustible walls? Jotul is the only company that mentions those in the manual. The others only talk about combustible surface clearances. And, that said, do I just figure that the wall studs are the combustible surface (even though they're covered in drywall, which has been shows in tests to resist temps of many hundred degrees, and not allow fire to spread through it even when the studs are aflame)?

Thanks!
 

Annalea

Member
May 1, 2012
22
Backwoods Savage, almost thou persuadest me to buy a cat stove. ;) Thanks for the info! And thanks to you, and Wade, for the advice on wood. It's still really wet here (we don't finish with the swampy part of the year 'til the middle of May, sometimes early June), so that's when we'll start on wood. We've got good friends with chainsaws that know how to use them, and we'll make a big party of it (including the wood shed raising). We'll be able to start on wood in earnest after we're moved. Right now we need to focus on making sure there's running water and a toilet installed. ;)

There's so much wood heating here that I believe I'll be able to find good dry wood if ours isn't ready. I hope we get some good, hot temps this summer so our own wood might be ready, but you never know. As for hard woods vs. soft woods, our property is mostly firs and spruces. Yes, there's some white pine and ponderosa, but those are in the minority. I don't believe that fir and spruce are as hard as your eastern hardwoods, but hopefully they'll burn alright. Anyone from my neck of the woods that knows what's best available up here?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Backwoods Savage

raybonz

Minister of Fire
Feb 5, 2008
6,208
Carver, MA.
Hi AnnaLea welcome to the forum! Lots of good advice has been given and I can only speak to the T-5 or Consolidated Dutchwest stoves. The T-5 is relatively new and so far we love it. Long burns, plenty of heat and ember protection only hearth requirement. I have compiled a partial list of ember protection only hearth and here it it is.. Hope this helps!

All Pacific Energy Alderlea stoves
All Pacific Energy models
Lopi Endeavor
Lopi Revere
Blaze King Chinook
Blaze King Princess
Hampton H200 (unsure, manual gives conflicting information)
Regency CS1200
Jotul F100
Jotul Oslo 500
Jotul Rangely
Hearthstone Bari, Tula and Mansfield
Vermont Castings Encore (with bottom heatshield)
All Enviro freestanding stoves

Good Luck!
Ray
 
Status
Not open for further replies.