Wood stove in an unfinished basement?

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twistedcreekfarm09

New Member
Jan 31, 2017
6
Michigan
Hello all! I'm a newbie here - new both to the forum and heating with wood.
My husband and I just bought a ranch house on 20 acres in mid-MI. The main floor is 2100sq ft. and it has a full unfinished basement. Currently the only heat is electric baseboard. The home is insulated well. We would like to switch to wood heat as much as possible both to save money and also to have a heat source for when the power goes out. We have 10+ acres that are forested so getting wood won't be an issue.

The basement is all concrete (floor/walls); the ceiling is insulated. Our original thought was to put a large wood stove in the basement to provide heat down there as we finish it off and to cut some vent holes in the floor to let heat upstairs. But now after doing some reading, we're worried the heat might just go out the walls and floor and be pointless? Do we need to insulate the basement walls and floor right away for the wood stove to do anything?

Also, is it OK to run a pipe up from the basement through the back of a closet (or somewhere non-obvious) up to the roof?

The stairs are at the far end of the basement. Should we have the stove in a central part of the basement (more even heat?) OR (we would prefer for layout) to have it near the stair end of the basement and leave the door open to the upstairs.

What would be some good stove options for us? We've read good things about the Englander 2400sq. ft from Home Depot, but there is a Vermont Castings Defiant in good condition on Craigslist... Open to suggestions here!!

Thank you in advance!
 

sportbikerider78

Minister of Fire
Jun 23, 2014
2,493
Saratoga, NY
How big is the basement? You might find insulating it to some degree would be quite affordable. Even 1" of foam insulation is wayyyyy better than bare walls.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,284
Southern IN
They say you'll lose about 1/3 of your heat to the walls but you'll still get a little heat upstairs now, and you are going to fix that.
It may sound backwards, but get wood first! Get it split, stacked and drying now, in the wind and top-covered, so you can burn next season. Get dead White Ash, soft Maple, Black Cherry and other quick-drying wood species. Dense woods like Oak and Hickory will take at least two years split and stacked. You should also be able to find small, dead trees with the bark gone....those will be almost dry enough to burn now, but for sure by this fall. Other larger dead trees you cut, the upper branches might be pretty dry on those.
Yes, put the stove close to the stairs. That will get more heat upstairs. Hope you have a door to bring wood into the basement or it's a PIA.
You will never regret spending more money to get the best stove you can. The learning curve is steep as there are many stoves to consider, but you have time for that. You are almost out of time for getting dry wood by this fall, however. It's very hard to buy dry wood....the dealers will claim it is "seasoned" but it almost never is. You need a moisture meter to re-split and check their product. Actually, the meter is a good tool to have as you are cutting your own wood. It will help you separate it into stacks for this season, and stacks for later.
 

NoobTube

Burning Hunk
Nov 11, 2013
225
Seymour, CT
I think if you are looking to heat the space from the basement you would be better off with a wood furnace in an unfinished basement. Do you have ducting in the house already? I/E Central air? Many ranches put them in the attics, which I think even with a central plennum supply to the air handler would be a considerable loss of heat if you were to use a wood furnace.

2nd question. Do you have a chimney? Where is it located?

Regarding getting your wood into the basement. Is it a walk out or does it have bilco doors? If it was me I'd keep your stove close to wherever you are going to be bringing wood in. It can get messy and exhausting if you have to travel long distances all the time.

The nice thing about a ranch is that you can put a fireplace and or wood stove almost anywhere near an external wall with a double wall exposed pipe running up the siding outside with the appropriate clearances. I'd vote on an outside wall where the peak of the house is that way you can run it up the side over there and next to the peak to avoid any clearance issues.

With 10 acres of wooded land and an unfinished ranch basement for me, would be cheaper to do the metal duct runs and a wood furnace. You won't need to worry about efficiency as much since you have so much wood.

It would be more expensive to finish the basement and insulate the walls and floors to get the best performance out of a stove in a basement.

My buddy has a smaller 1400 sqft ranch and he has this setup, and it is almost uncomfortably warm when he is burning. Even the furthest runs in the system are still around 76*. He also has vents in the floor that close so he can direct more heat into the further areas faster if need be.

Take my suggestion with a grain of salt as I tend to be a bit biased towards the wood furnaces in these kinds of applications. There are other people here extremely successful in burning a stove in an unfinished basement.
 

Rearscreen

Minister of Fire
Dec 21, 2014
785
Vermont
Take my suggestion with a grain of salt as I tend to be a bit biased towards the wood furnaces in these kinds of applications.
More grains of salt: I recently installed a new Drolet wood furnace in my neighbors greenhouse. From doing this, if I were ever to get in a situation where the basement was the only option, I'd go with a furnace, but if the bays were open ready to accept hydronic radiant, I'd get a wood boiler.
 

twistedcreekfarm09

New Member
Jan 31, 2017
6
Michigan
More grains of salt: I recently installed a new Drolet wood furnace in my neighbors greenhouse. From doing this, if I were ever to get in a situation where the basement was the only option, I'd go with a furnace, but if the bays were open ready to accept hydronic radiant, I'd get a wood boiler.

Yes, there is duct work for central air throughout the house. We are open to a wood furnace as long as (1) it will also heat the basement and (2) it will heat without electricity.
It was our understanding that wood furnaces and boilers still needed electricity to operate. Is that correct? Or would we still get enough heat from a furnace in a power outage that we'd be fine?

There is a removable window in the basement near where we were going to put the stove that we could chuck wood in. We figured we'll keep a big wood box under the window and call it good. :)
 

NoobTube

Burning Hunk
Nov 11, 2013
225
Seymour, CT
More grains of salt: I recently installed a new Drolet wood furnace in my neighbors greenhouse. From doing this, if I were ever to get in a situation where the basement was the only option, I'd go with a furnace, but if the bays were open ready to accept hydronic radiant, I'd get a wood boiler.

I think they are great for certain applications, but the OP stated he wanted something that could work when the power goes out. Hydronic baseboard would need a backup on it to push the water. The furnace is just air and will move up (albeit slower) without the blower fan. Plus I think most hydronic applications need a storage cell around 100 gallons or more. I love those cool Garn boilers. I'd have a generator just in case though
 

NoobTube

Burning Hunk
Nov 11, 2013
225
Seymour, CT
Yes, there is duct work for central air throughout the house. We are open to a wood furnace as long as (1) it will also heat the basement and (2) it will heat without electricity.
It was our understanding that wood furnaces and boilers still needed electricity to operate. Is that correct? Or would we still get enough heat from a furnace in a power outage that we'd be fine?

There is a removable window in the basement near where we were going to put the stove that we could chuck wood in. We figured we'll keep a big wood box under the window and call it good. :)

A wood furnace will still work with the power out, however its not going to work as well as it would with the blower working. That being said, neither will a fireplace. They will both radiate heat into the basement. Because its unfinished I would highly recommend not branching off supplies to the basement in unfinished areas. you will just be wasting the heat. It will heat the basement to a degree, but obviously it would do better in insulated places.

I think a good sized Drolet, Daka, US Stoves, wood furnace would work fine for you. Again, you are lucky you have so much available wood to you. I think there might be some people here who could give you the pros and cons of the right furnace for your application. Even Blaze King has a catalytic furnace option (although I think it might be discontinued) KUUMA makes some gasification ones, but they are expensive.
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,366
Long Island NY
Our original thought was to put a large wood stove in the basement to provide heat down there as we finish it off and to cut some vent holes in the floor to let heat upstairs.

IIRC this is not legal (code violation) and does not assure success.

Also, is it OK to run a pipe up from the basement through the back of a closet (or somewhere non-obvious) up to the roof?

You would have maintain clearances which could eat up space. Most seem to run on the outside of the house.

The stairs are at the far end of the basement. Should we have the stove in a central part of the basement (more even heat?) OR (we would prefer for layout) to have it near the stair end of the basement and leave the door open to the upstairs.

Is this a walk out type basement? Consider that carrying loads of wood downstairs could get old quick.

The surest way to get the heat where you want is to put the stove where you need it. If the long term plan is to spend a lot of time in the basement then it may be worth it. If not I would find a spot upstairs. You'll avoid some of the inherent problems of basement heating (e.g. negative pressure/heat transfer) and will most likely use less wood to achieve comfort.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,989
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
I'd go with a furnace, but if the bays were open ready to accept hydronic radiant, I'd get a wood boiler.

I would think twice there, a wood boiler system will cost 15-20 thousand starting from scratch. The wood furnace will cost 1500-2000 starting from scratch. I have radiant tubes in my shop floor, would love to use them, but the next 15000$ to energize the system is ridiculous. Pumps, manifolds, storage tanks, boiler, plumbing, controls, gauges, emitters, labor, blah blah blah.

I believe that you can have vents cut into the floor between levels but they must be equipped with the heat actuated doors that close in the event of fire. It's a little wax thing that melts out like a sprinkler head.

Lots of people heat their homes from the basement whether insulated or not. It takes more wood due to heat loss but is certainly worth doing as you finish out the level. No big deal to load wood through a window into a bin. I've seen a couple of clever chutes that involve smooth walled storm pipes that you just throw wood into from ground level.
 
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twistedcreekfarm09

New Member
Jan 31, 2017
6
Michigan
I think if you are looking to heat the space from the basement you would be better off with a wood furnace in an unfinished basement. Do you have ducting in the house already? I/E Central air? Many ranches put them in the attics, which I think even with a central plennum supply to the air handler would be a considerable loss of heat if you were to use a wood furnace.

2nd question. Do you have a chimney? Where is it located?

Regarding getting your wood into the basement. Is it a walk out or does it have bilco doors? If it was me I'd keep your stove close to wherever you are going to be bringing wood in. It can get messy and exhausting if you have to travel long distances all the time.

The nice thing about a ranch is that you can put a fireplace and or wood stove almost anywhere near an external wall with a double wall exposed pipe running up the siding outside with the appropriate clearances. I'd vote on an outside wall where the peak of the house is that way you can run it up the side over there and next to the peak to avoid any clearance issues.

With 10 acres of wooded land and an unfinished ranch basement for me, would be cheaper to do the metal duct runs and a wood furnace. You won't need to worry about efficiency as much since you have so much wood.

It would be more expensive to finish the basement and insulate the walls and floors to get the best performance out of a stove in a basement.

My buddy has a smaller 1400 sqft ranch and he has this setup, and it is almost uncomfortably warm when he is burning. Even the furthest runs in the system are still around 76*. He also has vents in the floor that close so he can direct more heat into the further areas faster if need be.

Take my suggestion with a grain of salt as I tend to be a bit biased towards the wood furnaces in these kinds of applications. There are other people here extremely successful in burning a stove in an unfinished basement.


No chimney. Just ducts for AC. Is install a DIY project or should that be left to the pros?
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,366
Long Island NY
I believe that you can have vents cut into the floor between levels but they must be equipped with the heat actuated doors that close in the event of fire. It's a little wax thing that melts out like a sprinkler head.

I thought that was it but wasn't 100%. Did not know how they worked.

Lots of people heat their homes from the basement whether insulated or not. It takes more wood due to heat loss but is certainly worth doing as you finish out the level. No big deal to load wood through a window into a bin. I've seen a couple of clever chutes that involve smooth walled storm pipes that you just throw wood into from ground level.

Yup, just letting mentioning things they may need to think about. Might affect what they do or where the unit goes.
 
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kraco14

Member
Jan 5, 2017
34
NE Georgia
I have a wood stove in the basement of my house. The square footage is about the same and the floors and walls are not insulated. I have found that in the first load it really just maintains the temperature of the first floor but warms the basement very fast. After the first load, the temperature begins to increase on the first floor. Having said that, I live in a much milder climate than you but we do average below freezing temps at night and occasionally get in the low teens and single digits. Last year, the power went out for close to a week and it never got above freezing and the wood stove was able to keep us warm.

Although the wood stove does the job, I have been researching wood furnaces and may go with that option in the future. If I had the money, I would install a wood boiler.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
12,284
Southern IN
Is install a DIY project or should that be left to the pros?
You can install a stove and chimney yourself, if you are fairly handy, detail-oriented and follow the installation instructions of the stove maker and chimney maker to the letter. Your insurance may or may not require a professional install, or maybe an inspection by the local jurisdiction.
 

NoobTube

Burning Hunk
Nov 11, 2013
225
Seymour, CT
You can install a stove and chimney yourself, if you are fairly handy, detail-oriented and follow the installation instructions of the stove maker and chimney maker to the letter. Your insurance may or may not require a professional install, or maybe an inspection by the local jurisdiction.

Especially since you are likely going to have to go on an exterior wall up the side of the house... Much easier to DIY that than have to run one up the center of the house some how. Not even sure how that would work to be honest.

Just check your local codes and make sure that you know your clearances, acceptable materials, and if there is any requirement for inspection.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,989
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Especially since you are likely going to have to go on an exterior wall up the side of the house... Much easier to DIY that than have to run one up the center of the house some how. Not even sure how that would work to be honest.

The superior chimney system is not mounted to the outside of the exterior wall. It is routed through the house where it is all vertical and stays warm. This is done by creating a chase through the living space above not unlike a chase surrounding an HVAC duct that leads to the basement furnace and burying it in a wall. So you need to think about the location of the basement stove so that you can poke up into a closet or somewhere else that you can hide the chimney. With the basement unfinished you have lots of possibilities to find a closet or other place to hide the chase, then also plan your finished basement room layout around this hearth location.

The last thing I would worry about is minimizing wood hauling distance from the chute/window/door. That's no big deal compared to a compromised chimney.
 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,106
central pa
The superior chimney system is not mounted to the outside of the exterior wall.
Yes straight up is always better without a doubt but out and up can work just fine as well
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,106
central pa
Sometimes it is the only option. It's nice to avoid the roof penetration and easy to clean from the outside tee.
Yes I totally agree when ever I can I will run the chimney straight up but many times the customer just does not want it running up through the house.
 

iron

Minister of Fire
Sep 23, 2015
635
southeast kootenays
suggest insulating the basement. if the walls are free of electrical or other things you don't want buried, just get it spray foamed with 2-3" of closed cell foam. i bet it runs about $3000 for you. done in a day or two. would make a world of difference. then, frame out some walls, run electrical and drywall.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
30,106
central pa
suggest insulating the basement. if the walls are free of electrical or other things you don't want buried, just get it spray foamed with 2-3" of closed cell foam. i bet it runs about $3000 for you. done in a day or two. would make a world of difference. then, frame out some walls, run electrical and drywall.
Yeah I insulated mine and it made a huge difference in the heat that gets upstairs.
 

Niko

Minister of Fire
Nov 12, 2013
528
Dutchess county, NY
I would test the theory of putting wood threw that window you mentioned. If you put the wood stove down their you want easy access for the wood and also when you threw away the ash. You dont wanna carry a bucket of ash threw out your whole house do you? Like others have said do you plan on being down their a lot? If so stud up the walls and run your electric and insulate them. Also if your basement is just as big as your upstairs, you might want to do a 2 stove system. This way u dont have to run the downstairs run so hot to get the heat up. Moving heat from a wood stove to a big upstairs is a challenge all of us have, it can be achieved but you gotta run your stove hotter to bring the heat up. If your house is properly insualted tho it will be a hell of a lot easier and you dont have to run it as hot.

This is a huge investment so take your time and dont rush into it. Are you guys gonna do the install or pay someone?
 

venator260

Feeling the Heat
Nov 16, 2015
367
Huntingdon County, Pa
I have a wood stove in the basement of my house. The square footage is about the same and the floors and walls are not insulated. I have found that in the first load it really just maintains the temperature of the first floor but warms the basement very fast. After the first load, the temperature begins to increase on the first floor. Having said that, I live in a much milder climate than you but we do average below freezing temps at night and occasionally get in the low teens and single digits. Last year, the power went out for close to a week and it never got above freezing and the wood stove was able to keep us warm.

Although the wood stove does the job, I have been researching wood furnaces and may go with that option in the future. If I had the money, I would install a wood boiler.


My experience mirrors what was said here.

I figure that, on a cold start, my first load just gets the basement warm. I feel the second load. After that, I can feel the heat on the upper two floors, but I need my baseboards a bit if it's going to be very cold at all. Ripping out all of the insulation between the basement and first floor helped: my floors are warm now. Blowing air down into the basement from the opposite corner of the house from the stove helps a bit too.

This is with an uninsulated basement below a mix of non-insulated and poorly insulated walls. My parents heat about what you have. They have an Alaska Kodiak and burn somewhere between 2x-3x what I could ever possibly run through my stove, which is part of the largest class of stoves that are for sale. (except the BK, King; but that seems to be a different animal than what I need). They don't ever turn on the electric heat though. Growing up, there was no sin greater than turning the knobs on the wall.

If you have no water infiltration problems, I would seriously consider insulating the basement if you go the freestanding stove in the basement route. When it gets cold here (we had some 10-15 degree nights), my basement walls on the opposite end of the basement from the stove were about 45 degrees. That's certainly pulling a whole bunch of heat right outside. If I didn't need a French drain, I'd already have some insulation stuck to the walls. (And I'd already have a French drain in the works if I didn't need a whole new septic system):confused: