Our wood burning stove has served us well for the 13 years we have had our home, providing the majority of our heat. Propane has increasingly become more expensive over the years so we have developed a routine. Our propane driven heater comes on for 2 hours only, every cold morning to quickly take the chill off the house. Simultaneously, we build a fire in our wood burning stove which keeps our home sufficiently warm for the rest of the day and through the evening. This routine has allowed us to get by with only needing 300 gallons of propane for the entire year. But……
What do you do when your wood stove not only starts to show serious signs of age, but you are also actively providing interventions to keep it working? Let me explain.
Starting about 4 years ago,we noticed the interior ceiling of the stove starting to sag. It consisted of a metal plate (what you saw when you looked inside) with the fire bricks sitting on top of it. The sagging became so pronounced, we started to configure pieces of galvanized piping and jamming them under the four corners of the stove’s ceiling to keep it from falling. That worked as a immediate fix but every year, (and sometimes during) we had to reconfigure the supports to accommodate the forever morphing of the ceiling.
Finally, last year, we noticed the metal ceiling plate had completely burned through, exposing the fire bricks above it. Time to take some serious action. Son Hard Worker took the plate and the frame it sat in, to work and he and his boss made us a new plate. Once we placed the bricks back on top of the new ceiling plate, it seemed to weigh a ton and took 3 of us to slide it back into place on the tracks. I wish I could tell you this was the end of the story, but it is not.
Last November, the ceiling started to droop again. At first, we were all in denial. “Is that ceiling plate Sagging?”
“No, it can’t be. We just fixed it.”
Apparently, the metal plate was not rated for the kind of heat that a wood burning stove produces. When the drooping reached 3-4 inches, we could no longer ignore it. Back out came the pipe supports. Putting wood in the fire box became quite the challenge, making sure not to bump the drooping ceiling or the side supports.
Kinda like the game of Jenga, in reverse. In December, the inevitable happened. The ceiling came crashing down, breaking many fire bricks along the way.
With no working stove in the dead of winter, our hand had been forced. We started contacting all the wood burning stove companies in our area and had 3 come out to give us bids on a new stove with installation costs. One company’s installation costs exceeded the price of the brand new stove! We dismissed them immediately. Prices were ranging from $2,900.00 to $5,200.00
It’s been quite the educational journey. On the high end, you have the Quadra-Fires and the Lopi. I have been dreaming about a Quadra-Fire for some time. I think their efficiency can’t be beat. On the low end, are the stoves you never heard of, but some of those have some pretty cool features.
Regardless of the maker or quality of stove, ALL wood burning “appliances” in Washington state must be certified to meet the state’s emission limits. Come to find out, Washington has some of the toughest emission laws (along with California) in the U.S.
Not is it only illegal to sell a non-certified wood burning stove, it is illegal to even give one away! According to the state’s emission site, uncertified wood stoves produce AT LEAST 5 times more pollution than a certified one. By law, smoke from your fire can not cause damage to human health, plant (?) or animal life, property or the enjoyment of life and property. Seems pretty broad to me. Seems like burning dry wood and knowing how to use the damper correctly would solve most of those issues. But hey, that’s just me.
Here is another caveat. I live in a manufactured home, which are overseen for some reason, by Labor and Industries. Putting in a new wood burning stove requires a permit. Not a problem. When the job is completed, it must be inspected by Labor and Industries. Except, Labor and Industries has only 1 inspector for the entire state of Washington. That being the case, I was informed by one of the bidding companies, that I would be allowed to use my new stove without inspection, knowing that sometime in the distant future, far, far away, it would be inspected.
During this investigatory period, life happened. Big stuff like a needed root canal and the total packing in of our kitchen cook stove, neither of which could be sidelined. So the decision was made to just repair the old wood burning stove.
The first part was to take the ceiling frame to a fire place shop and have them make a new frame out of the appropriate metal. We were informed that the bricks needed to be exposed to the fire, not a piece of metal.
Next, Husband went to our local hardware store and purchased several boxes of fire bricks. Then of course, Husband had to buy a Wet Tile Saw, to cut the bricks. That turned out to be a good decision. The Ridgid 7 in. Table Top Wet Tile Saw came with a diamond blade that could shim a 1/4 in. slice from a fire brick without breaking. Once we got the new frame back from the fireplace shop, It took just one day to completely line the stove with the new fire bricks. The last repair was pushing the new rope seal around the door.
And the best part? The stove now heats better than ever. Before, we were having to feed the fire a log every hour. Now, every 2-3 hours is sufficient. Two to three big logs at night maintains the temperature till morning with hot coals still remaining. We have not even needed to use our heater in the morning. When we added up the cost, it came to
$356.72. That included the price of the saw!
Future plans include giving it a “make over” with special wood stove paint this summer. But for now, I’m gonna fix myself a cup of coffee and sit by the fire. Till next time.