Choosing and Installing Our Wood-Burning Stove
Our list of "must haves" for a new house included having a fireplace. This house has two: one in the main room and another in the master bedroom. When we closed and moved into our home, one of the first things we did when we moved in got our chimneys cleaned and inspected.
If you want to see what our fireplace looked like when we first moved in, go over to our very first post.
It's cool to have two fireplaces: it feels fancy even though it's really not. But it's lame when the chimney sweep tells you that you can't burn wood in them because the mortar is shot to hell. We moved into our house last December, right at the start of the long Syracuse winter, so this was a significant bummer.
The chimney sweep said we could safely burn Duraflame logs if we wanted. If we did that we would have to get our chimneys cleaned again before we had repairs done or anything installed. We opted to forego burning anything in our fireplaces until we had a working fireplace again.
Fast-forward a year later, and we're currently enjoying our wood-burning stove! So: how did we get here?
Our Options: Heatshields, Liners, Inserts, and Stoves
When we found out that it wasn't safe to burn wood in our fireplace, we researched a few options and made some calls to local companies.
Side note: getting a gas stove was a non-starter. We wanted something wood-burning. We're lucky to have a supply of wood from Pat's family's camp on Oneida Lake on a regular basis.
Our list of options were:
- Get a Heatshield treatment (AKA fix the mortar) and be able to use an open fire
- Get a stainless steel chimney insert installed, which would require additional mortar repair, and be able to have an open fire
- Install a wood-burning insert with a stainless steel insert
- Install a wood-burning stove with a stainless steel insert
Ambiance vs. Efficiency
We also had to decide what was more of a priority: the ambiance of an open fire, or using the fireplace to heat our house?
Without question, we wanted to use the fireplace to help heat our house and keep energy bills down during Syracuse winters. Open fires are nice and cozy, but they are inefficient and generally won't heat your house. Sadly, that meant any option that left us with an open fire was out.
Besides that, getting a Heatshield treatment isn't something you can DIY - you have to hire someone to do it. A couple companies also said they could install a chimney insert and do some mortar repair, would would again require hiring someone to do the work.
In the end, those options were too expensive to ultimately have an inefficient heating method that costs us more in the long run. So we moved on to explore our other options.
Wood-Burning Insert or Wood-Burning Stove?
First, we were confident that, with some help, we could install a stove or insert ourselves. So that got rid of any costs associated with installation.
Second, since our options were immediately narrowed to either a wood-burning insert or a wood-burning stove, at this point it was about aesthetics and finding the right size stove or insert.
Based on looks, Pat and I both leaned toward getting a stove, so we just went with it. As Pat began to research stoves, he realized that the firebox of our fireplace is incredibly small, and it was hard to find a stove small enough. But we eventually found one we liked.
Why We Chose the Century Heating S244 Wood Stove
Size. We can't change the size of our firebox, so this was obviously the most important factor. It had to fit in the firebox, and this one does!
Efficiency. This little thing is EPA-certified (legally it has to be, but still) which means that it's efficient. I'm over-simplifying, but it basically burns the wood twice: once when the wood burns in the stove, and, once it gets hot enough, it also burns the creosote. The results: more heat for us and it's better for the environment than an open fire.
Heating capabilities. Although it's small, this little stove is a powerhouse. It can throw out a ton of heat, and has the capacity to heat up to 1,000 square feet (which is much more than we need).
In addition to the stove, we also had to buy a chimney liner and related accessories. Pat found this liner kit from Fireside Chimney Supply. It was a good option because, although it's a kit, you can customize exactly the parts of the kit you want.
Installing the Stove and Liner
I'm translating from Pat, because I'll be honest: I left to go for a run while they did this! I'm more a hindrance than a help when it comes to anything that requires Pat being on the roof, so ... I left. Pat, his dad, and their friend, Mike, all worked on this project while I got out of the way.
When we bought the chimney liner, we also bought an accompanying insulation blanket. It was supposed to improve the draft by keeping the pipe insulated. So we wrapped the whole pipe in an insulation blanket and tried to install it, but the liner wouldn't fit down the flue with the insulation. We ended up not using the blanket; it was probably a waste of money.
We had a pulling cone and a rope attached the the liner, and we threw the rope down the chimney. Mike was in the house pulling the rope down the chimney, and me and my dad alternated being up at the top of the chimney feeding the liner down the flue.
Because the liner was so long, we laid the liner across the top of the roof and we fed it down into the flue.
It took three people and about 4 to 5 hours to install the liner, because we weren't successful with our first attempt. We also had a rope around the chimney attached to a harness, so whoever was at the top of the ladder was strapped in (safety first!).
- Stove: $549 (this one from Century Heating)
- Liner Kit: $750 (this customizable kit from Fireside Chimney supply. It included a 6" x 30' liner, top plate, and an insulation wrap kit)
- Harness: $35 (we got this one or a similar one from Home Depot)
- Total project cost: $1335 (approximately)
So ... Do We Like It?
We're happy with the products we purchased, and the wood stove works well and heats the main room. We have done some more work with the stove since then to help it heat the house better, but we'll talk about that in another post!
Obviously, we made a mistake purchasing the chimney liner, because we literally couldn't fit it down the chimney. Yes, it was a $200 mistake. But it could have been worse and this whole process is a learning experience. Since we're trying to do this ourselves, no matter how much we educate ourselves and prepare, it's inevitable that we're going to make mistakes, and they're likely going to cost money. On the bright side, we did use some of the insulation a the bottom of the chimney, so it wasn't a complete waste!
There you have it: the full story of how we chose and installed our wood stove. If you have any questions about our stove, feel free to ask in the comments or find us on Instagram @saltandrook.