Revisiting the Wood Stove

The old is new again
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I grew up in a house that was heated by a wood stove. After many years of racketing around in strange places where wood was not a common fuel, we are building a modern home in which a wood stove will once again be the major source of heat.

This Dutchwest noncatalytic wood stove may look like one of the old cast iron stoves, but a lot of technology has gone into making it far more efficient (approximately 70%).

An outside air connection is standard, meaning that all air necessary to support combustion is taken from outside of the home. No room air is used to support the fire. No vacuum is created in the room when the fire is burning briskly, because the combustion chamber is sealed. Air comes in from outside, feeds the flame and exhausts through the chimney without mixing with room air.

Regular wood stoves and fireplaces use room air for combustion and suck outside air in through every crack, which makes them virtually useless in subzero weather because they bring in cold air faster than they can heat the room.

This stove is primarily a convection heater, although it does provide a radiant heat. Room air is forced through heated passages in the stove by a blower and then it is dispersed through the room as a gentle flow of warm convection air. The stove can also be used for occasional cooking and is designed with a flat top for this purpose.

We opted to heat our new house with a wood stove, because we have enough wood already cut on the property to supply us for several years. We may install a heat pump next year after we have a chance to see how we manage using wood stove, ceiling fans and electric heaters in the more distant rooms. Power interruptions are common in this area, especially in the winter, so we need to make sure we can keep the house warm and cook food even when the power is out.

There is one little problem

The one problem I am running up against is a lack of current data on the construction of protective coverings for the floor and back wall surrounding the wood stove. We picked out a beautiful ceramic tile to protect the floor and wall from the heat of the wood stove, but the stove people seem to think that the weight of the 420 pound stove will crack the tiles, even though they will be mounted on 1/2" Wonderboard.

The tile people say, "No problem!" but they haven’t done a stove installation in a very long time. On the other hand, the stove dealer’s installers regaled me with a story about a recent installation where they put the stove down gently and the tiles began to creak as they walked away.

I am asking for information from those of you who are currently using wood stoves. What kinds of attractive stone, tile or brick have you found that combines heat resistance with ruggedness? This stove has heat shields on the back and bottom so heat is not the main concern. I look at the cast iron legs with their sharp edges and want to make sure that there is no way that the stoves weight will damage the hearth material under the stove.

I am open to any useful suggestion. Someone even suggested that I put a 24" x 36" slab of slate under the stove and use 12" tiles to cover the rest of the hearth and backstop.

Any suggestions from you experienced wood-burners?

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