Love/Hate Relationship with the paneling

AliciaKOctober 4, 2012

Hi Everyone,

My husband and I are purchasing a new house that needs some updating. There is a lot of dark real wood paneling (oak maybe?) on the walls. The house is a colonial style outside, tons of huge windows, built in 1977, 9ft ceilings on the main level, and large rooms. The house really hasn't been updated at all.

I have a love/hate relationship with the paneling. It is gorgeous in it's own right. But it lends itself to feeling more rustic, which isn't necessarily my style. My current home is a very traditional home (neighborhood setting) with medium stained maple woodwork, which I love. The new home is on wooded acreage so the setting is entirely different.

I'm trying to figure out a way to find the happy medium between maintaining the character and charm in the house and yet modernize it enough that my furniture doesn't just make it look odd.

I do not want to paint the woodwork, as I love stained...and I can't bring myself to painting the walls. I've had a couple of contractors looks at the paneling and they thought it was probably custom made and appears to be like 3/4' thick. It's definitely not cheap. The contractors recommended we sell the paneling, if we decide to remove it. There is an abundance of natural sunlight (6 6ft tall windows and 2 6ft sliders in the main living space), so it doesn't feel dark or 'cave-like'. So that's not an issue. And the main living area, which will be the eating area and great room, is approximately 25'x48'.

To add to the equation, I'm going to be renovating the kitchen and it's going to be open to the main living area. Currently it has the original oak kitchen cabinets. I just don't care for the oak. I have the opportunity to purchase new cabinets at an insane discount...unfortunately I have limited choices in stain colors so it's going to be a different color hue than what's currently installed. But it doesn't make sense to spend 5X's what I'm going to pay for cabinets to get another brand (we'll have about 120 linear ft of cabinets)...I would rather spend that money in some other updates to the house.

So my questions are as follows...any recommendations on how to bring some modern life into the living area with the paneling? Is there anyway to cover the paneling without making it permanent or destroying it? Any ideas on what to do, if you keep the paneling and end up with a cherry wood kitchen cabinets, on how to transition between the two areas and not look weird? Any input is greatly appreciated! Sorry for the long post :)

Here is a link that might be useful: House

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Alicia, I think you might do better on the Decorator forum. This one is for houses often MUCH older than yours--really 1977 isn't old, and the building techniques and quality of materials is different from those of most owners' homes here.

Almost all houses are called colonial style by realtors, and that does not necessarily make them candidates for old house status...your question is a decorating one, not one on fixing or maintaining a genuine antique.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 12:37AM
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Thank you! I'll switch forums.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 12:51AM
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I would strip that paneling and have it bleached! You will have a great light color in the room but still have that wonderful texture and grain of the wood.

You could also apply a white glaze over what is there (clean and sand a bit first).
BEAUTIFUL room! What a great fireplace too!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:59AM
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I would also consider changing the color of the paneling, by staining or pickling it if you don't like it. Perhaps you make it a color closer to cherry.

BTW, you have an excellent woodstove there. It's a Vermont Castings Defiant, an older model with a catalytic converter to extract more heat and clean up the particulates from the smoke. It will put out an astounding amount of heat. We heat our entire home with one as we have no central heat and live in northern NY.

The one thing you may need to have attended to before winter is checking, and if necessary replacing, the catalytic converter. It's a normal maintenance item. Without a well-functioning cat on that stove you are not only not getting the most heat out, but you will accumulate more creosote in your lower chimney stack, as well. (That could be chimney-fire risk if the previous owners have been burning for awhile with a failing, or burnt-up cat. And if you find that the cat needs replacing, then ask your sweep to pay particular attention to the lower, thimble area, which is an unusual place for creosote build-up. You don't want to know how we discovered this problem!)

That huge bulk of masonry thermal mass will also be a boon once the stove is up and running. Ours will go about 8-9 hours before needing re-fueling. I cut our wood for excellent fit and we split and stack it dry for a couple of years beforehand. Get some real firefighters' (Fire-Dex is a good brand) gloves that cover your wrists to protect them as you top load - the edges of the opening get really hot. You will also need a good stove-top temp gauge to correctly manage the switching over to the catalytic exhaust pathway when the temps are right.

If you have questions about the stove's operation, feel free to ask. I have been heating with an identical stove continuously since the mid 80's, so for nearly 25 years I've put 6-9 cords of wood through it each year. It's a sweet, sweet, burning stove. Remind the sellers about the removable firescreen, to make sure you get it when they leave. You can't safely burn the stove with the front doors open without one.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 2:06PM
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The wood looks dark and heavy because the ceiling and floor are so light and WHITE in comparison. Colors are always being influenced by what other colors are surrounding and reflecting off of them.

You should be able to find colors or darker neutral tones for floor/ceiling that would make the oak look beautifully warm and glowing instead of dingy and dark. Consider a color consultant who could help you with exact wood stain, ceiling & floor colors. Or as others have suggested - a grayed-out or white stain would have a whole different effect.

Even just refinishing with a clear non yellowing finish would probably be a huge improvement - if that's old polyurethane that stuff turns a dingy pukey shade of yellow over time.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Thank you everyone for your ideas! I really appreciate them! The flooring is actually being removed as part a mold remediation so I had been planning on going back with something a little warmer. (Plus having a carpeted entry way is completely impractical in my opinion) I shipped in Monocibec Graal Arras tile from out of state and installed it in my current home and absolutely love it. So I had thought I might put that in here...or had kicked around the idea of the tile that looks like wood if we removed the paneling. It seemed like it would be too much "wood" if we did the wood tile and left the walls.

Liriodendron - thank you so much for the insight on the stove! I had absolutely no idea it was anything that sweet! How often do you need to replace the catalytic converter? Also, are you able to purchase the removable firescreen? I'm sure it used to have one (the house almost feels like you're stepping back into a time warp because it really hasn't changed much since it was built in 1977) but the house was broken into just before we made our offer. There wasn't much to take since the seller had moved out 2 years prior, but we know for sure that they took the kettle that had been sitting on the top of the woodstove.

Do you have any recommendations for good stove-top temp gauge? Given that the stove has set for at least 2 years without being used, any maintenance recommendations before we fire it up again? Thanks again!

Here is a link that might be useful: Monocibec Graal Arras

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:09AM
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Your woodstove is much newer than 1977, probably at least 7-12 years newer. (I'm irresistably tempted to gently tease you about your sense of "stepping back into a time warp" - you're here on the Old House Forum so a house built in 1977 is barely out of warranty by our standards. My own house was built many years before 1877.)

I think we bought our stove in the first year the model was available and I suspect that was 1983 or possibly as late as 1985. We have another similar, but slightly newer, model with putty-colored enamel (which hasn't stood the test of hard use nearly as well as the black, unenameled orginal one). We burned the putty coloreed one for a few years but went back to the black one. It has been completely rebuilt a few times in the last 30 years!

The catalytic converter ought to be replaced very few years (ours are done after about 2.5 burning seasons, but we put a lot of wood through it.) If you believe it has never been done, then I would plan on buying a new one, though keeping the old one on hand in case you have a problem with the new one sometime and want to stick something in to tide you over. Store the old very carefully as they extremely delicate. Don't do as I did once, vacuum the fly ash off, and sucked the whole thing into the vac: a $250 oops!

Nowadays the cats are made in China with very mixed quality control. The cat part itself will cost $250-$350, exclusive of labor to install. We replace ours by ourselves.

Does your stove have a heat shield on the back - a metal panel that stands off the main body of the stove about 1.5"? Since it's backed by a masonry wall, it may not be necessary. At any rate if had one, you'd have to take it off, and then remove the panel in the upper back to expose the cat chamber if your stove is an older model; slightly newer ones are accessed in a different way. You can find your model number on a plate on the back of the stove near the bottom (on right, I think). It's important info to know because there were slight changes to the model over time. The operating instructions are still online, I believe.(

The company has had a somewhat checkered ownership history with some periods producing less desirable work. Your stove definitely is a catalytic model because I can see the handle on the left of the stove which is what you use to change the exhaust pathway from a direct exhaust to going through the catalytic pathway after the stove has come to proper temp for lighting-off the secondary fire in the cat.

If you haven't used it yet I would suggest a thorough looking-over by a competent sweep, preferably one used to or selling Vermont Castings stoves. Replace cat as recommended. Also have him look at all the weatherstripping around the doors (front, ash pan access and top load). These parts get worn out over time, and are easily replaceable. Also, be sure to double-check before burning that there is an ashpan under the stove(not just an empty slot where it lives). Open the ash door at the bottom right (having slid sheets of newsprint under the stove and floor in front of the hearth in case it is over-filled and will dump ashes around). There should be a shallow trapezoidal pan riding in the framework attached to the back of the ash door that can be lifted out and dumped when full. There is a removeable (perhaps lost) black metal cover that slides on the pan to contain the ashes and hot coals for transport to the dumping site; it's not strictly necessary, but nice. (Again a set of high-temp fire fighters' gloves - blue Fire-Dex - will help you here.)

Now, just in case you are not experienced wood burners, I need to emphasize this CRITICAL point. Do not dump the ashes in anything except a metal, closeable trash can that is set outside, away from the house, preferably on a stone slab, but at least never within any structure nor on a wooden-floored porch. The reason is that even seemingly cold ashes can re-ignite and start a house fire. (Though if you've never burned the stove and the house has been empty for years the first dump is probably cold, but never assume that again unless it's been all summer without a fire.) This is a very important thing that people are occasionally careless about, with tragic consequences. I don't know if you recall the awful news reports a couple of years ago of a whole family, with many children, in an newly reno'd old house in CT that lost their lives because of a fire started by improperly disposed-of ashes and coals. Even though we dump our ashes and coals in a closed can, outside, I have more than once gone back a few days later to dump the next batch and found glowing embers still in the coals after days of being shut up.

So, first make sure you have that ash pan installed and cleaned out before burning. And try to find the black cover that slides over it for carrying out to disposal area. The air that feeds the fire flows up through the ash bed, so if the under-stove pan is stuffed and there are too many ashes in the firebox, you will have a dickens of a time getting things going properly.

You can find a good magnetic w/s thermometer at any store that sells w/s accessories. Expect to pay $10-15. If you can find one with a little half-round wire handle, buy it. I think they are better as they can be more easily moved. But if you can't, buy another kind since you can't operate the stove without one.

The reason for that is that after you light the stove, let the fire build and settle down, and then based on temps measured at the center of the griddle on top, turn the left hand lever completely backwards (it will go past a slight resistance with a firm "snap" when it is properly positioned) to close the internal smoke door and force the exhaust pathway through the cat. You will hear a change in the sound of the stove, and you should see a fairly prompt rise (over minutes, not seconds) of temps on the top surface of the stove. This is the heat created by burning off the gases and particulates in the smoke, which is what the cat is doing - wringing the most amount of heat out of the fuel and at the same time cleaning up more of the residual particulates that are generated in a wood fire.

This explanation is sort of coming in at the middle of an intial firing sequence, as a I don't know how experienced you are. I could start at the very beginning and go through it step by step, if that would help you.

One other thing to verify (either by you or your sweep): is your stove connected to a dedicated outside combustion air feed? This will be a visible pipe (though it can be suqare or rectangular) that comes up and attaches to the lower back of the stove. It will the only thing back there, if it's there. It provides a closed delivery of air to the fire, essentially isolating it from the air in the room. This has important implications if you are installing the stove in house with a range or cooktop ventilation equipment in the smae space. A w/S without an outside air connection will complicate the make-air calculations for the vent hood, creating a code issue (possibly expensive to address) and more importantly a potential safety issue (carbon monoxide). So, all in all I'm hoping you tell me the original installers set it up with an outside air connection. You can retrofit it, but with a masonry hearth it will more complex. Do you have a cellar under that part of the house?

Oh, one other thing, while you are at the w/s store pick up a spray bottle of whatever they recommend for cleaning the glass doors. This is usually a fiercely vile spray made from lye, but it does the job. Use lots of newspaper under the stove and in front, and heavy duty gloves and a roll of paper towels. Do not scrape, steel wool or use a scrubby on the glass. It is special borosilicate glass intended to withstand very high temps, but small scratches made during cleaning could compromise it causing it to fail catastrophically. But when the glass is clean, or at least clean-er, the flames are lovely to see. If you're feeling affection for the stove, you can buy a tin of stove blacking which will make it look like new (though the first few fires after blacking can be mildly stinky.)

I can post pics of the ash-pan lid and the small snap-on firescreen so you can see what to keep an eye out for, if that will help. I don't know if you will be able to buy these parts new for older stoves as the shapes have changed, I think.

And I realized after I had posted that I had misspoke in my first post: you have VC Defiant Encore stove.

Do you plan to use the stove for significant heating or just from time to time? It is a workhorse, though you will need fuel for it, and that may be hard to come by the first year - and expensive. We burn ours 24/7 once we light it in late October until the end of April. Of course we do have to shut it down once a month or so for chimney cleaning/sweeping chores which can't be done if there's any lingering fire. You can empty the ashes when the stove is burning, though it's easier, and safer to choose a point when the fire is at an very low ebb to do that. We leave a fire in when we are away from home, and of course at night. We refuel around 11:30pm/midnight, and again in the morning (one of us is a night owl and the other an early bird, so it works out OK). In deep winter the house is quite cold by the morning, but the stove re-warms it fairly quickly.

If you have subs working on the house I would advise you to refuse them permission to burn the stove, there's too much risk that they think they know what they are doing, when they really don't. That goes for teenagers, babysitters, house guests and etc. Running a stove safely is very serious business.

Finally, do you have small (rug-rat age) kids or cats? Kids too young to appreciate the danger of a hot surface must be protected by a fire-guard screen around the hearth itself. The good news is that kids soon grow into an age when they won't accidentally get burned. Cats not so much. Not all cats, or even most, but some cats will jump on the stove while it's burning (500-650 degrees F on the top surface) and get terrible burns on their paws. I have one cat who has done it twice. Now we have a fence around the stove. I have had literally dozens of other cats (I do feral cat rescue) who have lived here with same stove and never jumped up.

As I re-read what I wrote and remembered what you said about a break in, I thought I'd also mention that inside the stove there should be a pair of detachable 6" tall cast-iron andiron brackets in the front and a removable cast iron floor grate with diagonal oepnings set in the bottom of the stove. I mention this because these items would be easily detached by thieves and sold for scrap iron. (We had an old cast iron coal stove stolen from an outbuilding last spring.) If you stove has been stripped of these parts, you'll need to get them before any fire can be lit.

Hope my long post is somewhat useful to you. Let me know if you want step by step lighting instructions. (For after the stove and chimney have been checked out and certified OK to go.)


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 7:51PM
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As I edited my post (sorry for the typos, I couldn't fix them) that wretched black CLCKIT ad box showed up and wouldn't go away preventing me from adding two important things:

First: the ashes must go in a separate, dedicated, ash can, not just a metal trash can that is also used for trash. You want ONLY ashes and coals in the ash can, nothing that could provide any fuel at all. After the burning season is long over you may be able to dispose of the long-cold ashes with your trash, but preferably use them on your garden. They are an excellent source of organically-acceptable potash (the last number in a typical fertilizer formula: Nitrogen/Phosporous/Ppotash.)

Second: My DH reminded me that the stove should never have anything except wood and a little paper burnt in it. Don't use it to get rid of large amounts of paper, use only what's necessary for ignition. The catalytic converter can be easily damaged by the smoke of anything except wood and paper, especially any plastics, or colored-smoke generators, etc. Even the ChimFex chimney fire extinguishers could fatally damage the cat, though if you need to use one, that may be the least of your worries at that moment!

And a bonus: You can't really cook on the stove in any meaningful way (not withstanding the "griddle plate" on the top). You can keep stuff hot; you can boil up water or soup in a power outage and you can open the front doors or top and roast up hotdogs or marshmallows on long metal forks. We especially love our marshmallow cookouts in January!


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:05PM
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Liriodendron -

Thank you for all the info! I sent it over to my husband and he's thrilled...he was intrigued with it before, and now he can't wait to try it. My husband had a wood burning stove when he was little and I grew up with a gas fireplace so we're both new to this for the most part. We will be sure to have someone come out to check everything out before we use it.

I'll take the teasing in regards to the year built...I wasn't even born yet when our house was built! It's got a good 10 years on me :)

The house has two HVAC units - one that services the basement and main level and a separate one for upstairs. So we don't have to use it, but I imagine we will quite a bit. There are two sheds on the property that have stacks of wood in them. We need to see just how dry it is, but it should have been protected from the elements.

We were able to find the ash pan cover yesterday when we were over there, but didn't find the firescreen. I haven't been able to look at the back of the stove yet to see if we have a heat shield. We did notice where it looks like a brick was taken out in the floor at the back of the fireplace opening and there's now a piece of metal perhaps covering it.

The fireplace is in the center of the house and doesn't have an exterior wall to it - will it still have the dedicated outside combustion air feed? It sounds like this could be a huge issue if I was planning on putting in a gas cooktop when I remodel the kitchen? We do have a full walkout basement. There is a fireplace directly below in the basement that is the same size as the one on our main level. The best I can tell is that the brick runs through the whole house as there's exposed brick on one wall of the stairs going both up and down.

We don't have any kids yet - are hopeful that will happen in the next year or so. We do have two dogs - a 75lbs Goldendoodle and a 15lbs Maltipoo. The little one jumps up on people, but won't jump on furniture or anything like that without a command. The Goldendoodle doesn't jump without a command (I have a 94 year old great-grandmother who is only 4'8"...he could knock her over with his tail probably) He would be the right height to smell it so we'll need to get him used to it prior to using it.

I'm printing off your messages so I can take them over to the house to check for the other things that you mentioned. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 4:52PM
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I am glad you found the ash pan cover, it will make your life much easier.

The missing brick is intriguing, perhaps it does cover the outside air vent.

Whether or not you have a heat shield in the back isn't really important from a safety point of view since the nearest surface is freestanding masonry. It just matters regarding how you might access the cat chamber for replacement (at least for some models).

The OAV will really make your life easier, so you might want to consider having it retrofitted if there isn't one already. Since you have a full basement, it shouldn't be that hard. Though I won't kid you, the masonry hearth will present some problems.

As you consider your options, let me explain some more how it works, and why. A non-vented woodstove draws the air it needs to burn and for the draft up the chimney from the room around it. This is just the way an open fire does, except, of course, it draws it into the fairly well-closed, but not hermetically sealed, fire box from the room.

If you install an OAV then the there is piping directly from the outside of the house (side of wall, and it can run some distance as there is no pressure needed, just volume). The OAV isolates the air that is being burned and drawn up the chimney from room air (except when you have the stove open for refueling, or if you decide to roast up a weenie, or just gaze at the open flames for ambiance.)

Parenthetically, once you are used to the net heat gain from a woodstove compared to the net heat loss from an open fire place, you'll see why it was such a thrilling advance in technology c 1800 or so when people invented and began to use box stoves where they had previously used just open hearths. The immediate reduction in draftiness, and retaining room heat as the fire burns down is light years better with a woodstove vs an open hearth.

But whether you use an open hearth (fireplace) or an airtight woodstove, the fire and chimney have to get their air from the room. And the room replaces that by drawing in unheated air from the outside, in whatever way it can: down plumbing stacks, small leaks, down gas appliance vent stacks, etc. The fire will suck it continuously, or it will begin to smoke and smolder, which is not what you want. Todays houses (even in the semi-ancient days of 1977) are pretty tight, and most people are on a constant hunt for as much winterization and sealing-up that they can do for enegry savings.

The answer to this is the OAV which supplies the stove with its own private little pathway of clean air that meets all it needs. In this way your heated room air stays in the inside and never goes up the chimney to be replaced with cold outdoor air. We burnt for a few years w/o the OAV and were stunned at the difference in retaining the heat of the stove in the room when it was burning.

But the other important reason for doing the OAV is that when you have modern gas-burning appliances (water heater, gas boiler/furnace) they need their own air to burn and exhaust, but compared to a briskly burning woodstove their draft is much weaker because heir flames are generally smaller. Hence you could have a tug of war between them, with the woodstove winning the fight by virtue of its more powerful draft. That would be bad, bad, thing because the gas boiler's exhaust could be overwhelmed and instead of departing up its vent the woodstove could, in theory, draw cold air back down the boiler's exhaust stack bringing with it all of the boiler's gases (carbon monoxide is the primary bad guy here - it's odorless, colorless, and extremely deadly) back into your house. Many gas appliances nowadays have their own direct exhaust connections, which will keep them from being "pirated" by the burning woodstove, so that's good.

But that still leaves your voracious woodstove to hunt for other sources of combustion air. These days people want fancy-schmancy high BTU stoves (I know I have a 48", double-oven, pro-style baby in the same room with my VC Defiant stove). And these stoves need a fair amount of vent hood exhaust cfms to remove ther heat, smoke and grease, and to a lesser degree, but still there, the CO from their combustion. And this is where the dreaded make-up air thing comes in. The higher the CFM on the vent hood, the more likey you will be required by the building code to add an expensive make-up air system for safety's sake. However, you can sometimes mitigate this requirement by demonstrating that all the gas and solid-fuel (i.e. wood) burning appliances have their own dedicated OAV and direct exhaust vents, effectively isolating them from the calculations that drive the sizing for the kitchen exhaust fan's MUA requirements.

Of course in my truly ancient, uninsulated, and unsealable, 19th c house, the very idea of a tight sealed-up shell is absurd, but still if I didn't have dedicated OAV on both of our stoves, I'd have been stuck with installing a code-driven MUA system (and it would have to be a heated one in my climate, driving the cost even higher.) But we have no furnace or boiler for central heat -we're Luddite-ish- the only heat we get is from the stoves, and our h/w is made by an electric WH. So when my code inspector came here, he agreed that no MUA was needed even though I want to use a powerful cfm fan to match my high-BTU range because there's no way the fan can de-presuurize the air flow through the woodstoves since they are completely isolated from room air by their handy OAV.

But you are likely to have central heat, right? That's why I brought up the outside air for you. If your stoves have OAV, they will get their whack of necessary air and it will never come from inside the building, except when loading, which is just minutues at a time, so you won't have any need for them. This will make it impossible for the fan to draw back into the house any smoke or proucts of convection from the woodstove.

Aside from satisfying code, and being safe from carbon monoxide, you will avoid an annoying, but much more likely scenario: imagine you are cooking away with your fan sucking briskly to get ready for a dinner party and your DH takes a moment to add some logs to an already-burning fire..... what would happen is that the fan could easily suck the smoke from the fire straight out of your woodstove and into the room. Big mess, big cough, big stink and not what you had planned to do just before your big party.

So, yup, I do recommend an OAV for your sweet little stove so your don't wind up hating it. But you can safely try burning it without one, unless your building inspector kicks up a fuss regarding it and the vent fan and your other gas-burning appliances.

The fencing necessary to keep animals (or kids away) is different from the firescreen which only covers the opening of the stove when the doors are unlatched and swung wide. The safety fencing sits out in front of the stove or on the hearth and makes sure that no curious noses or little fingers can reach the incredibly hot surfaces. In four decades of wood burning I have acquired a small collection of burn scars, primarily on my wrists from reaching in when refueling to adjust a log. 500-600 degree F, just melts skin in an instant. Once a doctor looked at my wrist scars and asked me if I had ever been a "cutter"! You certainly don't want your child to start acquiring those battle scars at an early age. The fences don't have to be ugly, they can be quite stylish in an English gentleman's club fender sort of way.

So, still on your woodburning shopping list: large-sized metal trash can for the ashes; woodstove window cleaning product; woodstove temperature gauge and w/s blacking compound; set of leather fire-fighters' gloves (look in yellow pages for a store that supplies fire departments - they will gladly sell to you. The ones I recommend come in variety of sizes, from extra-small which is what I wear to ex large. They cost about $25-35 and have a patch of leather on the inside of your wrist, and Nomex cuffs); a couple of Chimfex chimney fire extinguishers, hopefully you will never need them; it wouldn't hurt to get a box of really long matches as they are helpful in lighting a stove when you are first learning its ways ($5-10).

You should try to find a local Vermont Castings dealer and consider getting a new catalytic converter if there's no evidence from the sellers that they ever changed it out. They may also recommend a sweep, as well. You can learn to do your own sweeping, you'll need ladders, of course, and brushes and extensions sized to fit your chimney stack, so it might be cheaper in the long run to just hire it out. If you only burn occasionally you'll only need to sweep every 1-2 years. If you burn every day, all day, then at least once a year, perhaps more often depending on what your sweep sees after you have done that kind of burning.

Lay in a supply of paper towels (and heavy-duty DW gloves for the window chemical) and newspapers for the floor for when you empty ashes or clean the windows.

To be checked out on site: are the andirons there inside the stove? Ditto the slitted cast-iron bottom plate. Is the ash pan cleaned out? Has a sweep been there to check out the chimney and clean it and checked the status of the weatherstripping around the top opening, all sides on the doors and at the bottom where behind the ash-pan door and replaced the catalytic converter?

All those things should be done before you fire the puppy up.

As for your wood, if it has been there for many years, it may or may not still be burnable. Even wood under cover has a use-by date, as it can get mealy and worthless just sitting around. I'm hoping it's all hard oak, which will keep in good condition for at least five or six years.

What part of the country are you in? I could give you some suggestions for local woods to ask for if you buy more. There's always a brisk trade palming off sub-standard wood of newbie burners. Who else would buy it?

I realize this all sounds quite complicated, and you may think I'm being too picky. However, I am hoping that I can get you off on the right, safe foot with your stove. I used to a volunteer firefighter so woodstove safety is sort of a hobby horse of mine. It is lovely, environmentally sound, and gives one a very dear sense of home, but it will just as easily burn down your house and kill you all.

Never forget you have a voracious amoral beast caged up in that iron box; it doesn't care what it burns next, as long as it keeps getting fuel and air. From that point of view you and all you love are just carbon to be converted to heat. As they used to tell us in firefighters' training, when the fire looks at you, it doesn't see a nice person who volunteered to help the community. It just sees lunch.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 10:40PM
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interesting plaster job - what to do to fix it?
I'm doing some work in my dining room that includes...
Original Heart of Pine Flooring - matching
Hello, I have a contract on a 1905 Edwardian row house....
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