Friday, May 6, 2016

post 2 of 2 today

post 2 of 2 today-guest article

A few reason on why you should acquire a Wood Stove before the collapse

by Idaho Homesteader

Over twenty years ago, my husband and I moved off-grid to the backwoods of North Idaho.  During this time, our only heat source for our home and various outbuildings has been wood stoves.  We've had everything from a big Blaze King with catalytic converter to an old fashioned isinglass (mica glass) parlor stove to an Amish wood cook stove. In my neck of the woods if you find a good quality, affordable wood stove, you better buy it -- quick.

Why?  Well, decent -and- affordable wood stoves are getting harder and harder to find.

First off, EPA regulations are so strict that many manufacturers have quit making stoves. Up in North Idaho during the 1970's, everyone-and-their-dog manufactured wood stove.  Styles ranged from homemade barrel stoves to heavy duty sheet metal hexagonal-cube-looking stoves.  

Now granted, these stoves didn't have all the bells and whistles that new stoves have.  Some weren't super efficient and most gave off more particulates in their smoke that the EPA likes but overall, they were some pretty darn good stoves.  They were made by folks who used them as their sole source of heat though our long North Idaho winters. Folks who wanted something efficient and built to last.

 As far as I know, there is only one manufacturer left in North Idaho. 

Second, the companies that are still around have jacked up their prices to astronomical levels. A new "good" wood stove can easily cost $2 - $3 - $4 - $5,000.  Yeah, you can find cheaper stoves out there but they are cheaper for a reason.  The sheet metal is thinner.  They aren't really durable enough to use everyday, all-day, year after year.  They are made for the people who want a wood stove for the family room and are using it only a few times each winter.  A good, dependable stove will set you back some serious money.

Third, the government offers incentives and buy back programs to get old wood stoves off the market and out of people's home. Around here, there are often programs to trade in your old wood stove for credit toward a gas stove.  Remember a few years ago when the government offered money for used cars to help boost the economy and later, no one could find a decent used car at an affordable price?  Same thing.

Four, because of the mess of heating with wood and the hassle of local regulations, many homeowners are just installing gas stoves. In some areas, there are often "no burn" days because of air quality.  This has led to fewer folks having wood stoves and this results in fewer manufacturers.  Ergo -- fewer available, price increases.

Because of all this, there is a shortage of decent and affordable wood stoves.  If you look on Craigslist, you will see crappy, heat damaged, warped, and half rusted out hulks of old wood stoves going for $500 or more! If you look in the fall when everyone else wants one, there will often not be any listed on Craigslist for any price.

Depending on how they are cared for, a wood stove has a certain life span.  Over the years, the metal can deteriorate if you accidentally run too hot of a fire.  They will warp, fire brick will crack, dampers break, they can rust, etc. So the glut of wood stoves that use to be available in the 1970's and 1980's is getting smaller and smaller.  

If your plan is to scavenge a wood stove AFTER the collapse, you may be disappointed. The stove that you admired at your neighbors house is probably a fake one fueled by natural gas or a cheap modern wood stove that won't last a winter of constant use.  

Even if you are successful in finding a good one, do you know how to install it safely?  Do you have stove pipe that's in good shape?  What about insulated pipe to go through the ceiling and roof?  Did you bring the roof flashing? A heat shield for below and behind the stove?  Did you remember to grab extra fire brick and stove gasket material in case you needed to repair the stove you acquired?

A "GOOD" wood stove is a prized commodity.  You would be wise to purchase one now and get it installed if you live in an area where you will need heat to survive.  

Idaho Homesteader


  1. Even here in Floriduh, I've got a brand new step stove set aside, complete with a damper and enough stove pipe to set it up ,if needed. I've also got a new tent type barrel stove, still in the box with pipe.
    These are only for just in cook primarily. I've got other type cook stoves too. Two Coleman gasoline stoves, an Orego alcohol stove with five gallons of fuel. The alcohol stove is just like the one we had on our boat and it will last about 3 weeks per quart !
    A good wood burner is a priority for the long haul. Even tho Jim doesn't care much for chainsaws, I've got it Idaho boys would just feel nekid without a chainsaw, even stuck here in Florida. Of course, we've got all the manual means for cutting wood too !!
    Rocket stoves are good for small areas, and very frugal. They are excellent for travelling and quick meals. Not so much long term, for space heat tho...sorry Jim.
    Still say that he has the right idea with underground, being the only possible way too survive that far north once fuel is gone.
    We burned on average ,5 cords of wood per winter in Idaho.
    That was heat only ! How are you going to harvest that much wood each year, without chainsaws and transportation ?
    Sure if you've got mules and healthy young men. Not so much by hand only and if you're old !

    Still debating bout coming back there tho....

    1. Actually, I'm not too worried about having enough wood to burn even if I have to cut it all by hand. (My biggest fear is too much fire -- as in a forest fire.) I am surround by acres and acres of wood. Trees, limbs, branches are everywhere.

      Some things we have going for us.

      1) Our house is well insulated.

      2) We are use to being cooler. If it reaches 65, we start opening windows. Our bedroom in the back addition is usually only 45-50°F for sleeping. A hot water bottle to take the initial chill off is a God send.

      3) We can easily close off part of the house if needed.

      For those folks who have never heated with wood, wood heat is a different sort of heat. It's radiant not convective.

      If we get chilled, we stand by the wood stove and warm up. Once we are toasty, we move away and do our work.

      When we sit down to watch a movie, we cuddle up under a wool quilt.

      I'm so acclimated to the cold, that most winters I don't even break out my winter coat. I just wear a light fleece jacket.

      4) We've lived like this for over 20 years -- only wood heat with no other back up so we know it works.

      In fact, we no longer have a regular wood stove in our house, I use an Amish built Bakers Choice wood cook stove as our heat source. It keeps our main house of 850 sq ft (2 stories) more than warm enough. Ever once in a while, we get a cold snap and I'll light up the Irish Waterford Stanley wood cook stove I have in the back addition (500 sq ft - 2 stories) to take the chill off. I only had to do that twice this winter.

      With over 50 acres, we can't even keep up with the dead, dying, diseased and blown down trees. We have to do something with all the wood so we might as well get BTU's from it.

      Wood is not perfect but I really enjoy the heat. I have a tough time with forced air heat -- I always feel chilly.

      Idaho Homesteader

  2. All good info, and true. Stoves are rare as hen's teeth around here because nobody is giving them up. Except for the junk. I looked for a decent one for my garage a few years ago and then gave up. I can't justify the cost of a new one and the used ones were mostly rusty junk. I lucked out and the neighbor across the road installed an outdoor wood furnace and GAVE me his 30 year old WonderWood stove in excellent shape. Not exactly what I was wanting but serves the purpose. In return I felled, trimmed, cut, and split 32 hard wood trees for him. And burned the leftovers in a huge burn pile.

    The prices on the double and triple wall chimney pipes are absolutely murderous, around $40 and up for a single 4' section of dbl wall. Triple wall is twice that. You have to plan your chimney well. I have 6" single wall from stove to ceiling, and dbl wall up thru the attic. The single wall radiates heat out into the space. I rigged some steel brackets to the sgl wall to hang wet shop rags, gloves, boots, etc. on to dry. That pipe will draw a nasty blister if you let it. I put my Wonderwood in a corner of the workshop and placed 4" thick x 8" tall x 16" long solid concrete blocks against the wall all the way up to the ceiling behind the stove. This absorbs heat when the stove is running and reflects it back into the space.

    My office and our house are heated with propane furnace, heaters, and fireplaces and a 1000 gallon LP tank. Because the cold is a killer here in the woods I have multiple levels of backups. If I could find a deal on another wood stove I'd surely install it in the house. When all else fails, we have trees and even green wood will keep you from freezing. We have about 8 cords presently, and will add maybe 4 more by the end of fall. Good wood warms you twice. I use a mechanical splitter. It takes longer, but whats the hurry?, and it's mostly maintenance free.

    1. We just purchased a wood splitter last fall after twenty years of splitting wood by hand.

      I love it!!! We should have bought one earlier.

      Idaho Homesteader

  3. Yes they are expensive. Tractor Supply or other Farm stores carry $400 ones in the fall, but they won't last but a few seasons. I bought a Vermont Castings Defiant and it wasn't cheap. Has a cook top and glass front so you can the fire. Is CAST iron. Will heat 1800 sq/ft BOL easily. Weighs 518 pounds according to the literature. They do gobble wood though, heating day in and day out.

    1. I have a Vermont Castings Resolute wood stove. It's installed over in the little cabin I'm building on the back 20.

      You're right, it's heavy!

      It's such a good wood stove, that I invest over $500 replacing all the innards. If should be good for the rest of my life.

      Vermont Castings stoves are well worth the money.

      Idaho Homesteader

  4. I can speak from experience myself that Idaho Homesteader is right on the money with this post!
    All the flaws she describes apply to almost any sort of stove. Some of the flaws are lessened in a Masonry 'russian' stove but those are not even slightly movable- install one now if you want one - and they have several of the same disadvantages.
    Minimize the heating needs (just like minimizing the electric needs is for going electric off grid) is the first step in preparing for the future. Good woolen clothes, thermals, solar gain, insulation, smaller and fewer rooms, etc. etc.

  5. Picked up a nice 70's stove ten or so years ago for fifty bucks. What would be a great prep item is the materials to build the burn chamber for some rocket stoves. Bought some "fire" brick to find out it's just plain yellow brick. Even fire brick won't stand up to the high temps reached in a rocket stove. The experts use some inexpensive but esoteric stuff you can't just buy at Homedespot.

  6. I have 2 extra wood stoves setting outside under tarps. I got them for free from homes I was working in. One large (And very heavy, really heavy, really, really you need a fork lift heavy) and one that only takes 2-people to move around. I also have all the piping, thimbles, flashing rain hood thing, stove black, extra fire bricks (just re-bricked the stove in the garage last Fall) stove putty and a coil of door seal.

    Working in home remodeling is grate from a scavenging viewpoint, people pay you to take stuff out of their home and throw it away.

    Chuck Findlay

    1. Our big Blaze King wood stove in our shop was one that someone was just throwing away. Right place, right time.

      I just had to buy a replacent piece of glass for the cracked window in the door.

      I was also given a wood stove that is surrounded by a chamber that you are suppose to fill with antifreeze which is then plumbed to run hot fluid through tubes for a green house. But I've never gotten around to installing it, yet.

      Idaho Homesteader

  7. Thank you for the post Mrs. Homesteader. I picked up a smaller boxwood stove a couple years ago that had been outside and had surface rust. I wire brushed it but have to get new screws. It wasnt assembles so they rusted in the bag. My plan for my future home is a small (800-1200) well insulated home with plenty of passive solar gain. Im in south MS so I wont need much heat in the winter. Woodstoves are hard to find down here. I found one that was rated for 2000-3000 square feet at a good price. An $1700 stove for $300. Thought about it but too much stove.

    I do need something for the long cloudy days that last a week. I wont need much gas or electric heat but that may not be available. Im all electric now but I could get the boxwood done and get the stove pipe to install if needed.


    1. It is expensive- even if you just buy a kit, but I would recommend a built in place masonry or rocket stove - the large thermal mass helps reduce the overheating a lot of the oversize cast iron wood stoves cause small structures, they can be built by yourself (or with a kit by yourself, or you can hire a knowledgeable mason )
      there are other free plans on the web, and kits too.
      I plan to get a core kit that comes with the necessary refractory firebrick, doors, vents, plans and clean outs, then use my own locally sourced sand and masonry to build one in my 1200sq ft garage/shop/storage/greenhouse for practice.
      If it works well enough (as I expect from other experience and research I have done) I will be building one in my 1600sq ft house.

    2. I've seen some good boxwood stoves and some cheap ones. What do the seams look like? Is it airtight or does it suck air through a bunch of cracks? When it's dark, stick a flashlight in the stove and look to see if any light is escaping.

      You would be wise to get some new gasket material so you can make sure the seams are sealed well. You want to be able to control how much air is allowed in for the fire.

      You were smart to pass up the stove that would have been too big. In my opinion, it's better to have a stove just right or a smidge to small for your needs. Burning hot fires are better than stocking a big stove up and then dampering it down to smolder all day long. You get too much creosote in your chimney and a chance of a chimney fire when you run your stove dampered down all the time.

      Several times a day, we'll run our stove full bore. This helps keep the chimney clean.

      Idaho Homesteader

    3. If you get a big heavy stove that's oversize for your space, that has a burn chamber that's too big, can't you just partially-fill it with some firebrick or fired tiles? Wouldn't this make the air velocity better, while adding mass to hold some heat between firings? In a barrel stove, reducing the hot-spot temp (by protecting the bottom of the barrel with tile/rocks/sand/brick) will slow the inevitable holes growing in sheetmetal. Unless it's -60F outside (in your uninsulated CONEX box/house), a stove doesn't need MAX firing, for longevity and efficiency with wood supply.

      Are your splitters electric, gas-engine, Diesel, hydraulic? I recently got a 1-handed gravity-enhanced splitter for kindling (EZ-split, made in China)that seems safer than axe/hatchet for pre-cut lengths.

      Thanks for good articles, Idaho Homesteader!


    4. Good wood stoves are engineered. They take in accounts how much air gets in, size of the chimney pipe, where the air intake is, whether there is a secondary burn chamber, placement of baffles if any, etc.

      So trying to reduce the size of your fire box is only one part of the equation. And trying to figure all that out is way above my pay grade. I'm only a humble, backwoods homesteader :)

      After years of just using splitting mauls, last fall we bought an Ariens gas-powered 22 ton hydraulic log splitter.

      We got by for so many years without a gas-powered wood splitter because we really don't split that much wood. We own a Woodmizer Sawmill so any big trees that are dead, dying or blown over get milled for lumber.

      Most of what we cut for firewood is 8 inches in diameter or less. That size can fit whole into our wood cook stove. Every once in a while, we come across a bigger tree that isn't good for lumber. We use those in the shop woodstove which has a big Blaze King which can handle larger diameter wood.

      The main reason we got the wood splitter is because we were splitting a lot of wood for our friends and family. They aren't use to running a wood stove so when they come to visit, they would have a tough time keeping the fire going with bigger chunks of wood. Smaller, split wood is easier for them to deal with.

      Idaho Homesteader

  8. “First off, EPA regulations are so strict that many manufacturers have quit making stoves.”

    Wow, that kind of surprises me, I thought that was a California only thing? I know that when I would try and look for stoves at Northern Tool, and various other online sources, almost none of them would ship to CA. I've always been particularly partial to the little pot bellied stoves.

    I thought that I would add that if you ever come across a good deal on an old coal burning stove, that they are particularly stout due to the thicker steel required. You can burn wood in a coal stove, but you're not supposed to burn coal in a wood stove.

    1. Just make sure you really check the grates and the insides on a coal stove. They are often warped or burned out.

      Idaho Homesteader