Yippee!! My mom is coming for a pre-Christmas visit. YIKES! We really need to get our &*(* together and finish up this house. So the race is on. The garden will still be a disaster (fair warning, Mom, if you're reading!) but we aim to get the house ship-shape. So we're busy bees for the next few weeks.
Earlier in this project (and for the years of dreaming leading up to it) I spent my time on design blogs and hoarding home design magazines. I was obsessed with how our house would feel and how the design would support and enhance the way we live. Meanwhile, E was staying up late reading books on insulation, "green" building techniques and energy efficient ways of heating and cooling. One of his big wishes was to have a wood burning stove in place of a traditional chimney. With this house it was an easy choice - we had a chimney already but removed the gas burning fireplace.
Last week we had the new one installed. I like to call it the firebox. Because that's what it is; a fire in a box in the corner of our living room. We were able to buy a small firebox (average 6kw output) since our space is small and so well insulated. Once installed we had to wait a couple of days to light it (not that we need it - it's still in the mid-60s here during the day) to let all the evil chemicals related to the installation completely evaporate. E was so excited - like a kid on Christmas Eve - and chomping at the bit to light it. Once we'd past the 48 hours mark he went for it...and filled our house with smoke and turned the glass windows on the stove completely black.
He was impatient. Of course he thought something was wrong with the stove! Ha. After 1/2 hour the flames started roaring and he was happy. Meanwhile, I spent 45 minutes the following morning cleaning the glass with oven cleaner - not so fun.
We have had a couple of good fires since then but then last night he came home and wanted a fire RIGHT NOW. So he lit it and...filled the house with smoke. At dinner time. *sigh*. He got it working, that is burning without a lot of smoke, but then I had to clean it again. He asked me today to try to light one and see how it went - were there any leaks on the 2nd floor of the house where the chimney passes (in our bedroom!)? Any further leaks coming from the stove itself?
So I made my effort and tried to remember my Girl Scout years. I did not succeed on the first try - smoky fire, same as E. Then I did a little Google help and experimentation and here's what I learned:
- Don't be lazy when building the fire: Wad up newspaper and place kindling wigwam style on top. Light the newspaper and only when the kindling is burning add a log or two - whatever fits easily into the box.
- Know how the box gets oxygen to fuel the fire. A few stoves have a pipe connected to the exterior wall and pulls air from the outside. Most, like ours, have a vent in the box that pulls air from the room. We have a vent in the wall to the outside that must be open when the fire is lit and pulls in fresh air and enters the box via the vent in the bottom.
- Know how air circulates in the house. Our downstairs is open and a big no-no we learned the hard way: Do not have the kitchen fan going at the same time as the fire becuase the fire will begin to smoke (or a badly built, smoky fire will get worse) and smoke will get pulled, via the vent, into the room.
- The Firebox heats the room by heating the box. It's cast iron. It gets HOT. Do not leave your coffee cup on top or it can shatter or melt. Reinforce the IT'S HOT message to little kids and visitors. (So far, so good on this point in our house)
Now that I have the hang of making the fire, I'm really excited - it's so cozy!