Saturday, October 9, 2021

Installing the wood cookstove

This is a long post, so pour yourself a cup of tea and follow us as Don installs the wood cookstove.

If you recall, we fell in love with our Baker's Choice wood cookstove when we installed it in our old home in December 2015.

We loved this stove so much, in fact, that we knew we wanted an identical model in our new home. Then almost exactly two years ago – October 2019 – I received an email from Glenda Lehman Ervin, Director of Marketing at Lehman's in Ohio, as follows: "If you want the Baker’s Choice or Pioneer Princess, I would order soon.  Last I heard we had 18 on back order (they are Amish made and the vendor can’t keep up)."

We immediately placed an order for the stove (not through Lehman's, but through Obadiah's, the same Montana distributor we used before). We were told there would be a wait, but to our delight we received the stove within two weeks. This actually presented a quandary, because we were just about to leave our old home and move into a rental, and had no idea where we would end up moving. The buyers of our old home very kindly allowed us to store the stove in the barn for a few months.

After we moved in to our new home, we transported the stove here and it's been sitting in the barn ever since.

Last winter, we discovered the vulnerabilities inherent in electric heat. Our new home had both a pellet stove and central heating – neither of which work, obviously, during power outages. And power outages, we also learned, are a fairly common thing around here. Last winter we had a couple instances of scrambling to stay warm. It's not a position we wanted to repeat this winter.

Now that winter is looming, getting the wood cookstove installed was a top priority. This turned into a rather leisurely two-month process.

The first thing to do was remove the pellet stove. It works perfectly, and as it turns out, some neighbors wanted it, so it worked out.

We removed the stove on August 9. That was the start of our cookstove installation journey.

Here's the platform base. It's too small to use for the cookstove, so we took it out.

After this, Don cut a hole in the roof and installed the pipe, making sure everything was up to code.

Good ol' triple-walled pipe.

He wrapped hardware cloth around the cap as both a spark arrester, and a means of keeping birds from flying down the pipe.

Pipe all done! (Except later we added an extra piece of triple-wall pipe to make the chimney higher.)

After this, he built a pad. First came a layer of OSB, then a layer of cement board...

...then he tiled it.

You can see the layers of the pad here.

Then he edged the pad with metal trim.

He used a cutting wheel to nick the trim and bend it to shape.

Next came the stove backing. Behind a shed in our yard, the previous owners had left some sheets of galvanized metal behind.

We dragged them out and cleaned them up.

Then Don cut the pieces to size...

...and pop-riveted them together to make a heat-shield backing for the stove.

To properly mount this backing, he used wall-shield spacers which keeps the heat shield away from the wall.

Here's the heat shield, in place.

Then at long last it was time to bring the stove from the barn to the house.

We rested the stove momentarily on the elevated deck, with the platform cart nearby (lower right side of the photo). The stove was bolted to a pallet, and we had to get it off.

We strapped it to the tractor tines using ratchet straps.

Because the metal is so sharp, we padded the edges with rags.

A little heave-ho, and we got it onto the platform cart.

After that, it was a cinch to roll it into the house.

We were able to look the stove over more carefully, now that it was unwrapped. We were pleased to see some significant improvements in its workmanship from just a few years ago. Notably, the back-wall firebricks were now behind a layer of metal. These were too easy to break whenever anyone slammed logs into the firebox, so having a metal shield was a wise idea. The firebricks also seem to be of better quality.

Here are all the accouterments that came with the stove.

In the upper right, you'll see the silver-colored oval-to-round (seven-inch oval to eight-inch round) adapter. That's the other improvement. It's an odd size and hard to find. We had to cobble pipes together with our last stove, and it was a bear. Having this single piece now included with the stove was an enormous help.

The next step was to move the stove from the platform cart to the pad. It was far too heavy for just Don and I to lift, so we enlisted the aid of some neighbors. To make things easier, we inserted metal poles for lifting. Thanks to the neighbors' help, moving the stove took literally five seconds.

We settled the stove on a blanket so we could more easily tweak and slide it to line up with the pipe. When it was in the right spot, I was able to lift one side of the stove while Don slid the blanket out, and we repeated it on the other side.

Here the stove is assembled (sides and back in place, knobs inserted, etc.). All that remains is to connect the pipes.

We temporarily taped a plumb bob to the upper pipe to make sure the stove was precisely lined up.

It didn't take Don long to fit everything together.

Here it is, in all its fresh shining glory, ready to use!

But here's the thing: we couldn't use it. Not yet. Though the weather was getting chillier, it was also very dry. Believe me, despite having a spark arrester on the pipe cap, we didn't want to take any risks.

The dry conditions are also why we didn't do something else: light a fire in the stove while it was still outside to let the stove paint out-gas. We knew (from experience) the first couple hours of having a fire in the stove would mean horrific fumes from the new paint, which meant we had to open the house until the fumes subsided. Such is life.

But a couple days later, we had rain -- and it was time to light the stove! We started by putting the parrot and her cage in the bathroom, and closing the door. This protected her against both the fumes and the cold air.

The outside temps were in the 40s, but we opened up every door and window to the raw weather.

We turned on every fan, both floor fans...

...and ceiling fans.

Thus prepared, Don ceremonially lit the fire.

It was every bit as wonderful as our last stove. It out-gassed a bit less than we thought it would (possibly because it had been sitting in a barn for a year), but it did give off enough fumes for a couple hours that we toughed it out with all the windows and doors open, and fans on.

Darcy, confused by the temperature anomaly, coped by staying outside on the deck, a martyred look on his face.

But then we were able to shut up the house and luxuriate in the warmth of the stove.

Praise God, we have wood heat again!


  1. You did a great job in documenting the whole process. I really didn't know what an involved process it was. Today people are so use to just pulling out the old stove and plugging in a new one.

  2. That is very nice! Staying warm is more important to me as I get I would step backward right off the platform the stove is on the first time I used the stove! Have you cooked with the stove yet?

  3. Outstanding. Great job and helpful reference for anyone needing to install a wood stove.
    Montana Guy

  4. I just bought a Cunningham wood stove up in Hiram Ohio last month . Made by the same Amish crew up on the north shore of Lake Erie . It appears to have only been fired a few times . Nice heavy stove and well designed .

  5. Glad that you have the important piece of self sufficiently installed. I am sure that you and Don are heaving a huge sigh of relief!

  6. It's a thing of beauty! May she bring you many, many years of warmth.

  7. Very impressed with the range of improvisations and skills required to get it in and up and running. You guys appear to be Jack/Jill of all trades and master/mistress of some. Just curious, How well does that stove keep a fire overnight? Is it adequate to function as a primary source of heat for the whole house? Do you reckon the parrot ever figured out that it was being protected instead of punished by its exile?

    1. (1) It's all Don's doing. He's an amazing Jack-of-all-trades. (2) Yes, it will keep a fire going overnight. It helps that Don is a night owl and I'm an early bird, so when bitter weather comes he closes the dampers and keeps the embers glowing before he comes to bed, and when I get up there are usually coals to restart the fire. (3) Absolutely it works as a primary heat source. No question about it. And (4), the parrot was probably ticked at us, but we made it up to her later.

      - Patrice

  8. Oh My, thats Purdy. You are going to be so happy this winter. I can almost taste the plain old dough donuts (no icing no nothing) my grandma in Maine made on her wood stove. It was actually the only stove they had AND the only heat in the house. Propane/nat gas/electric/oil heat is nice and convenient and all. BUT wood heat is heavenly.

  9. A happy dance for you is well deserved :)

  10. I love the metal used as a heat shield. Very “country” and perfect!

  11. Well, that is quite perfect, and a terrific job! Good on both of you, and congrats to y’all to be warm all winter!

  12. we just installed a wood stove; nowhere near as elegant as the one you just installed, but this one works quite well for what we have in store for it. It will heat the whole house (2800 sf), and, we can cook on it when the propane runs out after the SHTF.

    Of course, the main delight in one of these is the fire and the ambience it brings.