Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fireplace Blues

We are buying a wood burning stove insert for our fireplace.

Actually, we are replacing the one we had for 15 years. It was "installed" by a previous owner and by installed, I mean three large guys picked the behemoth up and slammed it in the 1970's era prefab metal sided fireplace. No flue connection. No insulation. Just a giant metal thing sitting on the brick.


To open and close the flue of the fireplace you used to have to shimmy the 1000 pound behemoth to one side and then reach into the sooty darkness and open (or close) the flue. The steel insert would screech like nails on a chalk board and inevitably your arm came back out covered in soot. It was kind of like the old board game Operation except it was dark and a buzzer and light didn't off if you hit the sides - you got soot arm.

I got quite good at this crazy task over the years. By the end I could yank that black stove back, swing my arm up there with a paper towel and close the flue with out a mark getting on me. I got so good that I could do it in good clothes before work without worrying about it.

We would light fires on only the coldest nights of the winter and since the thermostat for the house was in the same room as the insert, it would effectively turn the heat off for the night. This was great if you were in the part of the house heated by the wood stove but if you were outside of that area you froze. By "outside that area", I mean the 11 x 17 living room.

Of course this just made you put more wood in the stove until the stove reached a temperature near that required for making steel.

My wife enjoyed the fire especially if I needed to chop wood for the fire. She found this absolutely hilarious as I would go out in the cold and try to prop up a piece of wood, take the heavy maul over my head and then bring it down hard on the defenseless wood only to have it bounce a mile high off the wood. Ha, ha, ha, ha, boy is that ever funny. It's cold and I'm sweating. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

I thought nothing of making fires like hades. The hotter the better. I would sometimes have a hard time sleeping if we had a fire that night - thinking that it could some how light the house on fire. But for the most part, I didn't worry about.

Until the chimney sweeps came one year. We had the chimney cleaned like we did every year only that year the chimney sweeps told us that the stove was a fire hazard. They told us that the stove wasn't designed for that "type of fireplace" and we should get rid of it, now.

We somehow had no issue for 15 years but now all of a sudden I had the crap scared out of me and we tried selling it for scrap. Of course no one wanted it, but several scrap dealers were willing to take it off my hands for $100. I'm sure it's sitting in some old place in Camden, happily heating a scrap dealers office or garage every winter.

Now, after two years of heatless fires in the prefab fireplace, we want our warmth back and have been looking at professionally installed inserts. We visited one dealer two weeks ago and he made it sound like it was a piece of cake. He installs tons of them every winter.

Today my wife went to another store only to hear a familiar refrain. It was like "A Christmas Story" where the kid wants a Red Rider BeeBee gun and all he hears is "you'll put your eye out kid". This second store told us "You can't have an insert in a non-masonry fireplace - you'll burn your house down"

This second store wants to tear out the old "zero clearance" fireplace and install a masonry one for big bucks.

Now we are totally confused.

1 comment:

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