How to move a high-efficiency wood stove into your house

Part 2

Moving a quarter-ton wood burning stove into a house is difficult, especially if the stove is wider than the doors and the two movers are old-age pensioners weighing 98-pounds and 170-pounds, respectively.

Where is Clark Kent when you really need him? I’ll tell you where. He’s busy aiding the residents of Gotham City. What a sell out to the Yanks! According to an Historical Moment, Superman was invented by Canadian Joe Shuster and American Jerry Siegel. By that logic, Canadians should have have at least a partial claim to the superhero.

But that’s off topic, so I’ll get back to the point. If you read my last column, it was about how my wife and I removed a 400-pound wood stove from our home by using brains over bronze. It was a successful, yet sad, endeavour as we had become attached to the old Fisher Papa Bear which heated our log house for 40-years.

Our new stove is a high efficiency Osburn 2400, without a catalytic converter. Catalytic wood-burning appliances are available and are about 10 per cent more efficient than their non-catalytic counterparts. However, the catalytic’s two-decade track record has been fraught with problems, including poor initial combustion, difficulty controlling the fire, frequent cleaning of the catalyst, and, in many cases, replacement of the catalyst every two years. Furthermore, wood must be ultra dry (about seven per cent moisture) to allow the catalyst to “fire-off.”

Modern non-catalytic wood burners are about 75 per cent efficient and much simpler to ignite, control and maintain, because unburned gases (smoke and particulates) are mixed and consumed in a secondary chamber containing preheated fresh air, thus eliminating the need for a fussy catalytic converter. Non-catalytic stoves also meet Canadian air quality standards and will burn wood with 20 per cent moisture without damaging the unit. However, for maximum efficiency, fire wood should not exceed 10 per cent moisture.

To obtain 10 per cent, split and stack green wood on pallets to keep the fuel off the ground and to allow a full year for it to dry in a non-shaded area. Do not tarp the wood during the summer, as this is the season when it will lose most of its moisture. Also, stack split wood with the bark up so that rain runs off the bark and does not sit on flat surfaces. Seasoned wood that has been subjected to a lot of rainfall can be dried by stacking it next to a wood heater in a log holder for about an hour. Make sure the holder is a safe distance from the stove, about 15- to 18-inches away from a modern high-efficiency model. Some new stoves have a built in log holder in the base of the unit.

We chose the Osburn 2400 for aesthetic and practical reasons. It is a good looking appliance with a ceramic glass-paned door that lets you watch the fire. A removable ash box is neatly hidden in a cut-corner pedestal beneath the firebox. A required accessory is a lovely black cast iron door overlay also available in brush nickel plated cast iron.  Overall, the unit is a visually pleasing square-shape with clean, modern lines.

A collar that accepts a standard double-wall stove pipe is located on top of the stove to eliminate the need for a tee or an elbow, often required by older stoves which had a collar protruding from their back sides. We were also impressed by the heat retaining mass of the Osburn which has 125-pounds more material than a similar sized competitor.

Moreover, the Quebec manufactured Osburn features a 3.2-cubic-foot firebox with a maximum log length of 21-inches and has a heating area of 1,000 to 2,700 square feet, well suited to the heating requirements of our 2,000-square-foot cathedral ceiling log house. An option that we liked, but did not purchase because we have ceiling and floor fans, was a 130 CFM blower with a variable speed control.

We purchased the Osburn in Winnipeg for about $2,000. The price was competitive and, as we had extensively researched other brands, we felt the Osburn was a superior wood burner. However, because we live outside Winnipeg, delivery and installation became an overwhelming financial burden, so my wife and I decided to do the job ourselves. 

We picked up the stove from the distributor in St. James. When we drove into the yard seated in our rusty 1979 Ford pick-up, we received amused glances from employees. The crated stove was hoisted into the truck’s box with a fork lift and placed on a homemade mechanic’s creeper.

The yard foreman asked us to sign a waiver that absolved the company from any liability should the stove roll through the tailgate and land on a vehicle behind us. This was after we had secured the crate solidly into position with five ratchet straps and a winch. He obviously was not a believer in the DIY movement as practised by elderly hippies.

After an uneventful drive home, we unstrapped the juggernaut and huddled in the yard for a think session.  In an ideal world, backing the truck up to the deck would have been a perfect solution, but this required driving over one of my wife’s beautiful flower gardens. Personally I had no a problem with that, but then, as my wife pointed out, I had not invested hours of work in the garden.

The alternative was to hand winch the crated brute along a plywood ramp into a yard wagon pulled by a lawn tractor. To my amazement and relief, the wagon’s tiny pneumatic tires did not explode when the crate rolled into it. The wagon did sway dangerously from side to side as I pulled it with the tractor across declivities in our lawn.

My wife ran alongside attempting to steady the crate while yelling, “It’s going to tip over!”

Once the crate was safely on the deck, we had to remove the house’s back door and a bit of trim so we could ease the stove into the kitchen where we encountered a further problem — the door between the kitchen and the dining room was only 30-inches wide. The stove was 31-inches wide with the crate removed; the pallet on which the stove sat was 34-inches wide. I wanted to fire up the chain saw to make quick work of the doorway. But my wife, being of more gentle character, suggested I use the Sawzall instead.

Frustration can bring out the worst in us. I attacked that doorway`s finished and rough frames like Freddy Krueger. When the job was completed, four large chunks were missing from the frames, leaving sufficient room for us to roll the stove and pallet into the dining room and onto our homemade tile and cement board hearth.

From that point, it was a relatively easy job to jack up the stove, remove the pallet and creeper from underneath it and then lower the quarter-ton behemoth directly onto the hearth.

Final word: Superman is superfluous.

(Next time: part 3)