Here in Utah it is very common to have a basement, often fully finished. My house is no exception. Our basement is around 2,000 square feet with only two finished rooms, both bedrooms. The previous owner of our home had ducting installed to heat the downstairs, but to do so would require another furnace which they apparently decided to set up in the closet of one of the two bedrooms.
In the interest of preparedness and to avoid losing a closet (and therefore a bedroom per building code) I started looking into the option of installing a wood burning stove in the basement.
Our first floor has an Alpine gas stove in a large river rock enclosure. The spot directly below this in the basement would be an ideal location to install an wood burning stove as I would be able to use all the dead space in the first floor enclosure for the flu. A little poking around confirmed that there is indeed sufficient space to install a flu pipe in this area.
Armed with this information, I began researching stoves. After a short while I thought “Can I cook on a wood stove?”. A little more research and I found stoves designed for just such a task. A wood burning cook stove will include a surface for cooking on with pots and an oven for baking. The oven temperature can be regulated fairly well. To regulate the temperature when cooking with pots on the cook surface, you simply move the pot to either a hotter or cooler part of the cook surface. The area closest to the firebox is hottest, farther away is cooler. In terms of preparedness, this seemed ideal as it kills two birds with one stone, heating AND cooking PLUS baking.
Now that I had zeroed in on wood burning cookstoves, I found that there are a number of models available, several options to consider and some insurance/code issues to consider.
- Warming area– Usually in a decorative shelf area above the backsplash. Great location for keeping food warm, making certain foods (bread, cheese, yogurt, etc.)
- Water reservoir– contains a couple gallons of hot water with a spigot. Great for having constant hot water, for cleaning, etc.
- Hot Water to House option– manifold that allows you to plumb your household water line into the stove. Allows you to heat your household water with the stove. Hot showers anytime!
- Coal burning grate– Coal burns hotter than wood. An additional grate is required for burning coal. Coal is plentiful and cheap in some areas of the country. Here in Utah, it is plentiful and some of the cleanest burning on the planet.
- Heat Shield– Required if you don’t want to install the stove over 24 inches away from the wall.
- Fresh Air kit– to bring fresh air into the stove rather than internal air. Required in some locales.
- UL Listed– Certified by the UnderWriters Laboratory. REQUIRED in some locales for building code purposes. REQUIRED for most home owners insurance policies. VERY IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION.
Properly maintained, a wood burning cookstove will last for generations. While not easy, they can be removed and packed up for moving to a new house if I were ever to move. After reviewing the options generally available I decided that if I were making the investment to purchase and install one, I would prefer to get one with all the options except a Coal grate (I can buy or make that anytime if it is something I decide I need) and the Fresh Air kit as it is not required or even recommended in my area.
Given that I now had the list of ideal options I would like in a stove, I began looking at the models available. One of the best sources I found was Lehmans. Based on the information I found there, I also looked at a number of other stoves and distributors. In general I found that the Lehman’s prices were inline with the industry. In fact, Lehman’s prices often include freight costs where for some other companies, the stove is the same price but freight is additional.
Below are some of the models I looked at and a little information on each one. I hope this might help someone else who may be beginning to look at these.
Heartland Sweetheart Stove
Heartland’s smaller stove. Very pretty, all the options you might want. Reasonably sized oven and firebox.
Heartland Oval Stove
Not a ton more than the Sweetheart, but provides heat for a larger area as well as a larger cooking surface. The same large list of options as the Oval with a larger oven and the largest firebox available.
Both the Heartland stoves ARE UL Listed.
Beautiful Victorian stove. Enterprise makes beautiful stoves that look like they will last for many generations. However, they are NOT UL listed. As I am planning on installing it in my home, this is a MAJOR consideration for me.
While not the ‘King’ model, the Monarch is the KING of wood burning cookstoves with a price to match. Its Victorian styling is absolutely gorgeous and it seems to offer every option under the sun. Unfortunately it does NOT appear to be UL listed.
This stove is made in Waterford, Ireland. This particular model has been produced for over 100 years with some original examples still in daily use! Definitely a work horse. Very homey looking. I wanted something a little more ‘Little House on the Prarie’ looking though.
A nice Amish made utilitarian stove. It would look right at home in a cabin. Not quite what I was looking for. Also, UL listing is questionable on this one. It may be UL listed, but that wasn’t clear from the description I read.
Another nice utilitarian model. This one seems to the best ‘bang for the buck’. The oven and cook area are a little smaller than what I was hoping for though. It also wasn’t quite up to heating the area I have in mind either. Great choice for those on tight a budget and/or with a smaller space to heat.
After a lot of consideration, I concluded that for my family, the Heartland Oval stove met our needs the best. Now that I knew what I wanted I contacted their local distributor/installer to get a quote. A visit to our house to inspect the area and a few days later I had the estimate. Basically, the stove is roughly $5,000 and installation is about $5,000 including a stone hearth on the floor and on the wall behind the stove, floor to ceiling.
This is roughly what I had calculated on my own so I wasn’t overly shocked at the high price tag. But, when the power is out for several days how much would a warm house, hot oven and hot showers be worth to you?
I’ve begun putting aside money for this next big prep expenditure. Learning to cook and bake on a tempermental wood cookstove might not be for everyone, but it looks like fun to me.