August 10 to November 25, 2014
After a nice long fall season, winter has descended – fast and furious. Our main project this fall was to get our new wood cookstove installed in the house before the heating season arrived. As you can see from the date above, I started writing this blog in August thinking we would have the stove in by September. However, it turned out to be a longer project than expected.
Our new Kitchen Queen 480 woodstove, from Obadiah’s Woodstoves in Montana, was due to arrive around the end of August, but first we needed to finish the spot she would sit in. We waffled back and forth on what material to construct the walls surrounding the stove, but in the end went with our original plan of field stone walls.
We built a field stone wall for our wood cookstove in the cabin and figured that would be our test run for the walls around the stove in the house.
For reasons of weight (the weight of the stove – over 900 pounds – and the rocks combined is huge) and time (finding, washing and laying the stones) I was leaning towards a tiled wall. Ken was not easily persuaded. The joists under the stove are reinforced, as it was always our intent to have a wood stove and stone wall. And picking, sorting, washing and laying rocks is a pleasurable task for Ken. I, however, still have not so fond memories of October days washing field stones and laying mortar for the wall in the cabin. I remember raw finger tips and 3 weekends of hard work. The finished product was exceptional but I wasn’t sure I wanted to endure that again, even if the weather was more amiable in August than it was that October. But Ken loves rocks and is prepared to lay these walls himself, so who am I to deny a man his rocks.
Although most of the rock picking, washing and mortaring took place in pleasurable weather, the project did drag on and there were plenty of chilly October days washing rocks.
The hearth (floor under the stove) is black granite tiles. (a great find on Kijiji for $5 a tile. The tile was removed from another installation but is in pristine shape, just needed to scrape a bit of mortar off the backs) The walls surrounding the stove were covered first with heat shield concrete board.
The bottom 56 inches of wall is covered with rocks. Most of the rocks were scoured from rock piles in the yard and surrounding area. We have been saving rocks for ages for this hearth and other future projects. Some of the rocks in the wall will be “special rocks”, rocks Ken collected on our various travels through the years. Wonderful flat round rocks we collected in Newfoundland from a beach along the neck of land between Placentia Bay and Trinity Bay; rocks from Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba.
Using a big old tub full of lake water and a scrub brush, Ken patiently scrubbed down each rock. He said it was like an adventure. You never know what the next rock you pull out of the water will look like. (I say it looks like another rock!) However, he enjoyed his daily breaks from carpentry.
After washing, the rocks were hauled into the kitchen.
One row at the time Ken fit them together. You can only lay one row at time, applying mortar between the rocks to hold them in place. Then you have to wait until the mortar sets before you start the next row.
The 2×4’s on the floor at the base of the wall will be removed later and the black granite tiles installed. Since the remainder of the kitchen floor will be cork on K board, the granite hearth floor should be flush with the final cork flooring.
The rock wall goes up 56 inches.
How to Build a Rock Wall – Ponderosa Style – a step by step tutorial
– Piece of plywood for mixing
– Mortar (make sure you buy mortar for laying bricks)
– Trowel (various sizes)
– Sponge (for smoothing mortar, we used one designed for ceramic floor)
– Metal brush (for smoothing out almost dry cement)
– Knee pads (the job is tough on the knees)
1) Assemble your tools. You will need two pails of water, one for mixing with the mortar and the second one for cleaning rocks, sponges and tools.
2) Make your mortar:
3) Place your stones
e. Place one row of rocks at a time, allowing time for the mortar to set between rows. Slow steady progress
The following pictures show the step by step wall progress.
On top of the last row of stone is a ledge of gray porcelain tile. The wall above the ledge is the same grey porcelain tile. (Another great Kijiji find.) To aid in heat distribution and to bring a bit more light to the stove area, we cut an open window to the living room area. Ken has special plans for finishing this ‘window’.
We finally finished on October 24 – a two and a half month project. However, the result was fabulous.
The missing tile is for a fresh air vent coming up from the basement. As you can see, we didn’t quite have enough black marble to complete the entire job, but since you can’t see the tiles in the back under the stove, we decided to use miscellaneous granite tile we found at the Re Store. In hind-site, we should have used them in the back row as they do show a bit.
The Kitchen Queen 480 arrived on September 2 and was delivered to our door – literally. The order specified to be delivered by a truck with a lift gate. The truck did not have a lift gate. Ken asked the driver how he planned to get this out. He said “I don’t know.” Luckily, the delivery was being made to the direct descendant of the Egyptians. Ken improvised a ramp using 2×10’s stacked 9 deep on the tail gate of the truck. This brought the ramp up to the level of the truck bed and provided sufficient support for the 905 pound package. They uncrated the stove and stripped it down to the bare bones and then carefully slid it down the ramp, 1 inch at a time, making sure it didn’t tip over.
The stove slid safely down the ramp and arrived at the door step. And the driver left.
Great, we have a stove outside our front door. Now what?
After some contemplation, Ken called a neighboring farmer, “Come on over. And bring your tractor and bale fork.” Barry arrived. They removed the front door to the house, and positioned the bale forks so that they fit inside the 36 inch door opening. They strapped the stove (which was bolted on to a pallet below) to the bale forks, picked it up and moved it into the house. However, they could only get it just into the vestibule, with no room to close the door (which was off at the time). Using Egyptian know-how, they utilize round carriage bolts to roll the stove and pallet far enough into the vestibule that they could put the door back on and close it. Then Barry left. (Sorry, no pictures. When 2 men are moving a 900 pound stove alone there is no opportunity for pictures.)
Now we had a stove at our front door. Yes, inside and out of the weather, but in the way also. Next plan? Ken jacked up each side of the stove and install heavy duty castor wheels. Now we had the ultimate meals on wheels. From there, he was to roll her into the living room.
And there she sat for a month and a half until we finished the stone walls. On October 24, we were ready for the big move.
With the help of a pallet jack, we lifted the stove and moved her onto the granite tile. Cardboard under the jack’s wheels protected the tiles from scratching.
After she was in place, we reassembled her – fire bricks, grate, doors, warming oven, trim. She may not be the prettiest stove around, but she is a good looking work horse. We were very impressed at how well she is built. Can’t beat an Amish stove.
Next job was the chimney. The pipe from the stove to the ceiling is double wall black pipe. At the ceiling it connects to a stainless steel insulated Selkirk chimney. The passage through the ceiling has a steel liner.
The chimney goes through the kitchen ceiling into the walk in closet area of the master bedroom above. (Which is why the black pipe comes off at an angle – straight up and it would be in the middle of the walkway above.) The plan is to enclose it in a chase with vents to warm up the closet area, although not much heat comes off the pipe. It doesn’t even get hot.
Putting the chimney up was a big task for the two of us, but I was very pleased that the job went smoothly although it was no easy chore putting up 20 feet of chimney ourselves. The worst part was up on the roof as it was a cold windy day. However, I think the final result was pretty fabulous.
If you notice in the picture above, there is a yellow vase with a red flower. The red flower is actually a double flowering poppy which I found that day in the yard. Pretty unbelievable to find a poppy blooming at the end of October in Manitoba. My sister said this must be a blessing from Baba Luhowey on my stove (she always grew poppies and so we always associate poppies with Baba).
The stove came with a water coil which we will be using for our domestic hot water during the heating months. We have not installed it yet, as once installed it must be hooked up to a water supply, and we are not there yet.
We have used the stove now for several weeks and are very impressed with the performance. It makes a nice big fire and closed down it will burn for over 12 hours. No need for matches to start the next morning’s fire as there are always plenty of coals. The stove top, which is stainless steel, turned a blue color with the first fire. This was disappointing at first as I love the stainless top, but I have grown to love the darker colored top.
Although it has a nice hot fire going, you can still stand comfortably in front of the stove and cook, without your legs getting hot. I love this and am super glad we did not go with the glass doors. With my stove in the cabin you truly understand the meaning of ‘slaving over a hot stove’ as the front gives off a fair bit of heat.
The stove top is great to cook on. The firebox side nice and hot and the far oven side a nice low simmer. It’s easy to move your pot around to get the temperature you need. And the oven – what a charmer. She is deceptively large and holds a nice even temperature. With a good fire going the oven will stay around 300 to 350 degrees. Need it a bit hotter – no problem, turn on the superburn and it easily heats up to 400 or higher. So far I have only baked one batch of biscuits but they turned out great without any need to rotate the pan in the oven. Very impressive.
Next job – trying to keep more heat in the house. We have all the walls of the house insulated (double thick walls), but the ceiling is not been completely insulated. Which means all the nice heat generated by the woodstove is going up through the roof. After much thought and discussion, we decided to insulate the ceiling with Roxul. As luck would have it, half our order was put on back order. Hopefully by mid December it will be all insulated. Then we will have the true test at how easily the house can be heated and how well it retains the heat.