Wood Stove Hearth Reno – Lessons Learned

May 15, 2016

a15_Oct 25, 2014_stove completeI love my woodstove, a beautiful and functional Kitchen Queen 480. It supplies all our heat and hot water during the heating season as well as handling all our cooking and baking. The hearth and surrounding walls are a thing of rustic beauty. Loads of local rock fashioned into a wall, topped with grey porcelain tile. And the floor – shiny black granite tiles. After living with the stove for over a year, we are happy with the hearth, with the exception of the black granite tiles. They look very sharp when they are cleaned and polished (which I did before taking every picture); however, at all other times they show every bit of ash and debris – all of which a wood stove produces lots of. As a result, it seemed to always look dirty.

In addition, we found that the stove should be anchored to the floor. You would think that a stove that weighs over 900 pounds would be hard to move. However, the stove was slowly moving. Our guess is that when wood was thrown into the firebox, the push would cause the stove to move slightly on the slippery granite tiles. After a year and a half of use, the stove was noticeably off kilter.

Since the stove is used to produce our hot water during the heating season, it has a heating coil in the firebox which is connected to the hot water tank upstairs by a copper pipe. As a result of the stove movement, a small leak in the hot water heating line developed. It was not a big deal. A pot placed at the back of the stove beneath the leak collected any drips and the heat from the stove evaporated the water in the pot. However, we didn’t want things to get worse, so we decided the hearth needed to be redone.

We were planning out our options, when a pallet jack was delivered to our door by brother-in-law Dennis. No time like the present to fix the stove. We unhooked the hot water system and stovepipe, jacked up the stove and moved it out of the way. We were happy to see that our stove pipe and chimney had almost no creosote build up.

With the stove out, Ken removed all the granite tiles and chipped away the old mortar. What is the easiest way to remove mortar from plywood floors? Ken used a chisel and worked away on it until we googled for help and found that wetting down the old mortar made it much easier to remove. In a matter of a couple of hours the tiles and mortar were removed and we were ready to start over.

This time we opted to lay the tiles – the same cream colored porcelain tiles as we used in the foyer, hallway and bathroom – on cement board rather than directly on the plywood subfloor. And we inset the stove legs into the tile so that they would be fixed in place and not move.

Living room ready for next project - laying out the new hearth for the kitchen woodstove

Living room ready for next project – laying out the new hearth for the kitchen woodstove

We set the new tiles and cement board out on the living room floor and transferred a pattern of the stove legs onto the tile and cut the tile and cement board to fit the hearth space. Once the tiles were cut the hearth was installed in the kitchen.




Hearth in place, with holes cut to fit the stove legs and the fresh air intake

Hearth in place, with holes cut to fit the stove legs and the fresh air intake

In short order we grouted the tiles and moved the stove back in place with the pallet jack. We were extremely grateful that the project went so smoothly, completed in two and a half days. And we are very happy with the result. The light colored tiles do not show the dirt near so badly and the stove seems solidly in place. The hot water was reconnected and voila – no leaks.

New Stove Hearth Completed

New Stove Hearth Completed

This house building project has been an interesting journey. We have made a few mistakes on the way, and I expect we will make a few more before we have finished. But that is part of the journey and the learning process. We are not experts in any field and are learning as we go.

Next project? We have a few things on the go. We are putting up a bit of dry wall upstairs, Ken is creating a few more drawer fronts, and its time to start some gardening work.


About Darlene & Ken

Experiencing life off the grid, building a home, and trying to live sustainably.
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