Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wood Stove Phase I -- The Hearth

After many years of considering the idea, we are finally installing a wood stove in our house. Given the regularity of power outages due to storms, a wood stove will keep us warm during loss of power, and we hope to rely on wood as a prominent source of heat, reducing our reliance on oil. Wood is a readily available, local, and renewal resource. We are collecting a bit of firewood from our own acre of woods, although mostly we will buy from reliable local sources. More on the firewood in my next post.

The first phase of the installation was the hearth, once we decided on the location and type of stove. We opted to place the stove in the center of the house (a cape style), which required the removal of a closet. Here's the now removed closet and initial preparation of the hearth site.
We hired a local carpenter who had installed some of our wood floors years ago. We chose a porcelain tile for the hearth. Picking out tile is like everything else: too many choices of color, size, and texture. We thought about a mosaic of tiles along the hearth border, but ended with a simple design of 12" x 12" tiles. Scott, our carpenter, framed the tiles with a strip of new oak flooring.

Porcelain tile was recommended over ceramic tile for flooring. Supposedly it is stronger and more dense and has the color pattern all the way through the tile. None of which is necessarily true, it depends on the individual brand and style. The tile we chose--Floridatile Taconic Slate glazed porcelain tile--is strong enough to withstand a 450-pound wood stove. We assume. If you want a tile with the color all the way through the tile (so that if it is chipped it won't matter so much) then look for "through body porcelain," rather than the more common glazed porcelain.

The use of tile for the hearth required an underlayment of fire resistant cement board. One common brand is called Durock. Scott used screws about every 6 inches to secure the cement board in place.
This prep work took about 6 hours, then Scott laid the adhesive and the tiles. He used plastic orange spacers to maintain the 1/4 inch spacing between tiles.
We let the adhesive dry for 24 hours before walking on the tile. Scott returned to fill the cracks with grout. At Scott's recommendation we bought epoxy grout rather than sanded grout. Epoxy grout is best for high traffic areas and is waterproof. It is also much more expensive, but given the overall cost of the wood stove installation, the extra cost for good grout was worth it. Epoxy grout has three components: a base, an activator, and the color.
Scott laid down the grout and we waited another day before it was finally dry and done!
The hearth is 5 feet by 6 feet, which is a bit oversized. Given the required setbacks from the stove, and a bit of uncertainty on the exact placement of the wood stove until it gets installed, we didn't want to be undersized on the hearth.

We've started gathering and buying and stacking firewood. I'll write about that tomorrow.

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