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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Inserting an Insert, Part 1 [UPDATED]

fireplace insert with surface rustSome friends of ours decommissioned an Earth Stove fireplace insert some time back, and had it sitting under their porch ever since. When they learned we were talking about getting one, they were only to glad to give us that one. Of course, there were the minor details about getting it delivered (as it’s several hundred pounds of steel and firebrick) to the manor, and what kind of shape it was in. The Boy has been disappearing all weekend for most weekends, and then I managed to hose my knee. But then their sons showed up: J and his older brother, a skinny Marine home on leave; they devised a roller system with some PVC pipe (which you can see under the insert) and rolled it on his truck and then off into our detached garage.

I had a little time yesterday, and the anti-inflammatories have done a pretty good job (my knee still aches but it’s only annoying), so I spent half an hour getting stuff together. Wire brush, dust mask (plenty of those around, thanks to the chicken houses), jacket, gloves… and the camera, of course.

Ashes insideI opened it up to find several inches of ash still inside the thing. I guess I can’t complain about a freebie though; but I could (and did) scoop it out and toss it in The Boy’s firepit.

With the initial preparations out of the way, I took wire brush in hand and got to work. The rust on the box is actually pretty light, except toward the bottom — I think a lot of what came off was dirt. I’ll probably go over it with some medium sandpaper, just to make sure, but I’m already half-done with the initial phase of the project (Phase 2 = painting, Phase 3 = installation).

There are two possible wrinkles that I need to be aware of. First is the blower; they told me it worked when they plugged it in a year ago, but it’s been sitting in a non-climate controlled area since then. So I’m going to pull that unit out and have a look at it before plugging it in. Second is Mrs. Fetched… she’s not sure she wants black. Rust-Oleum has several colors of high-heat paint; I have some black paint (put to good use painting an old grill & a motorcycle tank), but she’s not sure she wants black. She certainly doesn’t want green, though. There’s a “copper” color, which might be interesting… I might use it on the trim panel and maybe the door & hood if nothing else. But I have a little time to make those decisions.

UPDATE: I has a drill. They use large DeWalt drills in the chicken house as winch motors; like anything in the chicken house, they develop problems. The thing I like about them is that they are built to be repairable, and Mrs. Fetched brings them to me to repair. I happened to have a couple drills in the queue; I tried one and it shot fire out the back. I snagged the brushes out of a “parts” drill, added some gear oil to the gearbox to quiet down the shrieking, and it run fine. I put the wire brush on it and got to work. The drill is heavy as all get-out, but never even got warm and it took nearly all the rust off that the hand brush missed. The insert is much more black than rust color now, at least on the side I did.


  1. They do make dedicated stove paint that you could get at a stove shop. I hope the high heat stuff will work - don't have any experience with it. The blowers are pretty rudimentary, so hopefully it'll be fine.

    Just think how nice it'll be when it's done! Good luck!

  2. Hey FAR! Yup, you sure got lucky getting that baby for nothing! It's well worth a grand or so! Before you install it, get it straight with your insurance company, if there is any code that you must abide by....

    Here in Michigan they have a long list of specifactions to go by. Gee, I know paint has come a long way lately, but I can't ever remember the actual firebox on any noninsulated unit, not being black.
    Ha! At least you'll never have to worry about that baby rusting out! ha!

    Oh btw, while I've had some time, I put that spirit story on my blog. It's a short story done in three parts. Hope you like it.

    Thanks, yooper

  3. Fire engine red is what you should paint it. Or maybe a nice taupe. BTW what the hell is taupe?

    Sounds like you've got a lot of work in front of you. Glad the knee is better.

  4. Far, Good luck with the insert. I think that you should get several colors of high heat paint and do a mural on the insert. Perhaps a nice southwestern vista. ;-)

  5. Hey all! I've added a brief update.

    Stove shop, Beth? I'll have to see if there's one of those nearby. Come to think of it, I have no clue where one would buy a wood stove in this area.

    Yooper, I'll check with the insurance company, but it's probably fine. We might have to have it professionally installed, which is fine with me. It's pretty heavy, as you can imagine! I'll add your blog to my feed(s), and point an acquaintance of mine to it — he specializes in Southern ghost lore, and I'm sure he'd like to see some from Up North.

  6. Whoops... missed a couple!

    FM, I was thinking hot-rod flames. Taupe is brownish-grey, according to Wikipedia, which might actually match the living room.

    Boran, if I could get The Boy to do anything besides eating and not listening to us, I'd have him do a mural. He's the artist.

  7. Hey FAR! I was searching around the web for you're unit. I could'nt find it but I'll bet it was made in the 1980's. The Earth Stove brand has been around a long time and is one quality unit! Your's makes my Dad's fireplace insert look like a real Mickey Mouser! ha! He's had it for 20 years now and they just love it, it easily heats their small home. He'd be green with envy seeing your Earth Stove, rust and all! ha!

    The first couple years we've had a good time with his unit. I'll never forget installing it! We also rolled it in front of the fireplace. Then had to scoot it up on a couple of 2X6's onto the fireplace ledge from the floor. That was the fun part without breaking the tile ledge!

    At first he tried it just using the stone/clay liner chimney, this worked just fine until they had their first chimney fire! He said it shook the whole house violently!
    Wish I was there to see it, he said it went up like a roman candle! ha! I went up to check the chimney, yup it was clean as a whistle after that with no apparent damage. However, he said he couldn't even put his hand on the stone, it was that hot and feared it'd catch the wood surrounding the chimney on fire.

    Before long, saw us up on the roof inserting a six inch pipe,(old oil well casing), 20 feet long into the clay lining. You can imagine how heavy this pipe was! By using a cherry picker, this job was made easy. Also by using the pipe, cleaning the creasote out would be much easier. I'd even offered to do it for him. He said, "Naw, we'll just let 'er go, see what happens." Well, now when the chimney catches fire, they just go outside and proudly watch the fireworks! ha! ha!

    Thanks, yooper

  8. Holy moly, Yooper! You guys must be burning a lot of pine! We avoid that stuff as much as possible — if we want something that burns fast & hot, we use poplar.

    Do those "chimney sweep log" things make a difference? We use one every year, and no trouble yet. We use our fireplace a *lot* through what can be called "winter" on this planet, but like I said no pine. I've had to pressure-wash the soot off the outside chimney bricks though.

  9. Oh, BTW, the model is "Colony Hearth" if that makes a difference. I went looking for info (including documentation) online but no luck here either.

  10. Hey Far! BINGO! I finally found an advertizement that shows a style very similiar to your Colony Hearth! It's on the back side cover of the 1978, March/April issue of Mother Earth News. Real attractive color article! I'll email it to ya, plus anything more I can find this morning.

    The Old Man only uses seasoned, dry hardwood, mostly ash. ha! He's also the type of guy who lights a fire mid-October and it finally goes out mid-May. ha! ha! His stove is of the older forced air type, it doesn't have the added secondary combustion chamber that does cut down alot of smoke/creasote. However, even these newer units build up creasote over use/time. One chimney I cleaned had a draft about the size of a quarter!

    A good rule of thumb is always check the chimney before use in the fall.

    Up here on the average it takes 15 to 20 cords of seasoned hardwood to make it throught the heating season. Ha! I know of some people who burn, "Go for wood" or popple, they burn 40 to 50 cords a season! They don't worry about creasote either as their stove is not air tight, the fires burn very fast and very hot.

    I don't know much about chimney sweep logs. I do know most people have "put out fire sticks." These sticks look alot like flares and if a fire gets out of hand throw one of those babies in and it puts out a fire pronto.

    Personally, I used to like to burn a variety of wood. I just love the smell of oak, maple, ash, jack pine, white pine, and my favorite, white birch.

    Thanks, yooper

  11. I worked for Quadra-Fire for years. Here are 3 dealers from their website (www.quadrafire.com). They should have stove paint - or at least be able to tell you where to get it. I'm sure there are others out there. Good luck!

    CUMMING, GA 30040

    JASPER, GA 30143

    1155 MCFARLAND 400 DR
    ALPHARETTA, GA 30004

  12. Good point yooper. Insurance companies often need to have pix of it too.

    Fire engine red ... LOL.

  13. Whoa, thanks Beth! Great info. I'll be making some phone calls for sure.

    Olivia, good thoughts. I'll be taking pix anyway, and I'll see if Mrs. Fetched can contact the Farm Bureau dude. We already run a fair amount of wood through that fireplace (although you wouldn't think so from a Canadian perspective :-) so I suspect the insert will actually be safer overall. But who knows?

  14. As far as I remember, inserts installed in an existing fireplace don't need any extra insulation or fire protection. It's when they're installed into a wall, or you install a freestanding wood stove in a room near a wall, that you have to consider that. Each state has its own regulations, and each stove.

    (Having to dust off the memory banks for this one!)

  15. I have the exact insert you have in your picture. It was in the home when purchased. Find some way to lubricate the fan. Also blow out the air intake to be sure it is clear. Mine has kept my house very warm and uses less wood than a conventional fireplace. I have had little luck finding info on this model however for maintenance data.

  16. Hi Anon, welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    The fan pretty much got happy as soon as it warmed up. The insert has done a great job of heating the downstairs; we use the gas furnace only rarely. Getting time to gather firewood has been the problem this year though…

  17. Hi,

    My uncle has given me the same model fireplace insert. Luckily for me it's in a lot better shape than yours :)

    Anyway, I was wondering if you had a copy of the owners manual? If so, could I trouble you to PDF it and e-mail it. Or copy and mail it?

    By the way; good blog post.


  18. Hi Clint, welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    I don't have a copy of the manual either. In fact, I got an email from someone who recently got one of these inserts… he said this was the only place on the 'net that he found any info at all about it!

    I can tell you the two most important things right here: 1) When you open it to throw in more wood, open the damper (slide it back all the way) then crack the door open about an inch for 10 seconds or so; that draws out the smoke so it doesn't come inside. 2) The fan is variable-speed, and controlled by a knob on the bottom-right of the insert. It tends to cool the firebox down, even on a low speed, so if you want the fire to go out that's one way to do it.

    There's also a "draft" lever under the little skirt, toward the right; that controls the air intake. You can use that along with the damper to throttle the insert. We tend to leave the draft about halfway open most of the time. On cool days (45°-55°F), we close the damper about 3/4 of the way and the box stays nice & warm.

    Now that Blogger has pages, I should collate this info into a page… especially since TFM is the only place with any info about it!

  19. I e-mailed the company a couple days ago - not expecting to get a reply and they sent me a *.pdf of the owner's manual! In case anyone needs it, here you go!



  20. Awesome, Clint! I'll update my new page with this link, too.

  21. My husband and I plan to move into a house with an stove insert. We will purshase the property. We lived in the desert for 40 years, and I had no idea what an insert was since we lived in 120 degree weather. I had never seen one in my life. My question is, since it is a "Stove" can I cook something in it? or is it just a heater for the home. I love to cook.

  22. Hi Anon, welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    There's a flat surface just above the door that you can use with a Dutch oven for slow-cooking. You can also set a kettle of water on there to get hot & make tea or soups.

    I set up a specific page that has some info for preparing and using an insert. It might help. Just remember, once you've got it going, crack the door open and count to five (or ten) to clear the smoke out before opening it the rest of the way… otherwise, you'll have a room full of smoke (as we learned the hard way).

  23. Greetings, Do you know what the Colony Hearth is labeled at for BTUs or square footage that it will heat? We are trying to compare to some other stoves that are labeled...

    Thanks for providing so much information!

  24. Lucy, there's no BTU info on the insert itself. What I can tell you is, we use it to heat the bottom floor of our house, about 1000 sq ft with leaky windows. We only need to use the furnace when it gets close to 20°F, and that only happens about a week or two each winter.

  25. I sincerely hope that someone gets this message!! I recently bought a house with this type of insert, I do not see a thermostat or blower anywhere on this thing. Even the owners manual you have on here doesn't show a pic of where any of the parts are. My insert has a knob coming out of the upper right side that has "open" and a few notches "closed" It is currently stuck closed. I hit it & pushed it so hard with a fire place poker that I broke the wood knob off. Before it got stuck "closed" when I had a fire, no heat would come out. The metal screen was cold to the touch. I'm obviously not using it right. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  26. Hiya. If you have a blower, the knob is on the bottom right, toward the front. You should see an electrical cord (or the remnants). It might not have a blower, though. None of them have a thermostat, to my knowledge.

    Sorry to hear about your damper being stuck. When ours gets stuck, it's usually either because the wood is piled too high inside (and interfering with the damper) or the hinges are getting creosoted up (which you can usually break loose by hand).

    There's also an intake lever on the front of the insert, at the bottom right, under the skirting. If you're not getting any heat, it might be closed down (so no air is getting in). We leave ours open about halfway and use the damper to control the heat output. I'm not at home right now, so I can't remember which way is open/closed.

    Hope that helps!


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