Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Is There Anything Else I Should Be Asking?"

So in most homesteading situations you will be buying a house. If you've already purchased a house you probably already know this, but it bears mentioning. When you buy a house there will be at least 3 relatively important systems that you are not intimately familiar with. Heat, Water, and Electricity. Make absolutely sure that you get a solid walk through on those systems from the previous home owner, and learn their quirks. This goes beyond the basic learn where the kill switch for your oil furnace is. At the low end, it will keep you from embarrassment. At the high end, it will save your house from major damage or destruction.

What Brings This Up?
Our wood stove is the specific incident that is prompting this particular incident. I've used wood stoves before, many times. In general, wood stoves are very simple devices. That in mind, I didn't bother asking any questions about quirks on the wood stove and I really wish I had. I would have avoided a rather cold few nights, and a bit of embarrassment.


It got cold particularly fast here this year, and while the house is well insulated my intention to not heat the house until November 1 was just not feasible. Given that we hadn't been able to schedule an oil delivery until today, we didn't want to risk using up the last of the oil, wood was the obvious choice. Getting the oil today would be a little late for the fact it was cold then. So I go to the wood stove, I lay a good small fire beginning with paper and some kindling, and then I start looking for the damper. Long story short half an hour later I call down our house mate who also has used wood stoves quite a lot and ask her to help. Almost an hour later, neither of us can find the damper control. We've looked all over, felt all over, looked outside, read the instruction manual even!

At this point we concluded there probably wasn't a damper, and decide to light the fire. It just won't draw, and smoke predictably fills the house. Ok, so there has to be a damper, but it's now 10 at night and we just can't find it. We then bundle up and go to bed given that it's now about 50 in the house. Not awful, but it would have been nice to be warmer. The next day I call the realtor who then calls the previous owner, and finds out something that we probably should have known when we moved in. There IS no damper for this wood stove. My next question was, how do we start it then! It turns out that due to one SNAFU and another, the insulation was too good to have a damper control in, so to start the wood stove when it's cold I have to go outside, remove the maintenance stopper, light a piece of paper in the chimney, then come in and light a fire. Annoying, but not a huge deal now that I know.

All of this is a long winded story to say, when you are buying the house ask the previous owner all of the basic questions, and then the ever important final question, "Is there anything else I should be asking?"

Image Copyright Michelle Vigeant 2011


  1. Wow. That is a weird wood stove hook-up. I would question if it was even legal; I think at the very least it is something that should have been disclosed at the time you purchased the property. I grew up with a wood stove as our only heat and would never think of having to look at anything other than the stove itself when starting it, certainly wouldn't think of having to go outside and drop burning paper down the chimney.

  2. I have been wondering whether or not it is legal myself. The person who apparently insisted on this particular installation was the local building inspector. That doesn't necessarily mean it's legal mind you given that we've had a couple issues with him already. *shrugs* Once it's lit it is fine fortunately. Once it gets solidly cold it'll probably never get cold enough to need it.