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Wood Stoves: Never put a Stove in the Basement


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If you are looking for advice on where to place a wood stove in your house, I have a story I want you to read first.

A wood stove is a wonderful feature to add in your home, if you know where to have it installed.

We moved into a cute little bungalow with 6 peaceful acres surrounding us. Ahh --- the fresh Country Air. No more pollution from the city. Relaxation, no more listening to traffic going by the house every minute - now maybe just once an hour or so, not counting the farm tractor down the road.
The only stress upon me was thinking about the best possible way to heat the house during the winter. We had propane/oil in our last house and electric in the house before that. I didn't want to go back to those days any more after getting the bills for these babies over the years. So, wood sounded like a good option to change over to. Everyone in the country uses wood at one time or another and so, wood it is! After talking to lots of neighbours and friends about wood stoves, most all concluded that the stove should be placed in the basement where the heat would warm up the cold basement and then rise to do the same job on the main floor of our bungalow. Well, this seemed to make a lot of sense but I still wondered about how the heat would rise through the floors to keep us warm at minus 35 degrees, a time of year when a new baby nursery and baby furniture in the house is not a time to be messing around with temperature changes. How did a baby topic make it to this hub? Anyway, lots of people, including my wife tried to convince me that the stove has to go in the basement, but to this day, I'm not convinced and never will be a believer of the stove in the basement. Here is our experience with our first wood stove:

I lost the battle as usual and the wood stove got its place in the basement. I was told, "think of all the mess upstairs with the dust and tracking the wood in through your main floor". Ok -Ok -Ok. "Put it in the basement, but I don't like the idea". I always thought that a good looking wood stove is what everyone wants when you invite people over. "Come on in and have a coffee or tea - make yourself at home in front of the fire". You are supposed to be proud of your wood stove that's warm, inviting and a lot cheaper than gas, propane and oil. To invite friends into the basement doesn't seem to have the same appeal, mainly because we have an unfinished basement. I remember the days when my father would trudge down to the basement and shovel coal into the furnace. That was back in the 1950s but what a great era to grow up in. Our first T.V. came into the house in 1952 and with that, the"Mickey Mouse Club, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Red Skelton, Milton Berle and on and on. We had everything back then so I thought, Coca-Cola, Cream Soda, black licorice, and cheap prices. Who ever heard of pop at seven cents - return the bottle and get two cents back, so make that an even five cents. Well, that's what it was back then. But in 2011, there is so much more but oh, so expensive. You know, I'd be writing this on paper if this was the 1950s and mailing it through the postal service which would take about a week or two to reach its destination. Now everything takes just a second or two. No time for relaxation these days. Everything is to do with speed.

But getting back to the wood stove. When it was finally installed, Judy and I would take our tea downstairs and sit close by the stove. I enjoyed filling it with logs and watching the flames grow ever higher. The heat was at times way too hot but don't forget, it had to be, in order for it to move upstairs, so I was told. Well, two months went by and we were now going into December with the nights becoming real cold, but did we care? Heavens, No! Our wood stove would protect us from this harsh Canadian winter. Minus 40 one night. So what! We had plenty of wood, tea and hot chocolate. This was our first winter without a furnace. We had it set (actually, we cut the wires,) so that it would never come on. An electric furnace would clean us out of our savings, what we had left to survive on until our new business was up and running full tilt, thus generating a welcoming income. The mornings were frigid - but Hey, we are Canadians, as tough as they come. I would trudge down the basement stairs, just like my Dad way back when, and stoke the fire. Then I would sit back with a nice hot cup of coffee, two sugars and cream and wait for the fire to heat up and also wait for Judy to get up and make her way down into the dundgeon with her hot tea. One thing however, when you're over 60, like I am, and the other person living here has had a knee replacement and awaits the other knee to be done, the idea of making your way down some rigidy old basement stairs at 7:00am on a cold winters day is not Cool any more. Like,.. I mean, it just doesn't have that "Groovy" factor about it, especially when the thermometer says "Good Morning - it's now -40 degrees" and the house is freezing. Christmas morning was wonderful! Quickly open the presents and race to the basement to get warm. Not that there were many presents to open. You see, we had decided to buy each other -- Get this -- "Insulation" for the attic, and that wasn't cheap. Two Thousand dollars and a wood stove plus many, many cords of wood -- not to mention the work throwing all that wood into the basement and then stacking it. The electric furnace was beginning to look pretty darn appealing to me right about then, but remember folks, we had cut the wires because we didn't want to pay the high cost of electricity. "Duh"!

After December, Judy said to me that she wanted the wood stove moved upstairs. "Good God! You've got to be kidding"! Another $800.00 to move it upstairs, where it should have been in the first place! You see, Point #1: our basement was unfinished. Big Mistake! We had a Government energy guy over to test our house for heat loss. This is a program through the Federal government. Well, lo and behold, he told us that 1/3 of our heat was going out through the basement walls and it was taking over three hours for that freakin' stove to produce enough heat waves to even begin warming the upstairs. We had vents cut through the new wood flooring upstairs to allow the heat to rise and we even put Booster fans in those vents to bring the heat up faster. It just wasn't enough to get it to a temperature upstairs that Judy felt comfortable with. So, after 4 months -- "I win"! Or did I? You see, by having to keep the basement so hot in order to get heat upstairs, our wood supply was depleting faster than we expected. That monster downstairs was kept at 700-900 degrees just for the purpose of heating the upstairs. Look -- if anyone else tells me that they have a wood stove in the basement because that's where it has to go, I think I'm gonna punch them! That's OK if you're young and have a finished Rec room or Family room downstairs but you still have to go downstairs and put logs in the fire every hour or so. I would prefer to sit around the dining room table upstairs and enjoy the fire. I couldn't care less about the basement. A small heater in the basement is all you really need to keep the basement pipes from freezing, as if that would ever happen. God - a Coleman stove is all you need if the hydro went out for a week or two.

Anyway, I just wanted to show you that a wood stove is great in the basement, as long as you have a backup furnace and a nice looking finished room downstairs, but you will still have to make those hourly trips downstairs. We wanted to heat exclusively with wood - Period! Most people I'm sure would heat with both wood and furnace, especially overnight. As for us, a lesson learned, but a lesson that we never should have had to learn in the first place. My gut feeling said ---put the stove upstairs but when there's a woman involved and she's a darn good cook, the basement seemed a No Brainer at the time.

So there's my story. There's probably more to tell you, but I'm sure the message has gotten across to those thinking of heating with a wood stove in the basement. I love the wood stove upstairs but I can't wait until the cook allows the furnace to be hooked back up.
My next true tale is going to be about "Starting up a Cat Hotel". We own one called the Pussycat Hotel. You won't want to miss that story. What a NightMare! Until later ..


Bob on September 05, 2020:

Nice story. Enjoyed. IMO, The mistake wasn’t putting it in the basement, but trying to heat a whole house with a space heater. If you love wood heat, might have considered 2 stoves. I have to ask, why did you cut the wires to the electric? At 60 years old, I would think you could control your impulses. Sounds to me like maybe there is more to that part of the story ;-)

Hollie Yang from Arkansas on November 09, 2019:

Oh I loved your story! And you have a great sense of humor! :)

bkc on January 20, 2019:

Great story!! Ever think of becoming a writer.

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Tammy on September 27, 2015:

I love the thought of heating a two day old open face chicken parm sub on the top of my wood stove...

Bob on September 06, 2015:

We've had a wood stove in our basement for thirty years and absolutely love it. Its not our sole means of heating our house, but it keeps the basement nice and dry and warm and im sure helps our overall energy bills. We had a disaster in our area where we were without power for nearly a week and my family (plus several members of my extended family) camped out there as it was one of the only warm areas around. We literally used the surface of the wood stove as a grill to cook food.

Shelt on July 11, 2015:

I was thinking about installing a wood stove in the basement, but I also have a oil furnace and a propane stove on the main floor ?

ianleverette47 (author) from Brinston, Ontario Canada on April 09, 2015:

That's a wise thought but you know, if your basement is really well insulated, like ours is not (much of the problem), then putting a stove in the basement is not that bad an idea. However, there is the chore of up and down the stairs, especially if you're overweight (which we are not) and as you progressively age, the task becomes even harder. I still recommend upstairs. Never had a problem being cold over the past 5 years and the basement always stays above 40 F , even at -40 F outside.

jimmyjack on April 09, 2015:

I guess the thing is is if you are way too overweight to be going downstairs all the time then put your woodstove upstairs then..

chris on November 05, 2013:

Uhhh the $800 you that you spent putting the woodstove upstairs probably would have finished off half your basement.

jim on July 20, 2012:

sorry, meant to say

Where are your pipes? In the basement, uninsulated ceiling spaces? I know it wouldn't take much, but I wouldn't leave a Coleman heater in the basement unattended, I'm thinkin'.

But a second wood stove upstairs sounds like a dandy idea.

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on April 12, 2011:

Great story and wise advice.

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