Saturday, January 26, 2008


The latest revelation: building in the Oregon winter is a serious matter. The rain is pretty manageable (except when we're trying to saw holes in the roof), but the bitter cold is a more formidable problem. The small space heater we've trucked in has been helpful, but even still we've had to learn to master the art of dressing in so many layers we start to look like marshmallows. It has been a day-to-day challenge, but one I feel like we're facing admirably (especially considering Erin's sunny California roots).

Considering these icy and clouded conditions, what better goal to set than install a warm and welcoming hearth in our home! The last couple of days we've been learning much about wood stoves. It's been important for us to keep in mind that our wood stove is going to serve more as a crucial tool, rather than a pretty showpiece, as it will be our only source of heat. We've been reading up on the guidelines for installation for our particular wood stove (Vermont Castings Intrepid II) in the manual that's online. We've been trying to follow the codes for safety as much as we can while also balancing the uncommon fact of being installed in a school bus. Here's what we came up with so far. Good thing that we scored our wood stove for free on craigslist because all of the other pieces ending up costing more than we had expected, almost $400 in all.

The stove is sitting on the bulky box built over the wheel-well across the way from the kitchen. We positioned it here originally because it would be right next to the shower for our wood-fired hot water heater plans and because it is pretty centrally located for more even distribution of heat. It also felt right because it sort of bridges the kitchen and living spaces (which seems appropriate for a working hearth). We need to send out many thanks to our friend Spencer for helping us get the 250 lb. behemoth in the bus - quite a feat indeed. We picked up some fire and heat rated 1/2" cement board at Jerry's called Wonderboard that we're using as a hearth pad and for the wall shields (eventually we'll tile over these). For the walls, we cut up some of our left-over copper pipe into 1" pieces and used those as spacers between the wall and the cement board. We also left a 1" gap at the bottom and top of the wall shields for air-flow. According to our manual, for a corner centered stove, we are supposed to position it 10" from each back corner to the walls. Since we have such a limited amount of space to work with, it was a bit tricky to get it in a good and safe position, but we worked it out in the end.

For our flue/chimney arrangement, we're using standard single-wall stovepipe going up to about a couple inches below the ceiling, then transitioning to special insulated double-wall chimney. The two are connected by a thing called a dripless chimney adapter. The hole in the ceiling has an extra 2" air space around the chimney for safety purposes. We are a bit concerned that if we leave the actual chimney at the height we had originally envisioned (2' about the roof), we will not achieve adequate draft for our stove to function properly. However, the kind of chimney we purchased (Selkirk Metalbestos) conveniently can twist on and off if we decided to have a removable extended chimney down the road.

We spent all day yesterday cutting a 12" hole in our ceiling. Erin used the reciprocating saw for most of it, but we also used a tin snips cutter and good old fashioned ripping with a wrench. It took a while and a lot of arm muscles. The edges of the hole are not the prettiest, but luckily it'll all be covered over over in the end. Next we secured the chimney to the roof using these special brackets and then waterproofed it all with hi-temp silicone. We finished this at about 6pm when the light and temperature started dropping precipitously and our fingers were not responding as well to the delicate job we were trying to accomplish. The top of the bus where we were perched started icing over as well. So we frantically got a tarp over the hole and called it a night. Of course when we woke up today it was raining! I suppose we'll have to wait to finish the chimney until it stops. In the meanwhile we'll get started on the propane.

Pictures of the wood stove set-up coming soon...


Erin's Update #1: In addition to rain it is now snowing here in Eugene. I mean, like, many inches, non-stop, covering everything. This forth-generation Californian is very impressed. It's magical and silent. I don't think we'll be getting to that chimney weatherization today.

Erin's Update #2: Our housebus compadre, Spencer, recently agreed to trade his help with the propane system (stove/oven, fridge) for a few hours of child care, burned CDs and a pool cue bag. =) We got together, planned out our system and bought all the components yesterday. Exciting progress on several fronts!


Lizz said...

Hey! We just bought our bus a few days ago and are just beginning the journey. We too are crafters and live in Eugene. Let's network!

3 moons and the sea said...

ooh.... cant wait to see pics!!

Allegra said...

Yay! I want pictures! Also, snow? Not right! Try to stay warm, ladies :)

Anonymous said...

I've got a school bus and am trying to set up a small pot belly stove. It's only a foot in diameter. I'd like to put it in a 4 square foot area between the bathroom wall and the kitchen counter. Did you fasten the insulation behind the stove directly to the bus wall? Are you adding any kind of insulation to the walls themselves? I live in Nebraska and, in addition to blistering winters, we have extremely hot and humid summers.