Rock Hill, NY Finnish Contraflow Heater.

This very simple heater warms this renovated barn in the New York Catskills. To accommodate for an upcoming bridge improvement, the town had scheduled this small barn for demolition.  The new owner of the property decided to move and renovate the old barn as his new home instead.With acres of woods on the old farm property, an open floor plan and very cold winters, the owner decided to heat this new home with the most efficient wood burning appliance there is: a masonry heater. The homeowner wanted an aesthetically simple look for the Finnish fireplace. A basic heater shell and chimney would be constructed and coated with plain stucco.The Finnish contraflow Heat-Kit core is finished in a single day working with heater expert Norbert Senf from Masonry Stove Builders. Here is a view of the completed core from the loft space above.The outer wall, or veneer of the heater covering the core is simple firebrick on edge. The chimney is made of 4″ masonry blocks.The doors and masonry to metal chimney transition are installed.The metal chimney is completed. Work on the rest of the home progresses as well. The heater is part of a divider wall between the master bedroom and main floor living space. This wall is also completed in the photo below.The rear heater wall acts as a vertical radiant panel warming the bedroom on even the coldest winter nights. The homeowner’s bed moves to the rear wall of the masonry heater in the coldest winter months.

Continue reading Rock Hill, NY Finnish Contraflow Heater.

Kutztown, PA: Hand-Built Finnish Contraflow Heater.

One of the first small fires in this Finnish contraflow heater.

Continue reading Kutztown, PA: Hand-Built Finnish Contraflow Heater.

Garrison, NY: Fieldstone Finnish Contraflow Masonry Heater

A charge of wood at full combustion in the Garrison, NY heater.

An intense burn in the firebox, Garrison, NY. Continue reading Garrison, NY: Fieldstone Finnish Contraflow Masonry Heater

May’s Landing, NJ: Dry-Stack Stone Finnish Contraflow Heater.

The completed masonry heater.

Continue reading May’s Landing, NJ: Dry-Stack Stone Finnish Contraflow Heater.

Hillsborough, NJ Brick Hand-Built Finnish Contraflow Masonry Heater.

This hand built brick contraflow heater replaced a cast iron wood stove in a Hillsborough, NJ basement. The heater exhausts into the same existing lined masonry chimney that the old metal stove utilized. The two side heated benches provide enough room for the family’s four cats to enjoy. Continue reading Hillsborough, NJ Brick Hand-Built Finnish Contraflow Masonry Heater.

Plainfield, NJ Hand-Built Finnish Contraflow Heater.

Plainfield Heater

This brick heater was built into an existing home as part of an extensive renovation. The family wanted a more open floor plan between the living room and kitchen. This is an ideal situation for a masonry heater. The wall between the kitchen and  living room was removed and appropriate measures were taken to address the load bearing wall issues. The family was delighted with the new space and freedom on the first floor. The new more spacious floor plan was also ideal for the inclusion of a radiant masonry heater.

Plainfield heater wood-box.

The brick Finnish contraflow heater divides the living room and kitchen. The loading door and wood box heat and illuminate the living room while the bakeoven warms and cooks in the kitchen. A short heated bench under the wood box connects the heater to an already existing masonry chimney in the nearly 100 year old house. The existing chimney was used for a basement wood stove in the past. This original chimney was relined with an insulated steel insert for safety and to meet modern code requirements.

A view from the kitchen of the heater bakeoven.

During the kitchen renovation, the heater’s bake-oven was the sole source of cooking. The family discovered the versatility of retained heat cooking for more than just delicious pizza, preparing everything from eggs and bacon for breakfast, hamburgers for lunch, slow cooked pulled pork and baked potatoes for dinner, finally to cookies or pie in the evening. They also mastered dutch-oven cooking, leaving a stew in the cast iron cookware in the morning to return home in the evening to a ready to go dinner.

The heater's black oven filled with flames during a burn in the firebox..

Along with the great meals and aesthetic enjoyment of the heater, the family obviously also desired to cut their high heating bills in the old home.  After finishing the heater, the next heating season the family burned two fires a day in the masonry heater and reduced their natural gas heating bill from the previous season by over 70%. The home is in a urban location. The home owner contacted local tree removal services and secured free delivered tree rounds to the home. With some time and a wood splitter the owner obtained most of his winter heat for free and saved trees from the landfill or mulch pile. 

Fire Works Masonry

Hillsborough, NJ Field Stone Finnish Contraflow Masonry Heater

Hillsborough fieldstone masonry heater.

This Finnish contraflow heater is the centerpiece of a living room addition to this Hillsborough, NJ home. The family spend most of their time in this room conveniently beside the expanded kitchen. The well insulated space stays comfortable all winter with the soft heat radiating from the Pennsylvania field stones. The blue stone hearth before the loading doors is also from a local Pennsylvanian quarry. 

The heater’s efficiency starts with the well designed and thoroughly tested Heat Kit core. The core is surrounded and slowly releases it’s stored energy created by the intense fire into the veneer stones. Here we see the core wrapped with a fiberglass blanket to allow for thermal expansion. The stone facade is about halfway completed at this point. A wooden form creates the open space for the later installation of the loading door. Similarly, the two lower small foam pieces hold the opening for the clean out doors. The doors provide seasonal access to the two side downdraft channels to clean any of the fine fly ash from the intense heater burn.

The completed Heat Kit core is faced with field stones.

Amazin’ Masons

Mark Twain on German fireplaces (Masonry Heaters)

Mark Twain wrote the following description in ‘Europe and Elsewhere’. Although he spoke of German fireplaces specifically, his words are now true (in proportion) for all of the Masonry Heaters that we install.

“Take the German stove, for instance … where can you find it outside of German countries? I am sure I have never seen it where German was not the language of the region. Yet it is by long odds the best stove and the most convenient and economical that has yet been invented.

To the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer, for all that. It has a little bit of a door which seems foolishly out of proportion to the rest of the edifice; yet the door is right; for it is not necessary that bulky fuel shall enter it. Small-sized fuel is used, and marvelously little at that. The door opens into a tiny cavern which would not hold more fuel that a baby could fetch in its arms. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning the servant brings a small basketful of slender pine sticks – say a modified armful – and puts half these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door, and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until the next morning.

All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable, and there will be no headaches and no sense of closeness or oppression. In an American room, whether heated by steam, hot water, or open fires, the neighborhood of the register or the fireplace is warmest – the heat is not equally diffused throughout the room; but in a German room one is as comfortable in one part of it as in another. Nothing is gained or lost by being near the stove. Its surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt.

Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns; one may absorb himself in his business and peace; he does not need to feel any anxieties or solicitudes about his fire; his whole day is a realized dream of bodily comfort.

America could adopt this stove, but does America do it?

The American wood stove, of whatsoever breed, it is a terror.

There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one’s skin feel dry and feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you thin you have been supporting a volcano.

We have in America many and many a breed of coal stove also – fiendish things, everyone of them. The base burner sort are heady and require but little attention; but none of them distributes its heat uniformly through the room, or keeps it at an unwavering temperature, or fails to take the life out of the atmosphere and leave it stuffy and smothery and stupefying…”

from ‘Europe and Elsewhere’ by Mark Twain