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Discussion: Winter fires

in: Charlie; Charlie > 2015-10-31

Nov 1, 2015 11:58 AM # 
Nice that you have all that available hardwood to split up and use for fires. You must have a sizable fireplace that consumes wood by the cord!

I also have an old woodburning fireplace in my city apartment...converted from a coal-burner when I bought the building. It used to have the original cast-iron coal grate and screen too, that mounted on the face of the inlaid antique tiles of the surround.

Each apartment has THREE chimneys: LR, DR and ktichen stove. Most of them had been sealed long ago. So I've converted 12 of them by rebuilding some and installing a smoke shelf and damper. And buying antique oak mantels from Baltimore of all places, to refinish and install once the brickwork was completed.

I love having a fire every evening in the winter: so cozy and warming, particularly for frozen feet that have been outside much of the day on ice, city slush, and snow. Getting quantities of wood to burn isn't that hard. So much construction goes on that generates waste lumber, either 120-year old virgin pine, or modern soft pine. Free for the taking from construction dumpsters up and down the street. And environmental too, since it reduces land-fill requirements.

While laboring over that splitter and chain saw, do you ever reflect what it must have taken to heat your house all winter, back before such implements were available? Using an axe, wedge and sledge? As Scott Nearing used to say, living off the grid up in Vermont, a wood fire heats twice: when it burns and before that, when you chop and stack the firewood!
Nov 1, 2015 12:33 PM # 
Am I remembering correctly that you do have a fireplace, Charlie, in the room on the other side of the stairs from the dining room? If so, have you ever used it?

(Two cords for my mother's house, the first of which I've already stacked, and the second just got delivered.)
Nov 1, 2015 4:42 PM # 
We get much more use from the wood stove in the family room, and probably haven't used the larger fireplace in 5 or 6 years, or maybe even longer. At the rate we use firewood, it is hard to keep up with the new firewood just from deadfalls. I give a lot away.
Nov 1, 2015 4:49 PM # 
I have a fireplace, but it's probably been about 10 years since I used it, just for ambiance. Hard to get to these days with all the stuff piled in front of it.
Nov 1, 2015 7:12 PM # 
....probably been about 10 years...

I guess when you live in the country, with a car at the doorstep, you don't spend long hours in the winter, traipsing the streets, jumping puddles, wading through slush, and slipping on icy sidewalks. But living in the city without a car, we don't enjoy hot air blasting on those feet from under the dashboard, so they can recover from that brief exposure to the elements, running from house to car.

By the end of the day, my feet are frozen. So I look forward to that evening fire....pulling my rocker up to the hearth, yanking off wet, cold socks, and reviving those frozen feet near the flames. All the while enjoying the slight aroma of wood smoke, with the crackle of the fire punctuating the evening newscast.
Nov 1, 2015 7:52 PM # 
My fireplace doesn't do much in terms of heating up the house. For that, a woodstove is the way to go. Unlike my mother, I don't spend enough time at home to keep the fire going and make that worthwhile. I did live in a tiny cottage about 15 years ago where that worked out well. There's no running from the house to the car, as I have an attached garage. But there's plenty of opportunity to be outside in the cold, as there's often a lot of snow to be cleared away, and there's nobody to do it except me. And now that Stephen is off at college, I expect I'll be doing a lot of shoveling at Nancy's house again as well.
Nov 1, 2015 9:41 PM # 
We have a fireplace with built in heatalator, glass doors and a ceiling fan for break up the stratification. All works great yet the only use it has had was for 8 days of Snotober when we were without power and the fan was not helpful. Under normal operation the fireplace is a heat loss but without power it very certainly was. As it was our only source of heat, we hunkered around it for the little heat it provided. Just in case, we do have a cord of split wood stacked, from that storm, waiting for the next outage. In the meantime, we walk to the wall and nudge the thermostat a bit if the cold is too much.

And the oil furnace is far less polluting than an open wood fire.
Nov 1, 2015 10:05 PM # 
Clark, you have an interesting view of country living. Even though I have two vehicles for my own use, I probably only get in one about 3 or 4 days a week, and spend a lot of time out stomping around in the snow. I definitely spend more hours on foot in the woods than I do in a car.
Nov 2, 2015 12:00 AM # 
Not meant to be another anti-car rant. And granted all you say: fireplaces are inefficient, polluting, inconvenient.... But nothing warms my feet at the end of a cold day like a fireplace, when sitting right on the hearth. A hot-air register just doesn't do it, on so many levels! Hard for me to understand how you guys, with loads of good hardwood and nice brick fireplaces, don't have a cozy fire every night.

But as I discovered this summer, regular chimney sweeping is essential. A sweep pulled out several gallons of soot after 20 years of my neglect.
Nov 2, 2015 12:47 AM # 
If I'm really chilled, the hot tub is the answer.
Nov 2, 2015 2:19 AM # 
If I'm cold, I go into the room where the furnace boiler is for a few minutes.

This discussion thread is closed.