When my husband and I were first married, our first exposure to heating with wood was in our first apartment in Maine. We had a second floor apartment in a big brick house which was built in the early 1800’s. The thermostat was in the downstairs apartment below us. The landlord supplied heat, but was rather stingy. We were able to get hold of some seasoned firewood and used our fireplace (the house had double chimneys with double flues inside, since each large room had a fireplace). Short of asking permission and checking the flue for squirrels’ nests, we did not preparation. Not until we had our own house did we realize that there could be missing mortar in the bricks, which would allow extreme heat to get into the space around the chimney and maybe burn the joists under the floors.
We moved and took our woodpile with us. In our new house (actually 100 years old) there was an old Portland parlor stove. (Something like the one pictured below, only not as solid-looking) It had an outside flue, built of cinder blocks. We put our woodpile about 30 feet from the barn in the back yard.
Well, the first winter we had about 70″ of snow. In order to get the wood, we had to go out the back door of the barn and walk to the pile, and carry the wood in our arms to the house. About half-way through the winter, we had a large snowstorm. When I went out to get wood, I couldn’t even find the darn pile. I had to get a shovel and dig 2 feet DOWN until I hit the top. (Hey, we were originally from New Jersey-anything over 6 inches at a time was a disaster). After that winter, we learned several things; 1) Keep your wood pile close to the house. 2)DON’T use an old, unrestored woodstove (we later got a Shenandoah, which we still use). 3) Don’t use an outside flue- we had the chimneys in the house relined and when it came time to dismantle the cinder block chimney, we found tons of creosote inside and something REALLY scary……All around the flue opening into the outside chimney the sideboards of the house were black- scorched, burned, etc. Our house could have burned down at any time!
Now, we have a stove thermometer, we clean the flue religiously, we just had the lining upgraded (Supaflu- a great product and highly recommended for older chimneys like ours) and we make sure the wood is thoroughly seasoned. I can even cook a whole meal on the stove now. I can’t believe we were as dumb as we were back 21 years ago. guess the angels of clue-less people were watching over us….
As for the old Portland Foundry stove, we sold it to a starry-eyed couple who were in love with heating an old farmhouse the old-fashioned way. Good luck- I hope their house is still there.