Restored wood cook stoves have become increasingly popular with homeowners who love the vintage look. Homesteaders, people living off the grid, and those who depend on wood to heat their homes snap up these antique wood stoves at auctions, antique stores, and through online classifieds.
With winter around the corner, maybe you’re looking at buying a wood burning cook stove for your homestead. Or maybe you’re interested in buying an off grid home that comes with a restored wood burning cook stove.
Yet as I learned a few when we bought a cabin that came restored 1911 Renfrew Acorn wood cook stove, there are a few important points to know about them.
Here are some things you should know about restored wood cook stoves before buying and installing one in your home or cabin.
#1. Installing a Wood Cook Stove May Impact Your Homeowner Insurance
Do you have homeowner insurance? It’s true that some off grid homeowners and homesteaders forego it because they don’t want it or can’t qualify for it. But maybe you do want it, or your lender requires homeowner insurance as part of your financing qualifications. In that case, pay special attention to installing a restored wood cook stove.
Last fall I wrote an article on wood stove safety and maintenance for The Hartford insurance company. I learned some interesting facts about insurance and wood burning appliances. Although most home insurance companies in United States and Canada will insure a home with wood burning appliances or fireplaces, you will likely get a whole lot of questions about it. Disclosure: This post may contain some affiliate links.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, restored wood cook stoves must be installed to meet current local safety codes for a home to be insurable. In addition, your insurance provider may stipulate that a restored wood burning cook stove must meet current National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. These standards requirements currently include
- specific stove pipe sheet metal material and diameter measurements
- 36 inch clearance between wood cook stoves and combustible walls
- Two to 6 inches of ventilated space beneath the fire chamber or base
Check out the requirements in your area before investing in an antique wood cook stove that catches your eye.
#2. Few Knowledgeable Experts
One problem we didn’t even think about when I fell in love with our Renfrew Acorn wood cook stove is that there aren’t too many people left who know how to fix them.
When we were trying to figure out whether it was safe to use the wood stove (it was in a log cabin that hadn’t been lived in over 10 years), I tried to find someone who could come out and look at it for us. I asked the locals, and even some friends across the border in Minnesota, with no luck. Apparently, there was an old-timer who had kept it in good repair until he passed away about twenty years ago.
If you live near a major center in a farming area or near an Amish, Mennonite or Hutterite community, you may have better luck. Some farms that have been handed down through generations still depend on wood cook stoves. And some of the Old Order religious groups do too. So ask around.
If not, do what I did and look online. Or check out our printable list of 10 Useful Resources Restored Wood Cook Stoves Links, which is included in our Free Resource Library.
#3. Few Replacement Parts for Old Wood Cook Stoves
Many of the restored wood cook stoves we see today have been restored, refurbished, or repurposed. They’re being used as a decorative piece in homes or restaurants. And the market for replacement parts for these antique cook stoves is pretty small because many aren’t functional. Yet wear from their previous use as well as time means they need replacement parts to operate as efficiently and safely as possible.
Depending on the make, model, and dimensions of your antique wood cook stove, you may be able to use a modern part. For example, Dan replaced a rusted out piece of stovepipe with a brand new section he bought new at Menards (Best.Store.Ever).
If you need an original piece, however, it’s a lot tougher. Prepare to search online for this too. And don’t be surprised if you can’t find anything local.
Also, try eBay. Look for another old wood cook stove that is identical to yours but NOT refurbished. If you can get it for a deal, buy it for parts. But only if you can drive to pick it up. Cast iron stoves are really, really heavy. The shipping costs could be a deal-breaker.
#4. Few Wood Burning Cook Stove Owners Manuals
In the past 100+ years, most households in North America have stopped using wood cook stoves. And so there just aren’t that many old owners manuals around. And despite my best efforts, I never did find an owner’s manual for our Renfrew Acorn beauty.
Although it was easy enough to find the Acorn Stove Company and PDFs of manuals for their antique wood stoves circa 1900, that only helped a little. As it turns out, our stove didn’t come from that Michigan-based company, but from the tiny town of Renfrew, Ontario. And the stove company went out of business many years ago.
What I ended up doing was referring to a PDF of a scanned old print manual for a similar stove from the Michigan-based Acorn company. (Check out Living History Farm and their post on their own antique Acorn woodburning cooking stove.)
A restored wood cook stove can be a functional addition to your off grid home or cabin. It provides heat and gives you something to cook. However before you invest in one, do some research to make sure it’s the right choice for your home and needs.