Monday, June 15, 2015

Spring preparation tips for wood burners

As difficult as it is to think about cold weather during the nice spring and summer months when the trees are green and the flowers are in full bloom, wood burners need to start prepping for fall now.
Since wood needs to be cut, split and stacked months in advance so that it dries out properly, now is the time to get that project completed, and get some exercise to boot. There are several types of log-splitters available that can make the job much easier. Prices range from $150 for a hand-operated splitter, to $3,000 for a professional gas splitter.

Fotolia.com 
Wood should be stacked off the ground, away from the house, with a covering over the top but not on the sides-- so wind can blow through and dry the wood out. For the serious wood-burner, a wood shed with a permanent roof will offer years of protection from the elements. Wood should be kept away from the house because creepy crawlies like brown recluses like to hide in between the logs. Check wood with an inexpensive moisture meter to be sure it contains less than 20% moisture content before burning.

Any dry wood will do- but hardwood will burn for a longer time since it is denser than softwood. By using hardwood less time is involved in loading up the wood stove or fireplace insert, but softwoods will burn nicely. Stay away from dry pine and hedge, however, because they burn so hot and fast there is a greater risk of a chimney fire or damaging a wood stove or fireplace.

Another maintenance task that should be completed in the spring is chimney sweeping. The Midwest Chimney Safety Council suggests that a professional CSIA Certified chimney sweep do the job. Professional sweeps are trained to check things that the layperson may not be aware of such as proper chimney and connecting pipe installation, clearances to combustibles, wall and floor protection. If used for primary heating purposes, wood-burning stoves and insert flues or chimneys should be swept at least twice during the wood-burning season and once after to be sure that flammable creosote is removed.

Chimney sweep at work. HearthMasters, Inc. 
All wood creates creosote- even dry hardwood, and removal is critical to avoid chimney fires. Chimney fires can not only damage chimneys and connecting pipes, but may escape into the home and cause a house fire.

Check exterior masonry chimneys in the spring for damaged, missing, or spalling bricks (brick faces popping off due to moisture penetration), missing or deteriorated mortar joints, bad flashing or gaps in the flashing, cracked or deteriorated cement crown, and missing or improper chimney covers. Apply masonry water repellant sealer on a dry, calm day to help slow down the deterioration process.
For a prefabricated chimney check the wood chase for wood rot, holes from woodpeckers or squirrels, rusted metal chase tops, and damaged chimney covers.

All of these chimney maintenance items are best addressed in the spring and summer before cold weather sets in and makes work more difficult and expensive.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Masonry Heater Contest April, 2015

The Masonry Heater Association of North America is hosting a contest at their annual meeting in April of 2015 at Little Switzerland, North Carolina. The contest categories are Masonry Heater, Masonry, and Bake Oven. To be eligible to enter the contestant must be a member of the MHA and submit a portfolio of the project at the annual meeting. First, second, and third place winners receive a trophy and their project is featured on the MHA website. The entrant does not need to be present to win. To see the complete rules and entry form and past contest winners visit www.mha-net.org.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Masonry heater workshop April 13-19, 2015

Masonry heater workshop April 13-19, 2015

The Masonry Heater Association of North America will present a masonry heater, bake oven, and masonry skills workshop at their annual meeting at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina April 13 – 19, 2015. 

Masonry heaters are site-built wood-burning appliances that radiantly heat a home with wood.  They are very efficient and use relatively small amounts of wood heat without the use of electricity, gas, fans, or ducts. Wood is burned in a firebox, which connects to channels inside a large thermal mass.  After the fire is out the appliance gradually radiates heat to the living space for many hours without causing large temperature fluctuations or drafts.

Brick masonry heater with
brick oven by Gene Padgitt
The annual meeting and workshop will include hands-on building a Rocket Heater Incorporated in a Masonry Bell, Five Run Masonry Heater with testing demo, Finnish ContraflowHheater for Beginner masons, Bake/pizza oven with vaulted arch, Grundofen Cabin Stove with a Cooktop, a bricklaying clinic, and Building a Masonry Smoker.

Classroom seminars include Google Sketch-up Clinic with Boris Kukolj, My Masonry Heater Smokes - Yikes!, Masonry Heater Challenges in Australia, and Untold Stories and Oops that Confront a Masonry Heater Builder. The Heater Mason Education and Development class will be held throughout the week.

The annual Design/Build Contest for masonry heaters, bake ovens and masonry will be judged during the week and trophies will be awarded at the final meeting.

An auction and pizza party are held every year.

For more information on how to join the MHA or attend the workshop contact Richard Smith, Executive Director, at 520-883-0191, e-mail execdir@mha-net.org or visit www.mha-net.org.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Masonry Heater Workshop April 18-24, 2014


The Masonry Heater Association of North America will present a masonry heater, bake oven, and masonry skills workshop at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina April 14 – 20, 2014. 

Masonry heaters are site-built wood-burning appliances that radiantly heat a home with wood.  They are very efficient and use relatively small amounts of wood heat without the use of electricity, gas, fans, or ducts. Wood is burned in a firebox, which connects to channels inside a large thermal mass.  After the fire is out the appliance gradually radiate heat to the living space for many hours without causing large temperature fluctuations or drafts.

The annual meeting and workshop will include hands-on training for a Kachelofen (tile) heater with Jessica Steinhauser and Mario Zauner; A Five Run Masonry Heater with Testing Demo by Doug Hargrave and Norbert Senf; A Finnish Heater for Beginner Masons by Marty Pearson and Jeff Owens; A Bake/Pizza Oven by Pat Manley; a Small Guastavino Vault Demo by Tony Bioundo, a Bricklaying Clinic by Tom Trout and Pat Jenkins, a Grundofen J Loop Masonry Heater with Domestic Hot Water by Eric Moshier, Dan Givens, and Joe Copeland; and A Brick Hammer and Trowel Only: 36” Diameter Clay Brick Dome Oven by Alex Chernov and David Moore. 

Classroom seminars include Google Sketch-up Clinic with Boris Kukolj; What Does it Mean? By the Technical Committee; A Unique and Challenging Heater Built by Jerry Frisch, Masons on a Mission Presentation by Pat Manley, and Untold Stories and Ooops that Confront a Masonry Heater Builder.  The Heater Mason Education and Development class will be held throughout the week.

The annual Design/Build Contest for masonry heaters, bake ovens and masonry will be judged during the week and trophies will be awarded at the final meeting.

An auction will be held on Thursday night, and the Pizza Party, where participants can sample pizza from the wood-fired ovens is held on Friday afternoon.

For more information on how to join the MHA or attend the workshop contact Richard Smith, Executive Director, at 520-883-0191, e-mail execdir@mha-net.org or visit www.mha-net.org.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Free and easy way to keep glass door clean on heater

One of the best things about having a cozy warm fire is watching the flames dance around, but if the glass doors are not clean it takes away from the experience. Glass doors on masonry heaters and wood ovens get blackened with soot, and need to be cleaned periodically.

An old tried and true method that my grandfather used can solve the problem, allowing homeowners to once again enjoy their fire.

There are stove glass cleaners on the market that work well, but if you want to save some money and a trip to the hearth store left over wood ashes work fine.

To clean glass doors with ashes:
  • Wait until the glass is cool before cleaning
  • Get a damp paper towel or soft cloth
  • Dip the cloth into cold fireplace ashes and scrub the cold glass thoroughly
  • Wipe with a clean damp cloth
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Marge Padgitt is the president of HearthMasters, Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri.  She is a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep and NFI Wood-burning Specialist, and writes articles for national magazines and blogs. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Facebook Group for Wood-Fired Ovens

There is a new Facebook page just for Wood-fired ovens.  The page is open to anyone interested in designing, building, or cooking/baking in wood-fired brick, cast, or cob ovens.  Members may post photos of their oven projects, finished ovens, or foods cooked in the ovens. 

Many chefs and home cooks are interested in restaurant and outdoor wood-fired ovens due to the unique flavor it imparts to the food. For the best pizza or bread, chefs prefer wood-fired ovens and they are making a resurgence in the United States and Canada. Brick ovens are the most popular due to their high heat retention properties.  Brick ovens can obtain and sustain temperatures of 700 degrees or more, which is best for pizza.  Breads and other foods cook at a lower temperature. 

Skilled craftsmen who specialize in brick oven construction are available across North America.  Many are listed at the Masonry Heater Association Website at www.mha-net.org.  The new Facebook page is also a resource for oven builders as well as the Yahoo chat list.  To join the Yahoo chat list visit https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/MasonryHeatersBrickOvens/info and request to join.  You will need to provide some information about why you wish to join so the moderator will know you are not a computer spammer.  

To join us on Facebook go to Facebook and do a search for "Wood-Fired Ovens" then request to join and I'll add you to the group.

Marge Padgitt
HearthMasters Oven Builders
www.chimkc.com

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Brick ovens to be introduced at World of Masonry



The Masonry Heater Association of North America is hosting an introductory wood-fired brick oven building workshop at the World of Concrete/World of Masonry Conference in Las Vegas, NV January 20-24, 2014.

Then workshop is for masons who wish to learn more about brick oven building techniques and methods. Site-built brick ovens are increasingly popular among professional chefs and home cooks, who find that wood-fired cooking imparts a unique flavor to breads, pizza, and gourmet foods. The addition of oven building to a portfolio can greatly increase income for professional masons.

The workshop will be presented by the MHA Wood-Fired Bake Oven Committee, whose members are professional masons specializing in residential and commercial brick oven building. The committee is currently working on changes in codes and standards, professional oven building training, public awareness, and an oven portfolio focusing on dome and arch brick ovens, squirrel tail ovens, and cob ovens. The portfolio will be available to professional masons.

The World of Concrete Conference is the largest international event dedicated to professional contractors. The event will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nevada 89109. To register for the World of Concrete Conference visit www.worldofconcrete.com.

For more information about the MHA Bake Oven Committee contact chair Marge Padgitt at 816-461-3665 or ympadgitt@yahoo.com.
The media is invited to attend and take photos of the event.

The Masonry Heater Association of North America is a non-profit organization with members worldwide. The MHA sponsors workshops throughout the year. The next annual meeting and workshop will be held April 14-20, 2014 in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.
For more information on how to join the Masonry Heater Association of North America, or media scheduling contact Richard Smith, MHA Executive Director, at 520-883-0191 or e-mail execdir@mha-net.org or visit www.mha-net.org.