This very minute as I write this post, it is -19.1 degrees outside. In my book, that's chilly. But here I sit, snug as a bug in a rug, cuz I have a secret weapon… and it's a good one.
It's our Tulikivi soapstone stove. They are awesome. They are expensive. They are totally worth it. Especially when you live in a climate that consists of about 7/12 of the time immersed in very coolish to downright frigid temperatures.
When we had our addition added to the house, the plan was to have a gas fireplace installed. Not particularly what I wanted, but, as with all our projects, there was that ever present, nagging budget hanging over our heads. I wanted this new space to be a bit more formal than the other living spaces in our home, and Bruce wanted carpet, so with all that being said, I knew a wood stove was not a good option; carpet and wood stoves are a bad combo. So I ordered and paid for carpet during a big sale in October, with the understanding that they not install it til the following April, to which they agreed. My folks were doing some work on their place at the same time and replaced their wood burning stove with a gas stove. They got to be the guinea pigs. Unfortunately for them, the gas stove salesman told them what turned out to be fib after fib. All of the promises of extremely low fuel use to warm their home, little to no maintenance ever to be needed on the stove, and generally overall extreme efficiency – all those promises turned out, in my Mom and Dad's case, to be false. They encountered problem after problem right from the start. Well, phooey on that! A gas fireplace or stove was out of the picture for our addition after seeing all the headaches my folks were going thru.
Several years prior to any of this, I had read an article about soapstone stoves in Country Living magazine. After that, owning one had been a dream of mine, but I figured the odds of getting one were about as good as me capturing a unicorn. A very funny twist to this story is that about a year before we started the addition, it just so happened that the Tulikivi headquarters for something like the Montana, Wyoming, parts of Idaho and Colorado region (not exactly sure how much area their particular region covers) opened right here in our little town. All I had to do was mosey downtown to talk to the distributor, rather than call someone up to 500 or so miles away and try to figure out, long distance, if getting a Tulikivi would even be an option for us. 'Twas meant to be! And it is truly an asset to our home. I would recommend ownership to anyone. It was a pinch (more like a punch) to come up with the funds for it, but we had penciled it out as closely as possible and figured the stove would pretty much pay for itself at about the 8 year mark. And it has. It works like this; soapstone is a soft stone that easily absorbs heat. The whole stove is constructed of stone (from Finland!) and has an intricate flue system. You stoke your stove, open the air vent wide, and get a massively hot fire burning in the box. The fire passes thru the flue system and all the while the soapstone is heating up. The stove only needs to be loaded up 2 or 3 times, depending on how cold the weather is. After the last burn, the stone is toasty warm and provides radiant heat for around 24 hours (which keeps your house furnace from kicking on because the room temp is ^). Shut the vent down and you are good to go!
There have been a few hitches – the carpet was bought and paid for, so there was no turning back on that (ugh – carpet and wood stoves), and, had we known before I designed the addition, the placement of the stove is not what I would have chosen. But the room was already built when the plan changed from gas fireplace to Tulikivi, so we did the best we could with what we had. It makes it a little difficult to arrange furniture because that stove comes out into the room 5 feet including the hearth. But that's a small price to pay in exchange for all the goodness we get from the beast! And, of course, I whined for at least 6 of the 12 years we had carpet, about getting wood floors. Bruce finally caved, and we had oak floors (oak flooring that I found on Craigslist for 1/2 the price of retail) installed last fall, and they turned out beautifully. In the pictures above, you can see the area rug I found. On Craigslist. All wool. Vintage. Perfect condition. Amazingly, the exact colors I needed for the room which was crazy happenstance as the walls were already freshly painted when I found it on CL. 12 feet by 9 feet. $250 smackers. BONUS! We saved enough on the rug that I broached the subject of adding some kind of stove backer to the wall just for aesthetics. I always felt it looked nekked and plain with just a painted wall behind the stove. I got the hairbrained idea that I wanted to nail a row of quaking aspen saplings to a piece of plywood and mount it to the wall. We couldn't find a source for wood that small, so I started researching birch or aspen bark. Found a supplier, and voila! Bruce and I installed the whole works, and Ima likin it a lot! I wallpapered the entryway in birch tree paper that I had been coveting for 3 years and the whole thing is perfectly tied together in my opinion. I'll throw in the next picture so you can see a snippet of the wallpaper.
Here's a close up of the real birch bark behind the stove, complete with moss!
We used birch tree branches to trim out the sides to cover the plywood edges. I advertised in the wanted section of Craigslist for anyone that had trimmed birch or quakie branches, and a kind person responded and we picked up all their
yard litter cut offs 🙂 .
So now you have the lowdown on how great Tulikivi stoves are, how birch bark panels look as a hearth backer, and a reminder of how wonderful Craigslist is! Oh, and also, how totally much better it is to have pretty oak floors rather than carpet when your house is heated with wood!