Installing a wood burner in Jan’s office

A fire burning in the wood burner in Jan's office

Installing a wood burner in Jan’s office

22 oktober 2023

Installing a wood burner in Jan’s office

22 oktober 2023
A fire burning in the wood burner in Jan's office
After two years of barely heating the château, we are preparing for a warmer winter than before. The central heating still doesn't work, but at least some rooms will be warm!

It was the summer of 2021, and we had just moved into the château. Since it hadn’t been used for so long, the plumbing fell apart every other day. Needless to say, the plumber was around a lot. 

So, when our roofer came around to talk to us about installing a pipe through the chimney, our plumber was here too. Handy, since our plumber is also a chimney sweeper, and our roofer doesn’t do chimneys. A very uncomplicated French situation 😉

They walked round and round the château, measuring the height from ground to top. Indoors, attic, they went places.

Their conclusion: “You might as well forget about installing wood burners, this château is not made to use fire as a heating source. If you want to be stubborn about it we can’t help you, because the roofers might work at a height but don’t do chimneys and the plumbers who do chimneys are afraid of heights. Oh and yes, you need to rent a crane because to cherry picker will reach it. We have one but it’s used in projects around the region until at least September ’22.”

Are we still going to do it?

Of course, there’s a lot about this that doesn’t make sense. I mean, the château was built in 1542. Are you telling me all our fireplaces are purely decorative? Did they install the radiators 500 years ago? They did not. It must be possible to use the fireplaces.

Also, rent a crane, really? We know it’s high, and the setting is difficult because the ground is uneven. But we know cherry pickers exist of 40 meters in height, you can’t tell me that won’t suffice.

Still, being the château newbies that we were back then, we listened. Thinking it would be nearly impossible to get this job done. Or that it at least would become an enormous project, costing loads and loads of money.

We still wanted it done though…

The reason we wanted to install a flue in the chimney, is because we don’t trust these old chimneys to be fully up to par. One leaky brick along the way and the fumes would end up in the wrong place, a kid’s bedroom for example. Also, the chimneys are very dirty with burnt-in soot, they’d need treatment if they were to be used regularly. An easier and safer solution: a pipe through the chimney.

Jan in the hearth to push the piping through

Letting a professional take care of it

In the autumn of ’22, we had an official wood burner vendor over, who assessed our situation. We were interested in letting him take care of everything because we ‘knew’ it would be a difficult operation. 

However, it being autumn meant that: ‘Sure he could do it. In March of ’23, because in the autumn he didn’t have the supplies.’ Questionable purchasing management aside, we let him make a quote for us with the idea of using the central heating throughout the winter. Having a wood burner in March would be fine!

We didn’t have central heating. We had a long, cold winter. But you know, it wasn’t doable to get a flue through (’21), or it at least needed to be done by a professional (’22).
March came and went, and with the coming spring temperatures, we forgot about a wood burner.

John up in the cherry picker to install the pipes

Finally, we're properly preparing for a winter

So, here we are, autumn of ’23, preparing for winter. By now, we were fully done with everyone’s opinion on the matter. The University of YouTube taught us that it is absolutely possible to do stuff like this yourself, and we were suddenly full of courage to tackle this project once and for all.

We did a sort of checklist to see whether or not this whole idea was feasible. 

♦ We can see the sky from the bottom of the chimney: no blockages;

♦ We tested out a 25-meter-high cherry picker and concluded that it should be doable;

♦ We found a wood burner with the right specs for half the price of the official vendor;

♦ We watched even more YouTube tips to be fully prepared.

With the quote from the official vendor in hand, we set out to buy supplies. However, there were things on there we doubted. For example, he estimated we would need 25 meters of flue.

We re-measured everything, floor to ceiling on two floors, and the big chimney through the attic. Measured again, and measured once more with the drone, for good… well, measure.
We came to 19 meters maximum, counting generously.

A bit nervous about the measurement, we set out the buy the flue. 
The first reaction of the salesman: “Is this a joke?” No, monsieur, it certainly is not! 
Miraculously, the wood burner we wanted to order was in stock as well, and we came home with everything we needed.

Installing a wood burner

The Day of the Installation arrived, and we got helping hands from John of Château de Freyssinet. Luckily, because it didn’t go as easily as we expected. 

The cherry picker was just a few centimeters too short, meaning it became very difficult to haul the flue through the chimney. We could reach the chimney, but couldn’t get above it, if that makes sense.

We shortly entertained the idea of putting the wood burner in another room. The Salon de Piano, for example, would be perfect. However, we figured out that the chimney there is blocked. But that’s another story, for another day. 

The Entrée salon was perfectly possible, but unwise. There’s no way the heat would reach all the way to Jan’s office. We kept it in mind as a last-resort option.

Jan and John gave it one last try to see if it would work in Jan’s office. This time they switched places with John going into the cherry picker, him being taller than Jan. 

Turns out their height difference was exactly what we needed to make it work!

John let a long rope fall through the chimney, and Jan attached it to the flue. Together they pulled and pushed the flue through, all the way to the top. 

John then attached the flue to the chimney and installed a hat onto the flue as well. We picked a black hat, in the hopes that it would be less noticeable. After all, we don’t want a modern, shiny hat to distract from the beauty of the château 🙂

Final steps: they attached to flue to the wood burner with some extra pipes and put the wood burner into place.

It. Works. Like. A Charm.

After listening to, and being scared by professional opinions, only to come out on the other end: doing it fine ourselves for a fraction of the cost, we are now officially getting cocky. From now on we won’t listen to a thing anyone has to say and always assume we know best! (And we might put John on speed dial!)

The final costs of installing the wood burner

The quote we got was for EUR 4.500, excluding the rent of the cherry picker. So, in the end, that would come to a grand total of EUR 5.120.

We bought all supplies for EUR 1.600, which includes 19 meters of flue and the wood burner itself. In the end, we have about 2 meters of flue left, so that can be reused for another project. The rent for the cherry picker was EUR 620,- for the whole day. Help from friends: priceless.

Total cost of installing a wood burner in Jan’s office: EUR 2.220,-.

We saved nearly EUR 3.000 by doing it ourselves. I don’t even want to know how much we saved compared to the advice of ’21 and renting a crane to do this!

We’re glad that being more experienced and less willing to spend money resulted in doing this project successfully. One box of preparing for winter has been checked, and we’re happy!

Château de Pazayac with cherry picker

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