Why a wood stove?
Aside from the actual bus itself, our tiny wood stove & chimney set has been our biggest expense, mainly because it is the one thing for which we haven’t found a DIY alternative (see future posts on our countertops, sink, composting toilet, couches and shower for more on all that).
We went back and forth on buying a wood stove for the bus, but decided to go for it since it would extend the season for the bus and give us a reliable off-grid source of heat on colder nights. It can be used as an additional (though small) cooking surface. Plus, after living with a wood stove in our home in northern Saskatchewan, we’ve fallen in love with the romantic glow of a fire and the cozy warmth it brings to a space.
After scoping out reviews and blogs about skoolie wood stove installations, Dan decided to go with Cubic Mini, a Montreal-based manufacturer that specializes in building wood stoves for tiny houses, RVs, vans and school bus conversions. He ordered this Grizzly wood stove ($799) and a metal roof exit kit ($328) and an extra 24″ long chimney pipe ($64). To reduce the overall cost, Dan built his own floor mount with a plywood box/base (painted black with fire-resistant paint) with a metal plate to sit under the stove.
We had a warm spell in the last week of January, and we seized the opportunity to install the wood stove and chimney. I say we because I actually did help with this task, measuring and holding things steady and even drilling a hole in the roof (nervously) but Dan deserves 95% of the credit for this project (as per usual!).
I asked Dan to explain his process for this, so here goes:
Locating the right spot in the bus for the fireplace. I selected mid way down on the passenger side. The passenger side was selected so the chimney would be on the curb side when driving down the road, and in the middle of the bus to allow the heat to be distributed equally throughout the bus (I still need to get some kind of fan).
Exact measurements. I had to measure the total height of the outside pipe, plus the height of the inside pipe, plus the height of the stove. It became complicated when I had to allow 12″ above the highest roof line within 3′ of the top of the outside pipe for fire safety clearance. Based on these complicated measurements, I was able to determine that I needed to build a 24″ base out of plywood and the top covered in metal . To maximize the space and and have everything do two jobs, I made two separate compartments in the base, one for wood and one for paper.
Installing the chimney I placed the stove on the floor and used a plumb bob to find the exact middle of the 3″ hole on the top of the wood stove and determined exactly where to mark the spot on the roof to cut. I used a protractor to draw an exact 7″ circle for my 5″ outside pipe to pass through. The extra space is required for clearance and safety. I drilled a pilot hole from the inside of the bus, through the roof to indicate where outside I needed to make another 7″ circle. Once the circle was created, I used a jigsaw with a metal blade to cut through the roof and cut out the circle (DO NOT CUT THE MAIN STRUCTURAL SUPPORT CROSS MEMBERS). Once the hole in the roof was finished, the outside pipe was 12″ above the nearest point, it was secured and bolted in, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief as this was the first hole I ever cut into the roof of the bus. Since then I have added a 6″ and 8″ skylight to the roof, (blog post to follow)
Pipes were all screwed in, the rain boot was double/triple sealed with heat resistant silicon, inside pipe was mounted to the top of the stove, the stove was placed on the box I made and the box was screwed into the bus floor.
Jobs to still complete with the wood stove: Fire resistant metal placed around the wooden objects 12″ from the wood stove, stone flooring laid over the vinyl flooring for safety, and the inside flange needs to me mounted once the ceiling is put in place.
The wood stove is working really well. Having the stove in the bus has made it more comfortable for Dan to get some other building projects done in the bus even when it’s cold outside, which has been really handy. As a result, he’s gotten way more done than we anticipated for this stage of the year.
Since the stove was installed, our weather has ranged from -5 to -25 celsius and this stove is definitely intended for milder temperatures. It should be perfect for late spring/fall temps, cooler winter nights, and our planned May long weekend maiden voyage!