Home & Garden

Handyman: Is installing a wood stove a DIY project?

Q: We had a small wood-burning stove installed in our family room with pipes coming out the top and running up to the roof. This was more than 10 years ago. About five years ago, my husband bought a larger one to replace it that had its own pipes. The old stove and the pipes have been sitting in our basement ever since. The other day, my son mentioned that maybe he could take the old stove and install it in his fireplace. Is this something that can be done by a DIYer?

A: There are two important rules concerning wood-burning stoves, whether they are freestanding or in a fireplace: 1) They need stainless-steel chimneys, or when inside a fireplace, a stainless-steel flue liner. 2) When a chimney or flue liner goes through a ceiling into the attic, out through the roof, it must be fully insulated against fire.

Also, a freestanding stove should be at least 3 feet away from a standard exterior or interior wall. If the stove is closer, it must have an asbestos or other heat-proof barrier between it and the wall.

Your son can install such a stove, but I suggest he consult a heating expert.

Breathing aluminum

Q: We decided to go with vinyl siding on the garage, which is clad in very old, deteriorating red cedar. Only thing is the contractor wants to put aluminum over the wood trim. Won’t that make it rot? He says “aluminum breathes.” We are highly skeptical. In the future, I was hoping to cover the asbestos siding on the house with red cedar, but the contractor says that because it gets stapled and nailed, that it wouldn’t be an appropriate covering and we’d be better off with vinyl for the house as well. He could cover the present siding with a layer of insulation and nail the vinyl siding right to it. If we insist on cedar, he says, we’d have to remove the asbestos shingles first. The house sits about a quarter mile up from a salt pond , so it does get the salty breezes. Any comments?

A: I, too, am very skeptical when anyone says aluminum breathes. Vinyl siding can be put over asbestos cement siding as long as 3/8-inch Styrofoam insulation is applied first. I don’t know whether cedar can be put over asbestos shingles.

Cracked rock

Q: We have a fire pit built into the retaining wall surrounding our patio. The pit was created with three large granite blocks, and the one forming the back has developed several cracks. We now have one chunk held in place rather precariously, and we would like to repair it. But how?

A: Granite is sometimes repaired with mortar, but that won’t work in a high-heat situation. Take out the precarious stone and rebuild the wall with smaller blocks.

What’s in a name?

Q: I read, with interest, your Sept. 20 column. Your word choice in the part about making fancy balusters caught my eye. In the question it states that some spindles need replacing but cannot be put in a lathe. Does that mean the damaged spindles cannot be put in a lathe because of the damage?

You say that a “finish carpenter” or a “woodworker” is needed. Is a finish carpenter not a woodworker? I’d consider a “rough” carpenter a woodworker. I’ve been an amateur furniture maker (mostly 18th century for more than 50 years). I use hand and power tools, whichever does the job.

A: I think our problem is that we can’t agree on the meaning of some terms, so we should draw up a glossary of who’s who and what’s what. As for some balusters, they cannot be put on a lathe because they are not round. I also think a woodworker is a person who works with wood. Finish or rough, he or she is still a woodworker.

Hotton: photton@globe.com