Heat With Wood

Maine Masonry Heater

We heat primarily with wood in Maine, and for those of you who haven’t visited (yet!), we burn most of that in a gigantic brick box (called a “masonry heater” or a “Finnish Fireplace”) parked in the middle of our kitchen/living room, which makes up most of our house’s ground floor. The theory is that instead of using the intense, but intermittent (only hot when a fire is burning), heat of a steel wood stove to heat the house, we heat a big thermal mass (most of the brick box is a labyrinth of flues to best capture the heat of the fire) that radiates a low-level, but constant, amount of heat. We fire it twice a day, but it is warm/hot 24 hours a day, which the cats have definitely noticed.

One bonus is the daily fires, which give the intense heat of a normal wood stove and give the beautiful soothing spectacle of blazing logs, which is why we eat breakfast and supper in front of it. The other bonus is that we don’t have to feed it every hour to keep it “hot” so going away for the day doesn’t mean coming home to a cool house — as long as we keep to the twice a day schedule, the house temp is constant. But because it’s so ‘steady” it’s not adjustable — it’s either ON or OFF, so it’s not much help during the Spring and Fall when the outside temp high during the day and low at night. For that we use our cookstove, which is probably the opposite of the masonry heater — gets really hot fast, but cools off really fast if we don’t constantly feed its tiny firebox.
Masonry Heater Bake Oven
Of course it wouldn’t be a fixture in a Rector home without having a cooking component to it — we had the mason build an oven into the heater above the fire box. The oven is heated by the surrounding heater — it averages about 300 °F (up to 350 °F and down to 250 °F), and is perfect for any slow bake stuff like baked beans, lasagna, sausage and cabbage, even roast chicken or turkey. The oven can be fired separately from the heater’s firebox, knocking it up one or two hundred degrees for bread and pizza. Or when you get a good pile of coals, you can do some fast meat roasting, including grilling steaks.

Needless to say, we love it.



2 thoughts on “Heat With Wood

  1. The oven is great for pizza, but it takes a while to get it up to the ideal of 500°F or higher, both “in” the oven and in the masonry, which are two separate things. It’s one thing to get the airspace hot, but if the floor of the oven doesn’t have an even temperature, you burn the bottom of the first pizza, but the next pizza bottom never cooks. There’s probably half a ton of concrete in the bake oven alone, and it takes a while to get that up to temp, so pizza nights have to be planned in advance, but they’re worth it. I will post our pizza dough recipe at EatsForOne.com.


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