Review of our fitter and my verdict on our stove
It took some time to choose our ideal woodburner stove, when it arrived we had the other daunting task of finding an stove installer before we could have it blasting out warmth for Christmas.
We have a traditional chimney, which we had opened up (it had been concreted in partly when the gas fire was installed). On inspection we’d been advised that the chimney needed a flexible flue fitted. I asked for quotes for the flue and installation of the woodburner from a number of fitters. Checking that they were all approved fitters. (Stoves need to be installed by a HETAS registered fitter.)
The prices varied, but were all in excess of £2000. (This thread I found online somewhat reflects my views.)
I looked into doing it ourselves- possible, but we would’ve needed to get our work approved by Building Control services. That’s an additional cost, that made it rather more expensive.
Finally I asked our local chimney sweep if they could recommend someone and they told me they’d do it. (No, this is not a sponsored post for them!) They gave me a quote half the price of anyone else. I quizzed them, grilled them, took up their references.
Turns out these are just your honest guys who know that you will be a customer year after year if they do a decent job. They don’t want get rich in one winter and spend their summer in the Bahamas.
Others had probably come to the same conclusion, because they were almost impossible to get hold of over the phone, took ages to get responses on email.
I freaked out, because my dream of sitting in front of a fire with snow everywhere outside , Christmas tree twinkling was slipping further and further. Then Dan called to say they could come on Sunday (2 days before Christmas), would that be ok?
They came as they promised. The weather was not looking good and it seemed too dangerous to go onto the roof with the sleety rain. They decided to go ahead with all the stuff they could do from the inside (the coverplate, the adapter, the pretty bit of pipe that connect to the less pretty flexible flue that it out of sight). My poor fitter had a bit of a job fitting the flue outlet pipe and getting the decorative flue on straight. We reckon this stove had got a right knock in transport (though nothing was visible on the packaging). If it wasn’t this close to the holidays I would’ve seriously considered asking for a replacement.
In the end Dan triumphed!
Just as they’d finished inside the Weather Gods decided to be kind on us and dried up all the rain.
Within a couple of hours I had a roaring fire going and I could concentrate on making a magical Christmas for our family.
Thank you guys from Oxford Chimney Sweeps for helping make our Christmas 2012 extra warm.
The bottom line on the Contura i5
I love it! It is beautiful, with 45 cm wide and 30cm tall slightly concave glass panels to give you an amazing view of the flames inside.
I am very happy with the double door choice and, with hindsight, the building regulations pertaining to the door opening above a hearth totally make sense. The door can have some bits of ash and cinder on it and it’s annoying enough these dropping on the hearth, let alone a flamable or damageable carpet.
What I love the most about the i5 are the door handles! They are so smooth operating, glide beautifully to open and close the doors.
The stove was not the easiest to light initially. I’m told by stove retailers this is common with stoves that are so efficient they doesn’t start drawing properly till they are coming up to a working temperature. Eventually I learnt how to do it quite quickly with kindling, paper and very well-seasoned logs. (Our first batch of logs weren’t brilliant to say the least.) Now I find it very simple.
A flue thermometer (a little magnetic backed mechanical one) has helped me in understanding when the Contura i5 works most efficiently and when to keep putting on logs.
I’ve found that it is much easier to keep the burn efficient with logs chopped to smaller diameter. The length doesn’t matter as much, since the fire pit is large and can take 40cm logs. Chopping the logs to 5-7 cm diameter, however, makes light work of keeping an even, efficient fire going.
Loading the logs is very easy with the option of opening only one door. Contura also supply a pair of lovely thick leather gloves to protect the owner while handling the stove. It is a good idea to actually use this gloves, not like me: I forgot to take my own advice several times and thus ended up having the “lovely” burn marks all along my lower arm to show for it. Dooh!!!
Cleaning and maintenance
I wipe down the inside of the glass before lighting the fire each morning. Although the Contura i5 has a very efficient airwash system, I find, as fire is allowed to go out at the end of the evening, it soots up the glass just slightly. To clean the windows I use paper kitchen roll, water and some bicarb. Very easy, no scrubbing required!
The Contura i5 doesn’t have an ashtray. I didn’t even think to check this before buying, I just assumed all stoves had one. However, I’ve also learnt that being a woodburner only, no coal, it likes a bedding of ash to burn well. For cleaning, I scoop out a toy bucket of ash every week or so, leaving the rest of the ash in there.
We had one hiccup with the stove: After half term in February and being away for a week, I went to light the stove and the smoke just billowed out. Turned out the flue was blocked. We looked at the wood I had been using and it was a mix of softwoods and hardwoods and the moisture content wasn’t quite right either. This had caused excess sooting and deposits in the flue. In the week that we didn’t use the woodburner , the deposits in the flue had fallen down and blocked it up at the base. A quick clean by our chimney sweep solved it. My Chimney sweep reckons that a 6″ outlet for this stove would be more suitable because it is so powerful. (That’s too technical for me. )
The Contura i5 is rated 75% efficient. I know for sure the efficiency definitely depends on how well it is running. At it’s most efficient, we can see beautiful ghosting of the flames, indicating a secondary combustion of gases. It is just the most fascinating to watch, a bit like the Northern Lights trapped in your stove.
Last winter we went through nearly 3 cubic meters of wood, using the woodburner on a daily basis. Our gas consumption was quite a bit down, despite the chilly and long winter. With both of us, me with Max and Dadonthebrink predominantly working from home, needing the heat during the daytime as well, the savings we made by using a woodburner was definitely noticeable.
Over all I highly recommend the Contura i5 for it is beautiful, it gives out loads of heat and it is easy to maintain.
Do you have a fitter or a stove you would recommend based on your experience?
Check out how our central heating system is set up, what works, what has been thrown out of whack with us installing a woodburner.
This is part of my time tested review series, talking about products and service that I have used for at least 6 months and have experience and feedback from using them over a longer period of time. Some products and services I recieved for free, and some like, in this case, I paid for with my own money.