Finding a woodstove installer in St Paul. difficulty level: HIGH Why?
August 10, 2017 7:50 PM   Subscribe

So we bought this woodstove (the high style) . Hooray! It's gorgeous and we can't wait to get it up and running. However, we're having terrible luck finding someone who will install a stove that they didn't sell us. We've contacted several places and with one (very expensive*) exception, we haven't had anyone who will take the job.

Tonight I had a conversation with an extremely rude chimney sweep who basically told me no one in the area would be licensed or insured to do that kind of work.
I just want someone to cut a hole in the outside wall of a brick home (1889), install a metal chimney pipe up the exterior, and hook it up to a stove. What am I missing? Anyone have recommendations for businesses to call or keywords I should use when I'm talking to them?

*It is, of course, possible that this is actually a very expensive job, but their quote was more than twice that of the stove itself. And it seems that buying a different stove and having it installed would be cheaper than having someone come put in the stove we already have. Why?
posted by purpletangerine to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Your local building department has a page for the mechanical permit you'll need. I didn't look around much, but they might also have some publications re: the requirements. And the inspector(s) might be able to give you some contractor names. If permits are searchable by type (as opposed to address) you might be able to dig up contractors by just looking up recent fireplace installation permits.
posted by janell at 8:02 PM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Finding a spot where you will have acceptable clearances to anything combustible in an exterior wall might be quite a challenge. Whomever does this may have to do some re-engineering of the wall and whatever supports it (i.e. re-framing the wall). Cutting through a brick wall in a very old home is probably complicated and likely to run afoul of the myriad ordinances that exist to keep homes from burning down.

Having said that, it's not that unusual for the labor and liner for installation to cost equal to or more than the woodstove itself. Double isn't normal, but you aren't doing something that's normal. It's going to be a one-off custom job and thus very expensive. There is no magic company for this, you will be looking to find a licensed installer or a chimney sweep (who sometimes do installations also), many of them will be associated with a local stove company.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 8:51 PM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

First, I'd see if the manufacturer might know anyone (long shot; they won't but it's worth asking).

Second, I'd see if something like Nextdoor might be helpful (social media that's restricted to actual physical neighbors, so you can ask locals en masse).

Third, I'd probably consider illegal options, which for obvious reasons I'm not going to discuss except to say that there are illegal options that would work but I don't want to be blamed for burning down your house or asphyxiating you (or anyone who later buys your house).
posted by aramaic at 9:06 PM on August 10, 2017

So you called Jack Pixley and they told you it was $10k-$15k to do this. Is that correct?

Jack Pixley is conservative, correct, and expensive.

The reason no one will touch this is because no one wants to be responsible for sending sparks and noxious gasses through a crappy metal pipe that's going to fall apart in 10 years up the side of your house, near your roof and near your neighbor. It's a huge fire, safety and health risk.

To do this right you need a fire brick chimney. I bet Jack Pixley told you they can build that for you for about $30k.

If you really want this stove do it safely and correctly. The metal pipe version is a fire threat to your roof, your neighbors house and possibly your health and is definitely has negative impact on the resale value of your house. Let your neighbors rest easy, don't worry them with a pipe.

Have a real chimney installed and increase your property value and operate your stove safely.
posted by littlewater at 9:11 PM on August 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

If you do install an illegal pipe the City of St Paul will be on you so fast, and if you do not remediate the hazard you will be fined or possibly face misdemeanor charges. The Department of Safety and Inspections is brutal here. And that's why it's safe and nice to live here.
posted by littlewater at 9:14 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Running an exhaust pipe through an exterior wall, then up, is a code violation in most places. You have to go through the roof.
posted by yesster at 9:41 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that anything you do will greatly impact the value of your home if you wanted to sell. My in-laws in NH couldn't even LIST their home when their (to code and inspected) wood stove was functional. They had to disconnect it and sell the house without the wood stove.
posted by lydhre at 6:29 AM on August 11, 2017

Probably an obvious thought, but have you called Woodland Stoves in Seward? They've been helpful to me in the past, and they sell quite a few wood burning stoves.
posted by Think_Long at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

And check with your homeowner's policy. You might not be covered for fire damage if you install without their knowledge.
posted by yesster at 8:54 AM on August 11, 2017

A metal flue is not inherently dangerous. Brick chimneys have to be lined with metal flues because brick transmits enough heat that it chars the supporting wood structures on the other side of it. Here are some guidelines for installing flue pipes. Not necessarily what your city will require, but it gives you an idea of what may be possible.

Anyway, I imagine the reason that installing a stove you bought from the installer directly would be cheaper is all due to liability and risk. The installer knows the condition of the stove they provide; they do not know what may or may not have happened to the stove you bought before they install it.

I found only two chimney sweeps through the Chimney Safety Institute of America that do woodburning stoves in your area: 1, 2. Hopefully they aren't the rude sweeps and might be able to help you.
posted by purple_bird at 9:34 AM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks friends. To clarify, we will not be attempting any illegal installs and will be doing everything according to code. I'm going to run to the hardware store and buy a metal pipe. I'm looking for an installer who will sell me the stove pipe/chimney. I have seen plenty of metal chimneys around, and it is a totally normal and accepted practice to have your woodstove vented out the back and through the wall.
I will double check my list and see if any of the suggestions are ones we haven't hit yet. Thanks
posted by purpletangerine at 12:10 PM on August 11, 2017

Go visit your city hall and talk to someone knowledgeable about code. That will help you assess any charges. The stove will also have specs. I have a woodstove and a double-walled chimney-pipe, and I have homeowner's insurance and sleep okay at night. Many people in the northeast have a similar setup and operate safely. I have gotten lots of help on the forums at

One of the big dangers is cleaning out the ash, and not disposing of it safely. There can be coals, well after you'd think it was thoroughly cold. I have a metal stand outside, with a metal container on top that has a tight-fitting lid for ashes. When I read about fires, I have seen the "improperly stored wood stove ashes" too many times. And make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm in addition to the smoke alarm. Mostly for your furnace, but being safe is kind of nifty.
posted by theora55 at 12:50 PM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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