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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Search for the Perfect French Wood Stove

An update on our project to install a wood stove in our little house here in Versailles.

This project is something in between a luxury and a necessity.  Last winter was very cold and damp here.  The house is heated by a boiler system that shoots hot water into the old radiators.  The fuel is heating oil and it cost us a bundle of money to keep the house at around 19 degrees Celsius (a little over 66 degrees Fahrenheit).  This was after we insulated.  That's too much for too little.  An efficient wood stove would dramatically reduce our heating bill.

We got the authorization from the mayor's office to elevate the chimney and our mason has agreed to do the work within the next two weeks.

Saturday we drove out to St. Cyr l'Ecole to have another look at the Godin wood stoves.

We had originally set our eyes on this one - the classic, round "Petit Godin".

This is the classic French wood stove that has been around forever.  I've talked to older people at church and in my neighborhood about our project and their eyes light up and they say, "Yes, when I was a child we had one..."  They are genuinely surprised to hear that they are still made.  Godin, I think you have an untapped market here.

But after we talked to the salesperson, we began to have doubts.  This model is 5 KW so that's the maximum amount of heat we can get out of it.  The inside is small and won't take the larger logs which are cheaper than the smaller ones.

So we looked at this one which is very stylish and is called "La Belle Epoque".

Alas, it had the same problems as the little Petit Godin - only 5 KW and won't take logs bigger than 38 cm.

And then we saw it - a larger version of the Petit Godin that is oval and not round (Ref 3727).  We measured and it will fit the space just fine.  It's 10 KW and will take logs up to 50 cm.  Here's what it looks like:

We were sold.  Godin will send someone by on Thursday to measure the space, check the walls, and give us a quote.

The only regret I have is that I would have liked something other than black but the price differential between the standard color (anthracite) and the lovely green or blue, is just too great.

I'll post pictures once it gets installed.


Ellen Lebelle said...

Very nice! Is the body insulated, so that the hot air is forced out for distribution through pipes? We have friends who placed an insulated "corps de chauffe" into their chimney and it distributes the heat throughout the house.

Unknown said...

I would love to have one of these! I looked all over for one last year but, Godin doesn't import to Canada anymore. They are lovely and can fit a small space. I finally found a small, tall one but, it's not nearly as lovely as one of those. Gorgeous!

Jordan said...

Cant you paint it to be whatever colour you want?

Christophe said...

I am one of those who can say "when I was a child we had one..." :-)
I was under the impression that you already bought one, but that might have been before you moved into your new house and you didn't bring it.
I don't think my parents took theirs when they moved.
Very pretty. With the heat that think generates, I don't know if I would paint it... Surprising that there is a big difference in price for the different colors.

We're on the market for a new grill. Just like with wood stoves, you can go with the standard gas grill, but the 'in' item these days is "the big green egg".
I guess it's like the difference between going with a standard wood stove and un petit Godin.
Not sure which one we'll pick yet. My wife doesn't really want to deal with charcoal and like the convenience of gas... We'll see. I might even build our own outdoor kitchen, as they are so expensive to buy from retailers.

Take care. I look forward to reading your trip report!

Julia Gandrud (aka JuliaLikesFrogs) said...


Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Ellen, No it's the same model as was available a hundred years so it's very low tech. The heat radiates from the stove and that's about it. But we only have 55 square meters to heat so it should be OK.

@Attiscusin, They don't import to Canada anymore? Were you able to find a used one?

@Jordan, Not so easy to paint and I'm really lousy at coloring within the lines. The black is fine. :-)

@Christophe, Wow! You had one? Which model? Yes, the gas ones are really tempting but gas here is actually pretty expensive. Wood out here in Versailles is pretty cheap.We can also burn coal but I think that's frowned upon.

@JuliaLovesFrogs, Oh yes, aren't they beautiful? And pretty cheap compared to the modern models with the glass and special features. These are just very basic wood stoves. They do one thing and they do it well. :-)

Susan said...

Hi, came to your site while looking for coal, then saw sites about my stove, I bought the green bel époque (bigger size) back in the 1980s in Edinburgh ! It had been bought with the intention of running a central heating system but in the end was never installed . Took it with me on a few house moves and for years it was a very nice ornament ! Now it's sitting pride of place in my living room in perth Australia! God does it get cold here and that's coming from someone born and brought up in the north east of Scotland for 40 years.i agree with what you say about the size of the wood problem I've got is that it should be run on coal which seems to be impossible to find here so we have to use jara have to cut to fit and because its so efficient burns wood to quickly and it goes out overnight keeps the whole house nice and warm though a totally different kind of heat .enjoy your new stove I'm of to hunt for coal xxxxx

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi Susan, thank you so much for stopping by the Flophouse and for the comment. I just loved that stove and I can see why you brought it with you. I had no idea it was that cold in Perth.

We've thought about coal too. In fact when we bought ours we were told that we couldn't get a tax credit for it because it burns both wood and coal (the ecologists don't like the latter). In the end we decided we like having those options and bought it anyway.

Good luck in your search for coal!


Unknown said...

Wood stoves are so romantic! I imagine the Weasley's would have had a wood stove because they had a very eccentric and lovely house. At least, I always imagined it to be. i know imagine your house to be very cozy and romantic as well! :) I'm sure it looks lovely, even if it is black rather than that beautiful green!

crowldawg said...

My Godin has served me well for thirty yrs.Its burning now as I search the webs for a cook stove I could never afford.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

That is GREAT to hear. We are sure loving ours and I like knowing that it will still be heating my home some 30 odd years from now. (Hell, it might even outlive me :-) said...

Hello: Perhaps you can help me. I have had several Godin's and loved each one but I have recently relocated to Tennessee in the US and cannot locate an importer or distributor. Can you tell me how to get in touch with the Godin company so that I can seek out a US distributor/importer from the manufacturer. My e-mail is timkelly800@ Thanks so much and good heating

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Tim, I can't find a distributor in the US either. However if you go on Craiglist or Ebay you will find used ones at good prices. These things are darn near indestructible. :-) The trick is to find a used one near you so that you don't have to pay too much for shipping. Give it a shot and if you find a good source, come back and share it.

All the best to you,


clbundy said...

Hi Victoria, I have recently come to own an oval petit godin and also 2 round ones. How did you figure out what kind of stove pipe you needed, and how to manage installing it to code? thanks, Carol

crowldawg said...

Check with a local stove company. I have 4ft of 4 in stainless that I bought on the web to an 8 in nipple inserted in the stove tile in the chimney. I use a damper and the shortest connection I could make.I use not so PC coal I have better control and no cresote.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Congratulations, clbundy! May I ask where you bought yours?

I did exactly what crowldog suggested - we asked the distributor to come in and do the installation. Since our house was built in the late 1920's there was a specific code to follow which meant the walls around the stove didn't require any heat shielding (saved us some money).

Anonymous said...

Have had ours for over 30 years,,,Began with coal, switched to wood about 20 years ago.. A lovely, functional stove.. said...

Hi Folks,

I am a Realtor in Ithaca, New York. It is cold here, too.

I have a client with a large,oval Godin stove, similar or identical to the one installed by Victoria. After many years of relying upon it to provide her rural home with inexpensive coal heat in the winter, she is now having great difficulty with her draft. She is able to get a wood fire burning, but the coal fire dies, when coal is added to the stove. She has already replaced her stove pipes and barometer, and determined that there is excellent draft going up her chimney. Over the years, she has noted a separation between the chamber and the gun metal object attached to the rear of the stove (what is that thing?). She has used stove cement to seal any gap, which has been part of her regular maintenance.

Any helpful advice? We are about to sell the house and the buyers are looking forward to using this stove to keep them warm in future winters. Local contractors are not being very helpful.

Many thanks for any advice,


Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Carol, I've never used coal in my stove just wood but I've had the same problem as your client. What worked for me was keeping the door slightly open until the fire had a good bed of coals. After that I could shut it and the fire would keep going without too much trouble.

I agree that it's nto a problem with the draw - that works fine- it just seems that without that bed of coals at the bottom it does have a tendency to die out.

Hope that helps.

Tutul said...

Hi , I have recently come to own an oval petit godin and also 2 round ones. How did you figure out what kind of stove pipe you needed, and how to manage installing it to code? thanks!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I just picked up a Petit Godin out here in B.C. in excellent shape, and if that wasn't enough I just found one with a rotten case in a local scrap yard! Going to pick up that restoration candidate tomorrow; it'll be good for parts if nothing else.

Too bad nobody seems to carry Godin here in North America any more. Probably "environmental" regulations.

Unknown said...

We have one here at our home in NW France. We bought it second hand for 280€ about 5 years ago. I gives twice the heat for half the fuel! I cut the 50cm logs we buy in into 3 and split those that are too big, we find smaller amounts of smaller pieces results in a burn similar to coke, once it is pretty much all burned away it can be quickly rekindled with small branches (1-3" cut into 8 or 9" lengths, complete the refill with standard pieces and within 5 minutes she blazes away. I like to leave it until the rear flue bend becomes a dull red and then close her down in two stages. We have a home made butterfly damper 20cm above the center rear outlet point which when coupled with the fire's own air intake damper will allow the fire to burn 7-8 hours overnight. Once again the the morning we reload to half height using small pieces, within 10 minutes the fire is roaring and reheating our 8m tall chimney. Without the butterfly the fire would burn too quickly and badly, having to close the air intake completely inevitably leads to air being drawn into the top flap and around the door which is impossible to avoid completely. With a little air being allowed in and the butterfly closed (a small space remains around the edge and a 15mm hole drilled in the center to allow at least minimal gas flow. We only ever use seasoned oak which costs us 190€ a cord including delivery from our local supplier. We use 5 cords a year to heat a large old granite farmhouse that could, and should have been better insulated! I won;t make that mistake in our next house - straw bale anyone?