Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bus Blog 17: Fire Surround Prep

For well over a year, I had 5 boxes of tile samples piled behind my shop.  To be more clear, I had five boxes of tile sample books behind my shop, the tiles not having been yet separated from the books due to being cemented in place by huge globs of hard adhesive that made the job a pain.
I wanted to throw them out.
I wasn't interested in peeling off the tiles, and was sick of seeing the orange cardboard books slowly turn to yellow in the sun, expand with the rain, and crack as they dried.

"We can use them," Kirstin reasoned.

"On what?"  This was well before the bus idea had come about.

"They're free and some are really nice tiles."

None, not one of the tiles matched.  It was a sample mix so included everything from floor tiles to crowns to mosaics.  She'd gotten them when hired to help clean-out an interior design supply shop that went under.  There were other things, but nothing that really irritate me quite like the tile did.  The other things: a set of wood blocks, a few carpet sample squares, some fabric all weighed considerably less than the tile and for the most part, had uses.  The tile, on the other hand, sat.  Weeds grew and died around the boxes, snow came and went, the tiles still sat.

During the permaculture design course I had taken in June of 2010, I managed to obtain an antique wood burning stove.  It needed some restoration, but not anything ridiculous.  It seemed like a great way to heat the bus, wood is cheap/free, easily available, puts out tons of heat, and can be a sustainable source of energy.  Besides, the stove was free.
After a bit of research, I found out that if I was able to build a thick fire-surround, I could use it to store the heat created by the stove and release it slowly throughout the night.  If I took the proper safety precautions, and maximized the efficiency of the stove with other additions, I could have a cheap, easy and stylish way to keep the bus warm all winter.

As I write this, I'm starting to realize that while I was the pilot of this particular project, Kirstin eventually got her way with everything.
We decided to tile the fire-surround with, you guessed it, her salvaged tiles.

The first step was to strip the tiles from the books, sort them and dispose of the waste.  A season of sitting outside managed to degrade the books to a point where the tiles tore easily away from the card board.  It was still tedious, but sitting around a campfire with beers at our sides made the job more enjoyable.  After separating the adhesive blobs from the backs of the tiles, we washed them and boxed them up again.

I chose to build the fire surround at the end of the bunks and back it with 2 sheets of cement board.  With a layer of tile covering the cement board, the surface would be dense enough to hold excess heat produced by the stove and release it slowly while the stove cooled.  As an experiment, we left the wall between the bunks and the stove empty, if too much heat came through, we could always open the panels and load it with the proper insulation.

In order to protect the wall and floor from possible heat damage, I built floor and wall boxes to house insulation.

The bottom was filled with refractory grade perlite and crossed with a pair of 2 x 4's to which I planned to bolt the stove feet.

The wall behind the stove was insulated with ceramic fiber rated to 2000F.  Both the perlite and the insulation were left overs from other work I do and while possibly being over-kill, cost nothing.

I sealed the insulated boxes with more cement board and handed the project over to Kirstin.