Free hot showers! Part 5: Installation and use of the wonky water heater.

Pictured is my home made wide powered water heater in use
DIY wood powered water heater in use

It works!

Yes, indeed. The wonky water heater, cobbled together from old gas bottles, made the trip from Scotland to the tiny house in France. I used it every day for a period of about 3 weeks and I’m pleased to say that it performs as expected. Perhaps even better than I had hoped for.


The photo above shows the water heater installed a few metres away from the tiny house.

One addition to the heater was the home made ‘spark arrestor’ fitted to the top of the flue. It is actually a steel mesh pen/pencil holder (cost 0.69 Eur!). I don’t know how well it really works as I did see the occasional spark escape. Maybe it would have been worse without it.

You can just about see the copper ‘tails’ from the heat exchanger coil connected to the red plastic pipe. It wasn’t too difficult to find the fittings to join the UK 10mm copper microbore pipe to the 12mm PER plastic pipe (PEX in the UK).

The red plastic pipe came covered in protective conduit, so the pipe was simply laid on the surface of the ground for the duration of my summer stay.

At the other end of the plastic pipe I connected short sections of 14mm diameter copper pipe (I used this size of pipe throughout the house). These sections went up through two holes drilled in the tiny house floor. These were then connected to my hot water mixer valve system, via flexible pipes, as shown below.

Pictured is the tiny house hot water mixer plumbing
Hot water mixer valve plumbing
1Mains water in
2Feed to outside garden tap
3Cold feed to mixer valve
4Thermostatic mixer valve
5Hot feed to mixer valve (from water heater)
6Hot water leaving mixer valve – goes to kitchen and shower room
7Mini isolator valves for water heater
8Cold feed to kitchen and shower room
9Cold feed to water heater
10Hot water in from water heater

Admittedly the plumbing ain’t pretty, but it does work. Surprisingly, none of my solder joints leaked but I did have some trouble with the isolator valves which had compression fittings. I tried using PTFE tape and using replacement olives, without finding a reliable fix. After lots of trial and error, I eventually got the leaks down to one small seep, which actually stopped after a few days.

The mixer valve controls the temperature of the hot water that goes to the kitchen sink, bathroom washbasin and shower. The valve itself cost about 34 Euros from Amazon France. It was simple to install and worked very well.

Although the sink and washbasin have mixer taps, the shower does not. Instead I installed a simple ball valve. This is the red valve next to the soap dish in the photo below. In this way, I was able to run the shower pipe neatly around the edge of the corrugated steel shower walls. This was important as I didn’t want the complexity of a conventional shower mixer which would have required holes to be drilled in the shower walls and pipes installed behind them. Another advantage of my system is that it takes up less space inside the shower, which is only 70cm square.

Pictured is my tiny house shower
Tiny house shower


Operating the water heater was simplicity itself. For firewood, I have lots of small pieces of timber offcuts. These were stacked in a cross-cross fashion in the heater firebox and a gas blowtorch used for a few seconds to light it. I could also have used paper, or firelighters, were I less lazy/impatient.

Once lit, the heater smoked a bit for 5 or 10 mins then burned extremely clean. At dusk it was easy to see the flames leaving the top of the flue. Perhaps there was secondary combustion happening in the flue? In any case, it was something of a shame to see this wasted heat. In retrospect a taller thermal store (from a larger gas bottle) would have enabled me to make use of this energy.

Anyway, by the time I had cleared my tools away at the end of the day, the water was up to temperature (70-90 deg C) and I could have a well earned shower!

I found that an indicated setting of 35 deg C on the mixer valve gave a good temperature for showering and washing up (I’ve no idea what the actual water temperature was). Once set, it was not necessary to change it.

It takes perhaps 20 or 30 seconds for the hot water to arrive at the shower head. The little ball valve allows the flow rate to be easily adjusted. With a ‘medium’ flow rate, the shower temperature is maintained without a problem for the length of the shower. This was a nice surprise given the small size of of the copper coil heat exchanger.

I was often in the tiny house alone, so I could afford to be quite indulgent with the length of time spent in the shower and the amount of hot water used. With more care, it should be possible to have 2 or 3 showers without needing to add more firewood. Not that adding a few more sticks and waiting 15mins would be any great hardship.

One final point: in order to hide the messy plumbing, I boxed in the mixer valve system and added a door. This was painted a similar colour to the kitchen units and a small black knob added. Now it looks quite neat and unobtrusive.

Pictured is the hot water mixer cupboard
Hot water mixer ‘cupboard’

Final thoughts

I am really pleased with the water heater – it was such a thrill to get hot water from the tap and see that my crazy idea actually worked!

Although I have no complaints about the performance of the system, there are some improvements that could be made. Fitting some insulation to the thermal store is the most pressing. At the moment it is an effective radiator and loses heat quite quickly.

Another thing I may do in future is fit a flue damper. This might reduce some of the heat being lost up the flue. I suspect that when the fire gets to the glowing ember stage, it would be good to be able to close off the flue so that more of the residual heat is used for water heating.

I’m not sure if it is worth insulating the firebox. Yes, it does lose some heat but it is also quite nice to sit outside next to this fire with a cup of coffee. I imagine in the colder seasons this could become a daily ritual :-). When the firebox door is opened the radiant heat can be felt some metres away.

Unsurprisingly, the water in the thermal store became quite orange and rusty. The gas cylinder and flue are, after all, just made from mild steel. Sooner or later a rust hole will appear. I guess, at that point, I’ll just have to patch it up. I’ve no idea if adding corrosion inhibitor to the water would really help. As it’s not a sealed system it does need to be regularly topped up to replace the water that has evaporated, so I’d be continually adding corrosion inhibitor too. At about £14 per litre, that’s not ideal. What would be ideal is a stainless steel thermal store and flue. If I were to go down that (expensive) route, I would be as well buying a commercially available wood burning water heater and adding my own heat exchanger, if needed.

A final, final point is that I still intend to build a solar water heater to be used in conjunction with the wood burning heater. Time defeated me during this summer’s build (2021) but it’s something I hope to return to in future.

Update – 2 Years later (2023)

So – does the wonky water heater still work?

The answer is … Yes, it does! It has suffered some damage though. The temperature sensor got smashed in storage and my poor welding meant that the lid became detached from the hinge (now it just sits in place). There is also a very slight water leak where one of the plastic pipes connects to the heater. It’s also quite rusty inside (to be expected).

But despite the above I can still connect it up in about 10 minutes, fire it up, and have a hot shower in less than an hour.

It does seem a bit crazy though during the baking hot French summer to be burning wood in order to have a shower. A solar heated system would make more sense. Also, if I am on my own, I will sometimes just use my Hozelock pump up portable shower with hot water heated from the gas hob or from a kettle placed on the wood burner. That way I can keep the firewood for room heating.

In conclusion, despite it’s crudeness, the water heater is still a useful piece of kit. It was also a fun project and it shows what can be done with some recycled stuff and imagination.

How to fit a new wood burner and flue for under £700

Pictured is a close up of wood burning in a stove

In this post I’ll describe how I chose and installed a new wood burning stove and flue system in the tiny house for less than £700. I’ll give a breakdown of the costs and share my experience of the stove’s performance.

Why choose a wood burner?

As my tiny house neared completion it was time to install a heating system so that I could (hopefully!) use the house during the colder months.

A wood burning stove was the obvious choice, for the following reasons:

1. Simplicity and reliability

A wood burning stove is as simple as it gets. No need for electricity, circuit boards, pumps, burners, sensors or any of that stuff.

2. Availability of fuel

I have a fair amount of scrap timber left over from the build that could be used as firewood. It is only softwood (Douglas Fir) but is dry and free from chemical treatment. As I don’t live in the house full time, I’m sure it would last for quite a while.

I’m also lucky in that the house is located in an area which is wooded and good quality firewood (seasoned hardwood logs) are readily available.

3. Renewability

While it may not be perfect, wood is at least a renewable resource. That’s assuming we can consume wood fuel at an equal (or slower) rate than the rate at which it grows. I’ve no idea if this is true in my region, country or at international level. But I think it should be possible. It’s certainly more achievable than waiting 50+ million years for some more oil to be formed.

4. Comfort

I admit to a hankering for the cosy comfort of a wood burning stove. One of my dreams is to escape the madness of the festive season by retreating to the tiny house at Christmas. There I could spend my evenings with a glass of whisky, a book and a few logs crackling in the stove. Bliss!

5. Cost

The absolute cheapest method of heating the tiny house, in the short term at least, would have been to continue with a paraffin heater. It’s not very pleasant though, as it does give off some odours and a bit of smoke. Longer term, I suspect that the cost of buying drums of paraffin would be greater than that of using firewood.

Buying and fittng a wood burning stove requires some up front investment. However, the ongoing heating costs using firewood in a stove are said to be lower than using gas, electricity or oil.

To be honest, I didn’t investigate the initial costs of a gas or oil powered heating system. I didn’t want the complications of these systems or the fact that they are non-renewable energy sources.

As for electricity, this could be quite a cheap install (one or two panel heaters) but, as I am off grid, it was never an option anyway.

To summarise, I haven’t done any detailed calculations regarding the overall cost of heating with a wood burner vs the other options. That’s partly because the other options have been ruled out for other reasons. In any case, the accepted wisdom is that using wood in a modern wood stove is an economic method of heating. In a small space such as the tiny house, I’m confident the annual costs will be low.

6. Heating/Cooking

It’s possible to heat water or even cook on a wood burning stove, depending on the model. Very handy!

Choosing a stove – A Rocket Mass Heater?

My initial plan was to build what is known as a rocket mass heater (RMH), an example of which is shown below.

Pictured is a rocket mass heater
Typical rocket mass heater

This is a hybrid of a rocket stove and a masonry heater. Fascinating though they are, a full explanation of these systems, and the various types of RMH, is beyond the scope of this post. If you would like to know more about them, the Wikipedia page provides a good introduction.

Without going into the technical details, the advantages of a RMH are:

  1. Much more efficient than a normal wood burning stove (uses less wood for the same heat output)
  2. Burns very cleanly
  3. Only has to be fired a few times per day – after which a comfortable heat is radiated over a period of several hours by a large thermal mass.

I did a lot of research into RMH’s and spent some time designing one for the tiny house. I even bought some materials for its construction, such as high temperature glass, insulation and steel. However, I decided to abandon the idea of a RMH for the tiny house for the following reasons:

Weight Concerns

Mass heaters are, by nature, heavy things and I was worried about the effects of constantly increasing the weight of the house. Firstly, I didn’t want to overload the timber floor and secondly I didn’t want to add significantly to the load carried by the foundations.

Lack of space

I had already managed to squeeze quite a lot into my 17m2 floor area. Trying to add a bulky mass heater seemed like a step too far.

Lack of time

The whole house had been something on an experiment (a fairly successful one, so far) and I was not averse to a novel heating system. However, I wanted to install the heater in my usual 5 week summer holiday period. As I also had a bathroom and hot water system to install, I simply didn’t have the time to build an experimental RMH too.

So my focus then turned to finding a ‘good enough’ conventional small wood burning stove.

Criteria for a normal wood burning stove

Price and availability

As ever, I was on a tight budget. I couldn’t justify a super fancy stove for my rustic tiny house. So I was looking for something simple and inexpensive. Getting a second hand stove could have been a good option but I didn’t think I’d find one locally that was small enough. I also needed one quickly and couldn’t depend on one becoming available during the few weeks that I was in France.


Ideally, I wanted the stove to be located in mainland Europe so that I could have it delivered to France at a reasonable cost.


I didn’t need the stove to have stellar performance, but I didn’t want a load of junk either. I hoped to find a model with some good feedback from existing buyers.

Result? This is what I bought …

Pictured is the Prity Mini wood burning stove
Prity Mini 5kw wood burning stove

After some deliberation, I decided to go for this Bulgarian made wonder, the Mini, made by a company called Prity. At about 300 Euros (£260), including delivery to France, it offered much cheapness. It was also in stock and had generally favourable reviews.

The 5kw output is OK for surfaces up to 30m2 (perfect) and it’s compact and not too heavy (48kg). It has a cast iron top with one heating plate and is lined with fire bricks. These provide some thermal mass and prevent damage to the steel sides. The full specification is shown below.

Pictured is the Prity Mini wood burning stove specification
Prity Mini Specifications

Other stove options

I did consider other stoves before opting for the Prity Mini. As far as buying one in France goes, I couldn’t find anything small, cheap and available that I could buy ‘off the shelf’ and install myself.

The choice of small (5kw) stoves available in the UK seems to be quite good although they are, unsurprisingly, more expensive than the Prity. One stove that caught my attention was the famous “Hobbit” by Salamander Stoves. With a 4kw output, this nice little stove is almost as powerful as the Prity and is more efficient (81.4%). However, it does cost more than twice as much (£625) and has a 14 week delivery time. There would also have been the cost and hassle of delivery to France, especially now that the UK has left the EU.

Prity Mini: Order, delivery and first impressions

I ordered the stove from the the French eBay site and got it delivered to a friend’s house. It was sturdily packed in a wooden crate and, at 50kg, I could lift it into my car without too much difficulty.

On opening the crate, everything was found to be in good condition. The only assembly required was to place the fire bricks into the rear and sides of the stove.

As for the quality, I was pleasantly surprised. It looked quite nice and the wood and metal door catch worked well. The door didn’t have a glass fibre rope seal and I tried to ‘improve’ it by fitting one. This made the door harder to close and, in practice, it fell off anyway (despite using the proper glue). After using the stove, I concluded that the seal was unnecessary, for reasons I will go into later.

Flue components

These various bits and pieces are essential to the safe operation of the stove but the costs can quickly mount up. I tried to get the best deal by buying them in the UK and taking them with me. All of the parts were sourced from eBay but I should point out that the sellers were established UK specialist retailers. I never had any problems with the quality of the parts. (UPDATE: Since first writing this post, some parts have increased in price and others are out of stock. This might be due to Brexit. In any case, I have left the prices as they were in 2021)

The flue components (5” diameter) consisted of:

  • Single wall flue pipe, 1m lengths, qty 2, £60
  • Twin wall flue pipe, 1m lengths, qty 2, £136
  • Single wall to twin wall adapter, £25
  • Vented fire stop spacer, £42
  • Joist support, £27
  • Flashing kit, £29.99
  • Rain cap cowl, £49
  • External air kit, £16.40

Total cost £385.39

Interestingly, the Hobbit stove tiny home flue installation kit costs £485 (4” system). So my eBay penny pinching paid off!

Had I tried to buy the flue components in France, I would probably have been scratching around trying to find them and would almost certainly have had to order some bits. The total cost would have been higher too. As it was, the only extras I had to buy were a couple of 45 degree bends and a can of spray paint. I can’t remember the exact price for these items but it would have been under €50.

Fitting the new stove

And so on to the exciting bit – fitting the stove! Unfortunately, this also meant doing some boring research on how to do it safely.

Somewhat lazily, I consulted the UK regulations rather than the French ones. No-one is going to come and inspect the installation anyway. Obviously I have a strong personal interest in not burning my house down or getting carbon monoxide poisoning, so wanted to reduce these risks as much as possible.

The basic idea is to keep combustible materials a safe distance away from the stove and the flue pipe. There are also rules about the layout of the flue pipe, the materials used, the height of the flue cap above the roof ridge and the supply of combustion air to the stove.

Stove Location

This was the first thing I had to consider and it was a bit of a headache.

One constraint was that the flue pipe obviously had to pass between the roof joists before passing through the roof tiles and this affected where the stove could be placed on the ground. Another constraint was that I wanted the stove to be close to the gable end wall (but I couldn’t have it too close, for safety reasons).

According to the distance from the stove to the wall for small stoves (less than 7kw) can be as little as 120mm, if a metal heat shield is used. Otherwise the distance depends on the manufacturer’s specifications, which could be around 400mm or more.

I decided to make a heat shield from a sheet of aluminium I found at a local DIY shop. It was already the perfect size so no cutting was required. Interestingly, the rules say it should be made from Galvanized steel. I couldn’t think of a good reason as to why this would be preferable over all other metals.

The sheet was spaced from the wall with 25mm lengths of 14mm dia copper pipe and fixed using screws with large washers under the screw heads to avoid damaging the shield. The theory is that the sheet becomes hot and that the air around it rises, to be replaced with cooler air and so on. In this way there is a constant current of cooling air behind the stove. It’s likely that the shield helps reflect some heat back into the room although I can’t say for sure if it actually does.

The heat shield can be seen in the picture below.

Pictured is the Prity mini with hearth and wall shield.  This wood burner and flue system cost less than £700.
Prity Mini wood burning stove with hearth and wall shield


It’s necessary to sit the stove on some kind of protective hearth. This is especially important in my tiny house with its timber floor.

According to, the hearth for a free standing stove should :

  • Extend at least 300mm to the front and 150mm either side
  • Be at least 12mm thick
  • Be made from non combustible materials
  • Cover a minimum area of 840mm x 840mm

Alas! A minimum area of 840 x 840mm was impractical in the tiny house. It would have taken up so much floor space that it would have been a trip hazard.

Instead I made a hearth that extended a ‘sensible’ distance past the rectangular form of the stove. I didn’t see a problem with this, unless I was going to make a habit of letting burning logs spill out of the stove, which I wasn’t.

I chose to cast the hearth from hempcrete (see picture above). This cost me nothing as I had the material left over from the build. It’s also non combustible and looks ‘good enough’. You could tile on top of it if you wanted something more aesthetic. Casting the hempcrete hearth was easy, I just screwed a wooden frame to some scrap OSB and filled it with a hempcrete mix that was heavily dosed in lime. After a couple of days it was rigid enough to be removed from the mould and installed (it would harden further and become very solid with time). The thickness, from memory, was about 40mm.

The hempcrete hearth was simply placed on the timber floor and the stove put on top.

Flue Pipes

Pictured is the wood burner mid-installation

Two types of flue pipe were used, single and double skin. The single skin pipe is not insulated and gets very hot. The double skin pipe has a layer of insulation between the layers, and this reduces the temperature of the outside skin significantly.

The double skin flue pipe is used where the flue passes through the ceiling (and relatively close to the combustible wooden joists). Another benefit in using it outside is that it helps keep the exhaust gases warm – improving the draught and reducing the chance of condensation.

The single skin pipe has the advantage of being cheaper and helps radiate a bit more heat into the room. As it gets very hot, it has to be kept well away from combustible materials. In my installation it runs from the stove for a distance of about 1.5m before connecting to the twin wall pipe.

There is a point where the single wall pipe runs fairly close to the wall which isn’t ideal. Although the hempcrete is fire resistant, the potential danger concerns the timber stud frame within the wall. I think the risk is pretty low, but I could install a smaller metal shield in this area at a later date.

As far as connecting the flue pipes goes, the single skin pipes are just a push fit. I bought a tube of high temperature silicone to seal the joints if necessary but I haven’t needed to use it. The draught of the chimney seems to create enough negative pressure to stop smoke leaking into the room.

It’s perhaps worth pointing out that the pipes should be connected as shown below.

Pictured is the correct way of joining single skin flue pipes
Joining single skin flue pipes

This means that any possible condensation or other gunk running down the inside of the flue pipe will not leak out through the joints.

The pipe I bought came in enamelled black and was very sturdy. Unfortunately the bends I used were a bit more flimsy and came in an aluminium colour. I sprayed them with high temperature matt black paint, which looked OK but was quite easily scratched.

In order to cut the black single walled pipe, I used an angle grinder with a metal cutting disk. I guess you could use a hacksaw instead although it would take a lot longer.

The twin walled pipes were connected by slipping the pipes inside each other and closing a latch, which tightens a metal clamping band around the pipe joint. It’s a very neat and secure system.

Ceiling flashing

Taking the flue through the roof was something that I was not at all looking forward to. I knew it would be messy and awkward and wasn’t confident about removing and re-installing the roof tiles. Furthermore, I don’t really like working on roofs and I didn’t know how I’d manage to install the last bit of heavy and awkward twin wall pipe from the roof up to the flue cap. It all seemed very easy to mess up.

At least the weather was dry and sunny on the day of the installation. I wasn’t quite so happy about the wasps that were buzzing around me on the roof (they must have had a nest nearby) but I just ignored them and they didn’t give me any trouble.

Working from the inside, I removed an area of the timber ceiling and then the lime and hemp insulation. This was the messy bit as it all fell down onto the floor. Next, I removed some tiles from the roof and cut away an area of the roof membrane. Now I had a square hole through the ceiling and roof.

The next fiddly bit was to install the joist support and the section of pipe that went through the roof. The joist support clamped around the pipe and onto the roof joists and took the weight of the pipe as it went through the roof. It took a bit of trial and error to get a solid fixing and also ensure that the pipe was reasonably vertical.

Pictured is a hold in the ceiling for the stove flue pipe
Hole in ceiling and roof for flue pipe

I tried to have the twin wall pipe passing between the rafters such that there was at least 60mm of space around the pipe, as recommended on this website.

Now the flue was through the roof, I had to add the final section of flue and I hoped this would be long enough to satisfy the requirements about the height of the flue cap. These regulations are described here. In my case the flue exited the roof less than 600mm from the ridge and so had to extend vertically above the ridge by more than 600mm. The final flue section comfortably exceeded this, so I had high hopes that the flue would give a good draught.

Pictured is the flue above the roof
Flashing, twin wall flue section and flue cap above roof

With all of the flue sections in place, I replaced as many tiles as I could and I think I only had to cut one of of them. Then I put the flashing over the flue (lubricating the silicone rubber ring with water) and dressed the lead flashing over the tiles with a rubber mallet. The shape of the tiles were such that I couldn’t get the lead to follow the shape of the tiles completely. A small bead of clear silicone was applied between the rubber sealing ring and the flue pipe.

Being somewhat paranoid about water leaks, I added some bitumen/aluminium tape around the rubber seal and where the sides of the flashing met the tiles. The tape didn’t actually stick too well to the seal, so I later removed these pieces but left the other bits of tape in place.

The final job (on the roof side) was to clip on the flue cap (chimney hat). Very satisfying.

All that remained was to make good the ceiling inside the house. This involved the fitting of a ventilated fire stop spacer and some timber framing around it. As the spacer was fitted horizontally and the ceiling was sloped, this required quite a bit of fiddling around. I also had to make it fairly rigid as the spacer also helped keep the flue pipe vertical. The end result was acceptably neat (see below).

Pictured is the stove flue and fire stop spacer
Flue pipes and fire stop spacer
Pictured is the completed wood burning stove installaion
Completed wood burner installation

Does it work?

Now for the performance – is it any good?

Yes, I’m pleased to say that it works pretty well. The air intake is controlled by sliding the ash drawer out slightly. This really allows the fire to light easily and burn hot (the draught is excellent). Closing the door reduces the airflow and subdues the flames somewhat and there is also a damper in the stove where the flue gases exit, for further control.

In practice, I preferred to run the stove quite hot so that it would burn cleanly. I don’t like the idea of leaving the stove smouldering overnight (poor combustion, pollution, deposits inside the flue). The hot burn requires a good intake of air and the previously mentioned lack of door seal is of no consequence.

The stove was used for a period of one week in October. During this time it was quite mild in the afternoons (about 15 deg C) but chilly in the mornings (0-5 deg C).

With the stove about half full and the ash drawer open slightly, it would burn hot for about 20-30 mins. There was little visible smoke leaving the top of the flue. During this time the fire bricks would heat up (storing some heat) and I could also heat a kettle of water for washing. If I ran the stove for long enough, the kettle could be made to boil.

I found that the inside temperature of the house dropped from 20 to 15 deg C overnight. Running the stove for a 30 minute blast in the morning was enough to make it cosy again. Typically I ran the stove once or twice in the evening too.

Obviously in the winter I’d need to run the stove for a greater amount of time. Unfortunately the current Covid travel restrictions mean that I won’t be testing it this Christmas! Consequently, I can’t comment on how stove performs in the coldest months.

I don’t have a stove pipe thermometer, but I guess that a significant amount of heat is being lost up the flue pipe. In future I may try a ‘heat exchanger’ to increase the surface area of the the single wall flue pipe and extract a little bit more heat (see below).

Another possibility is to stack some bricks around the sides of the stove to add a little bit more mass. This might allow the house to stay warmer for longer after the fire goes out. It’s probably worth a try for the cost of some common house bricks.

I bought a fresh air intake kit to allow the stove to be fed with cold air from outside. This consists of a 100mm diameter flexible pipe to which I will attach two end plates (covered with wire mesh to protect against bugs and other debris). I haven’t fitted the kit yet. Until this is done, I simply open the window nearest the stove to allow the combustion air in. The window’s external shutter can be partially closed at the same time to protect against the wind and rain.

I also fitted a battery powered carbon monoxide and smoke detector for safety’s sake. These are so cheap and easy to fit that there is really no excuse for not having them. The carbon monoxide detector did actually go off when I was using the paraffin heater (I obviously hadn’t provided enough ventilation). This gave me some reassurance that the detector does work well and could even save my life.


Overall, I’m very satisfied with the wood burning stove. For around 800 Euros, I have a complete new system that burns well and fits quite tidily into a small living space.

According to this website, the typical cost of a cast iron wood burner, supplied and installed by a French artisan, is between 1,000 and 4,000 Euros. I suspect that in my case it would be at least 1,500 Euros (stove, flue installation, custom hearth and commissioning). So I have saved at least 200 Euros and probably a lot more.

The installation, although a little bit messy and fiddly, was not as difficult as I feared. Happily, there has been no evidence of water leaks from the flue flashing and it all seems quite safe.

So far I have only burned small pieces of well seasoned softwood and the performance has been good enough to heat the tiny house quickly. It would be interesting to see how the stove performs with hardwood logs such as Oak.

It remains to be seen how much the wood consumption would be over a year (and how much it would cost) were I to live in the tiny house full time. I suspect that the generally mild climate in South West France, coupled with the reasonably good insulation, would mean that the annual firewood bill would be low.

Update – September 2023

It’s now around 2 years since the stove was installed and, to be honest, it hasn’t seen an awful lot of use. I still haven’t been able to liberate myself from the UK during the Christmas holidays in order to give it a winter test. I have used it on chilly days in Spring and Autumn though.

The stove still works as it did when first installed. The only slight problem is a ring of rust at the top of the stove where the flue is attached. Some moisture must have travelled down the inside of the flue (despite the chimney hat). This probably happened in windy conditions. The rust is only cosmetic – I could clean it and get some stove polish to make it black again.

It’s also surprising how much wood is used when the stove is used daily for only a week! I think that one winter would be enough to finally consume the rest of my scrap timber from the house build. Admittedly, most of the wood is Douglas fir, so it does get burned quickly.

If I were able to spend more time in the house I would either buy some hardwood logs (oak, most likely) or experiment with the use of wood pellets. I recently saw a video on YouTube that give some clues as to how this could be achieved. My idea would to create some sort of cartridge or insert that could be loaded with pellets then placed inside the stove and burned in place of normal logs. Hopefully the pellets could burn cleanly and steadily for a decent length of time.

Another advantage of pellets is their convenience. It would be easier to keep a couple of bags of pellets in the house than to have a big pile of firewood outside. Furthermore, even the nearby supermarkets stock pellets these days, so it would be easy to re-stock when needed. With no physical modifications to the stove, it would also be easy to go back to burning logs or timber offcuts whenever I wanted.

How to build an inexpensive shower from corrugated steel sheets.

Pictured is a shower using corrugated steel panels

In this post I will describe how I built a cheap and easy shower for my tiny house using corrugated galvanised steel sheets.

The shower cost around 200 Euros which included the base, sheet sides, waste plumbing, fixings, sealant, shower curtain and shower head.

I can’t claim any originality regarding this use of corrugated galvanised steel. If you look on Pinterest you can find plenty of examples.

But what is the point? Why use agricultural roofing sheets for the walls of a shower?

Firstly, I like the way it looks. The rustic/industrial aspect fits in well with the sanded pine boards on the walls. I also like the idea of using materials in an unusual way.

Secondly, it avoids the need for tiling. I have done quite a lot of wall and floor tiling over the years and I was keen to avoid it in the tiny house! It’s not that I hate the process of tiling but I wanted something different. Furthermore, the lime and hemp walls were never intended to be completely flat and would not be the ideal surface to tile on. These undulations could be easily accommodated by using the sheet material.

Thirdly, I expected that the shower could be built quite quickly in this way.

Lastly, this system fits in with the low budget ethos of the tiny house. The sheets only cost 11 Euros each (I used 3 of them). Admittedly, the box of fixings cost another 30 Euros, but even so, that’s still very little.

Pictured is my tiny house shower that was made from galvanised corrugated steel sheets
Tiny house shower using corrugated galvanised steel sheets

Design Considerations

My thoughts regarding the design of the shower are listed below.

Shower Base

I considered various options for the shower base such as a large plastic bucket, a wooden barrel, cast concrete, a plastic shower tray from a caravan and even tadelakt (a traditional type of Moroccan polished plaster).

One by one, each of the above options were rejected. The bucket looked awful and the wooden barrel was too small (as was the caravan shower tray). The cast concrete and tadelakt options would have been a lot of work with a high chance of them going wrong.

In the end I chose a ‘normal’ ceramic shower base which measured 70cm x 70cm. This was just big enough to be comfortable in use but small enough to fit into the tiny shower room. It was also cheap (about 50 Euros) and I knew that it would work.


Needless to say, I didn’t want the shower enclosure to leak.

The ceramic shower base had a good sized upturn at the edges so I thought that, in combination with a shower curtain, it would work ok.

As for the steel sheets themselves, I didn’t want to make any more holes in them than necessary. For this reason and for the sake of simplicity I decided not to use a normal thermostatic mixer valve and handset. This would have meant cutting large holes halfway down the shower and the curved nature of the panels would have made the installation difficult.

Another potential source of leaks could be where the steel panels joined together. I decided this could be minimised with a large overlap and the use of some clear silicone sealant.

I also thought that a bead of silicone should be enough to seal the join between the steel sheets and the shower base. A timber capping strip at the top would prevent any splashed water from running down behind the sheets.

Finally, I knew that if the shower room walls did become a little wet, it wasn’t the end of the world. The lime and hemp would soak it up and then release it back into the atmosphere later.


As I would be using a conventional shower tray, the waste plumbing would be standard and should be straightforward.

As for the hot water plumbing, I had already rejected the idea of a normal thermostatic mixer and handset so I needed to find another solution.

My preferred idea was to locate the thermostatic mixer valve outside the shower room so that the hot water to the shower already arrived at the perfect temperature. In this way, I would only need one pipe going to the shower. Flow could be controlled by a simple manual valve, just outside the shower. The hot water pipe could be run around the edge of the shower sides and terminate in a shower head at the top. This seemed to be a good compromise between simplicity and convenience. You can read a bit more about the hot water system here.

Obviously, there are numerous even simpler options such as the Hozelock porta shower, a portable electric shower (supplied from a bucket of warm water) or even just a basin and washcloth.


Installing the base

The drawing below should help illustrate my method of installing the shower base.

Pictured is a drawing showing how the tiny house shower base was made.
Shower base

The first thing I did was make a rough timber support frame for the shower tray. This should be quite chunky and tall enough to allow for the shower waste plumbing. Note that I left a gap at the front. This was allow me to check for potential leaks from the waste water pipe and fittings. It might also be handy in the event of future leaks, although access is very tight.

I screwed the frame down onto the timber floor. Given that neither the floor, nor the ceramic shower tray are likely to be completely flat, it is possible that the tray will ‘rock’ slightly on the support frame. The upper surface of the tray may also not be level. You could try to adjust the frame by inserting wedges or packers underneath, before screwing it down. I was lucky this time and found that tray actually sat quite nicely. I bedded the tray down on a decent bead of silicone and ran another bead of silicone around the tray where it met the wall. When the silicone set, the tray was ‘wobble free’.

Next I poured some water down the shower drain hole and looked through the ‘access gap’ to make sure there were no leaks. Again, my luck seemed to be in as the floor under the shower stayed dry. To be honest, my plumbing skills are limited and I found that connecting the waste plumbing and fitting the base to be quite a fiddle.

The final part of installing the base was to screw on some trim panels to the front and side. These were nothing fancy – just some timber offcuts cut to size. The thickness of these trim panels will determine the outside dimensions of the support frame. Ideally the panels will be flush with, or just stepped slightly back from, the shower tray.

Fitting the shower curtain

I was keen to get the shower curtain height just right. Ideally it would extend far enough into the shower tray to minimise the amount of water getting splashed onto the timber floor.

The choice of available curtain rails was poor (they are obviously not a very fashionable item these days) and I ended up with a cheap and cheerless item from a large DIY shop. Although the aluminium and plastic used in its construction was very flimsy, I made sure to install it as carefully as possible and it has actually been ok in use. As the ends of the rail need to be fixed to a flat surface I chose to install it before fitting the corrugated steel sheets.

Adding the steel sheets

The first task was to screw three rows of wooden battens to the wall to provide a fixing for the steel sheets (see below).

Pictured is a drawing of the batten layout for a corrugated steel shower
Battens for the steel sheets

Next, two of the steel sheets were trimmed from 90cm down to 70cm and were stood in place on top of the shower tray. The cut edges were placed at the inside corner. The sheets were also cut to fit around the shower curtain rail.

Pictured is a drawing of the first two corrugated shower sheets after being placed in position.
2 sheets placed in position

The third steel sheet was bent in the middle along its length and fitted over the first two sheets, overlapping by around 40cm each side.

Pictured is a drawing of a third galvanized sheet being fitted as a shower wall
Adding the third sheet

The steel sheets were then drilled and screwed to the battens using the special fixings shown below.

Pictured is a corrugated steel fixing
Corrugated steel fixing

Although its not very clear from the above image, there was in fact a rubber seal between the large shaped washer and the screw head, so I’m quite confident that little (if any) water could penetrate the hole and get behind the steel panel.

The fixings were quite easy to use. After drilling a pilot hole, a small socket on the end of my cordless drill was used to drive the screw home. Some care had to be taken not to screw too far, as the sheets could be deformed. This was more likely to happen where the sheets had not been ‘doubled up’.

If you couldn’t get the special fixings (or wanted to save some money), I suppose you could get away with normal screws with a rubber washer and/or a blob of silicone behind the screw head. It wouldn’t be quite as neat though.

The final job was to add a timber capping strip along the top of the shower and seal all the joints with clear silicone.

Fitting the corrugated sheets, from start to finish, took one afternoon and was not particularly difficult.


An unexpected and slightly negative effect of using the steel sheets is that I could actually feel their ‘coldness’ when standing in the shower.

In practice, with a good flow of hot water from the shower, this slight discomfort soon disappears!

Other than that, I think the galvanised steel shower looks good and works well. As a bonus, it is easy to clean and I don’t have to worry about mouldy grout lines.

I know that the galvanised steel will rust eventually. However, according to this website, the zinc layer could last 10 years, even in wet or soaked environments. If that is the case, I’d consider that my 33 Euros have been well spent!

Update: Sept 2023

Two years on from building the shower and I can report that all is good.

The sheets have not started to rust, it doesn’t seem to be leaking anywhere and nothing has fallen off or broken.

Admittedly the shower is only used for (at most) 2 months of the year. Nevertheless, I think this type of shower was one of my better ideas 😉