Thinking of installing a wood burner in your home? Want the real flame experience alongside the practicalities of heat on demand? You’re not alone if you are. There is a genuine resurgence in the popularity of wood burning stoves and it has been gaining pace for a while.
First, it’s important to know that installing a wood burning stove isn’t something for the DIYer. You need to be HETAS qualified to do the job properly and to legally sign off the work.
While some of what you’ll see here is accessible to those with good DIY skills, we would strongly recommend using professionals to do the work. Fire, flame and fumes are not something you want to gamble with in your home!
Choosing your wood burning stove
Choosing a wood burning stove is about much more than how it looks. You need the right stove for the right situation otherwise it won’t work.
One common mistake new stove owners make is not buying the correct wattage for the size of room. Buy a stove that puts out too much heat and the room will always be stifling. Buy one that doesn’t put out enough and you won’t get the heat you’re looking for.
A simple check is to multiply the height, width and length of the room the stove is being installed in then divide by 14 to get the wattage. There are also wattage calculators you can use, or we can advise you.
Wood or multifuel?
A wood burning stove with wood as the only fuel will limit you to always using wood. Not a bad thing of course as wood is plentiful. Wood burners tend to have larger fireboxes as they don’t need an ash tray, which means they put out more heat.
A multifuel burner means you can burn wood and other smokeless fuels. These tend to have smaller fireboxes and put out less heat, but offer flexibility in terms of fuel.
If you live in a smoke control area, you may need a DEFRA approved wood burning stove. This is a special stove that has been modified to reduce pollution from fires.
Most wood burner fitters will want to perform a survey so they can check the location, any chimney, space for a vent and flue and to quote a price.
If you’re also having a fireplace or surround installed, it would be during the survey that you can discuss your options and get an idea of what would work and what wouldn’t.
The type of burner you can use will require 500mm clearance behind the fireplace and 150mm either side. That’s something we can measure with you at the time.
The stove must also be between 100mm and 450mm from any combustibles such as carpet or wood floor. That’s something else the survey is designed to highlight.
If you have a chimney and you’re planning to use it, the surveyor will run a smoke test to make sure it doesn’t leak. If there is leakage, you will likely have to have the chimney lined to prevent fumes leaking into the property.
A surveyor may also suggest a chimney cowl to help improve draft and prevent rain getting into your stove.
Finally, the survey will check ventilation for the room. The higher the wattage of the wood burner, the more ventilation is required for the room.
Depending on the size and configuration of the room, that may require adding additional ventilation in the form of wall vents or a direct air kit.
Once agreed, the surveyor should confirm your initial stove wattage calculation to give you an idea of what type of stove to buy.
The installation process
Once you have bought the wood burning stove, it’s time to have it installed.
The exact process differs depending on the property, stove and situation, but a typical installation looks a little like this:
If work is required to widen a hearth, install a fireplace, add a chimney liner or a stove pipe, we tackle that first.
We may need to open up the fireplace to fit the new wood burning stove or we may need to fill parts in. We may also need to install a fire surround, plaster and make good any work around the fireplace.
Depending on the installation, plastering and making good will be done at the time or be the final thing we do after installation and testing.
Fireplace preparation can involve tiling, rendering, new brick, a liner or leaving as is. We will do this work first as it’s the messiest and needs to be completed before we install the wood burner.
Depending on how you’re venting, we will also prepare the flue or chimney liner so it’s in place ready for the stove. We may use a register plate so you don’t lose heat up the chimney and fit the stove pipe to it.
If you line your chimney, we may use a closure plate to seal the chimney around the liner to prevent losing heat up the chimney and to prevent old soot from falling down.
If you don’t have a fireplace, we’ll install a twin wall flue and pass it through the wall and up to the roofline to comply with building regulations.
Once the fireplace, the flue or chimney is ready, we can install the wood burning stove. This is usually a matter of placing in or in front of the hearth, working it into position, connecting the flue and ensuring all connections and pipes are sound.
We will also fit a carbon monoxide detector close to the stove if you don’t have one and then add any venting identified during the survey.
Once all that is complete, we will test everything to make sure all connections are sound and there are no leaks. Tests include a stove integrity test and a draw test to make sure the stove can vent properly.
Only once we are completely satisfied that the wood burning stove has been properly installed and isn’t leaking will we sign it off and fit the data plate.
If any remedial work is left, we’ll complete that last. That might be fitting a fire surround, plastering or making good around the hearth, painting or anything else required for the job.
Using your wood burning stove after installation
Once the wood burner has been installed, we recommend the first few fires are small and are monitored just in case.
The first half dozen fires in your new wood burning stove should be modest to allow the stove to ‘settle in’. This is normal, should be mentioned in your operating instructions and should be outlined by the installer when handing over.
You may see smoke or smog for the first couple of fires, this is normal as the manufacturing compounds are burnt off. Open a window for extra ventilation during this time. It may also smell like hot metal, this is also normal.
Once you have settled the wood burner in, you can operate it as required. As long as ventilation is always clear and your carbon monoxide detector always working, you can use it as and when you like!
While you can install a wood burning stove yourself, we recommend against it. You will need it signed off by building control or a HETAS-qualified engineer so it’s better for everyone if you have it installed by a professional.
As we include installation in the price of all wood burning stoves, you know exactly how much it will cost anyway so you lose nothing by having professionals handle it!