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Wood Burning Stove – 23 Things That May Save Your Life!

23 Things You Need To Know About Wood Burning Stoves That May Save Your Life!

Note: Before installing a wood burning stove, seek advice from your stove dealer, your local building inspector or fire department. And check with your insurance agent. The insurance company may have its specifications for installation and, since you are changing the method of heating your home, your agent must be notified to maintain fire insurance coverage on your home.

wood burning stove

Wood Burning Stove Adds Elegance To Every Room

Wall Protection

1. Standards for clearances from walls and ceilings that are the basis for many local building codes state that all combustible materials, woodwork, unprotected walls, furniture, firewood, etc., should be no closer than 36 inches to a wood stove.

A simple test will tell if you have enough clearance to an unprotected wall. Place your hand on the closest surface. If you can keep your hand there comfortably while the stove is operating, the location passes the test. If not, you need additional protection.

Spacing asbestos millboard or 28 gauge steel 1-inch away from the wall allows you to reduce the distance a stove can be placed from the wall. These materials absorb heat radiated from the stove, and the spacing lets air circulate behind the panel and cool the area between the wall and the panel. The spacers should be made of non-combustible material.

A 1- to 1 1/2-inch gap between the panel and floor and at the top of the panel is necessary to provide proper air flow. Asbestos millboard is different from asbestos cement board or asbestos transite board.

Cement board or transite boards are both hard, slate-like panel materials designed as a name barrier. They provide little regarding heat resistance and will conduct heat to any combustible surface to which they are attached.

Since brick and stone are good conductors of heat, they offer little protection if placed against a combustible wall or have wood studs behind them. To be effective, bricks must be placed out at least 1-inch from the wall with air gaps at the top and bottom. You can provide these air gaps by using half bricks on the top and bottom row. Stoves can be placed as close as 12 inches from the brick facing if you provide an air space behind the brick.

An inexpensive and temporary way to protect a wall if you already have a stove installed closer than 36 inches to an unprotected wall is to provide a baffle. This baffle could be sheet metal, hardware cloth or cement board hung on metal brackets approximately 4 inches behind the stove.


Floor Protection

2. All floors on which stoves are installed, except concrete, must be protected from both heat of the fire and hot coals falling out when fuel is added.

Metal with asbestos backing and asbestos millboard are non-combustible materials used for floor protection.

Fireproof clay tile, slate, brick, colored pebbles and marble chips can be used alone only if they are mortared in place with no gaps. If they are not mortared or have gaps, then metal or asbestos millboard must be installed between them and a wood floor.

A 2-inch layer of ashes or sand or bricks laid in the bottom of the stove helps to insulate the bottom of the stove and protect the floor. In general, 18 inches is enough clearance to protect the floor if it is covered by non-flammable material, such as a sheet of 24 gauge metal or brick or fireproof clay tile.

If the stove legs are from 6 to 18 inches long, 24 gauge sheet metal laid over a 1/4-inch sheet of asbestos millboard is needed. Legs of 6 inches or less require 2 to 4 inches of hollow masonry laid to provide air circulation and covered by 24 gauge sheet metal. If the stove has no legs, provide a sturdy support to allow air flow under the stove.

3. The floor protection should extend at least 12 inches beyond the sides and rear of the stove, and at least 18 inches beyond the stove front, to protect against falling embers and for loading wood or removing ashes.

Before installing heavy protection materials such as brick, check the floor to make sure it can handle the increased weight. You may want to reinforce the joists under the floor. Consult a carpenter if necessary.

Stove Pipe

4. A safe installation of stove pipe requires proper material, construction clearances and does provide proper draft. A 24 gauge or thicker metal is recommended;

This gauge will provide better protection in the event of a chimney fire and will also resist chemical corrosion longer.

5. Most stoves use either a 6 or 8-inch stove pipe. Using stove pipe that is smaller in diameter than the firebox outlet will reduce combustion efficiency and may cause an improper draft.

6. Keep the connector pipe as short as possible.

lt should not be longer than 75% of the vertical chimney height above the flue inlet (where the connector pipe enters the chimney).

The maximum length is 10 feet. If the pipe runs horizontally, it should have a rise of at least 1/4-inch per linear foot from the elbow or stove outlet to the chimney inlet.

7. Use 45″ angles to create an upward slope in the flue connector pipe.

Try to have no more than one right angle turn between the stove and chimney. Additional right angle bends can cause soot and creosote to collect in the smoke pipe or chimney, blocking flue gas flow and increasing the danger of fire.

The connector pipe diameter should be as large as the flue collar (where the connector pipe joins the stove).

8. When joining sections of the pipe, overlap the joints at least 2 inches, with the crimped (male) end pointing down to prevent creosote drip or leak.

Many house fires have resulted from stove pipe joints vibrating apart during a chimney fire.

Secure each joint with at least three sheet metal screws. A fireproof sealant may also be used.

9. Clearances from a connector pipe must be three times the pipe diameter (a 6-inch pipe needs 18 inches clearance) unless the wall is protected.

10. You should not pass a stove pipe through a combustible wall.

When the wall is cut between supporting studs for the thimble, inspect the opening to make sure there is no electrical wires or conduit in the space between adjoining wall studs. Heat from the stove pipe may be sufficient to melt the insulation on the wire in this space, causing an electrical fire.

Stove pipe should not pass through ceilings, closets, or outside a building. Holes in the ceiling (including hot air registers) permit fires through upper floors. A closet fire could smolder and spread undiscovered.

Running a stove pipe out a window and up the outside wall of the house is dangerous practice because the pipe cools faster than a prefabricated metal chimney and allows a rapid creosote buildup.

Some stove installations require a damper either built into the stove or in the pipe near the stove to control draft and loss of volatile gasses. Check the recommendation of the stove manufacturer.

When connecting the stove pipe to the chimney make sure the fitting is snug at the flue inlet. Use the proper thimble. The pipe must not project into the flue itself since it would hamper draft.


11. Long stove pipes and those with restrictions should be frequently cleaned to prevent creosote buildup and possible chimney fires.

The entire length of the stove pipe must be easily inspected, firmly fastened at the joints and kept free of all combustible materials. Tap your pipe to check its condition several times during the heating season and before starting the stove each year.

Additional Precautions

12. Chimney and chimney connectors require regular inspection and cleaning to remain reasonably safe.

Chimney fires are a common problem. There are several factors that can cause a chimney fire.

13. Furniture, wood, newspapers, matches, etc., can ignite if placed or left too close to a stove.

These materials must be kept at least 36 inches away from the stove.

14. Never use kerosene or charcoal lighter fluids to start a fire.

Also, do not burn trash in your stove. These materials lead to hot uncontrollable fires and may cause a chimney fire.

15. Keep the fire controlled with the dampers.

Do not let it get roaring hot. A fire properly controlled is safer and more efficient.

16. If you want to keep your fire alive all night or when you are away from the house, bank the fire with ashes or damper it way down.

Do not retire or leave home with a roaring fire going in the stove.

17. Place ashes in a lidded metal container.

Because they might be hot, clean up any ashes or cinders that spill out on the floor.

18. Wear gloves when handling rough or splintery chunks of wood.

If they are heavy, take care not to strain yourself or drop them on your foot.

Clip Art Graphic of a Yellow Residential House Cartoon Character

19. You can burn wood in a coal stove, but you shouldn’t burn coal in a wood stove unless it is lined and designed for it.

When you add coal to an approved stove, keep the stove pipe damper open until the fuel is burning well to avoid a potentially explosive buildup of gasses from the coal. Heavily laden coal buckets can also cause strains and other mishaps if they are not handled properly.

20. Take down the stove pipe at least once or twice during the heating season and clean out the soot.

Removing the accumulated soot saves fuel, increases heat and minimizes the danger of fire.

21. If you have yet to equip your house with fire warning devices, be sure to do so when you install a stove.

Install a smoke detector in an adjacent room to avoid false alarms when you recharge the stove or from back puffing due to the wind.

22. Before opening the firebox to add fuel or just to look at the fire, always open the stove pipe damper first.

This allows gasses to escape up the chimney and eliminates the possibility of “flare up” when the air suddenly comes in through the door.

23. With today’s tightly-constructed houses, there may not be sufficient air leakage for efficient stove operation.

By providing an outside air inlet, you prevent the possibility of a reverse draft that may suck carbon monoxide fumes from combustion-type (natural gas, etc.) appliances and discharge them into the living area.

This information comes from Michigan State University Extension bulletin E-1390, Wood Stove Installation, and Safety.

  1. It’s good to know that you can stay so safe with wood-burning stoves when you follow proper procedures. My wife and I want to know all our options for winter heating. We’ll be sure to keep your tips in mind as we move forward!

  2. I appreciate you pointing out that it is risky to run a stove pipe up the exterior wall of the home and through a window. I recently moved into a new home and am making plans to install a stove and a fireplace to get ready for next winter. I’ll look for expert assistance to ensure that all safety precautions are taken.

  3. I’m glad you talked that you could receive a proper clearance by implementing a simple woodstove test. A couple of days ago, my brother told me he was planning to have a woodstove safety inspection because of damaged bricks due to a lack of care. He asked if I had thoughts on the best option to consider. I’m grateful for this informative article. I’ll tell him it’s much better if he consults a reputable chimney service as they can provide facts about the process.

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