Both of my parents recently installed wood burning stoves in their homes, and both stoves were placed within existing fireplaces. They absolutely love their wood stoves and have been saying for a while now that I should look at getting one for my home.
A wood burning stove can be a large expense for a home, and so I’ve had my parents explain to me everything that they needed to think about before they bought their stoves.
They had to consider a number of different things before buying their stoves and included the size of the room or home to heat, where it can be placed effectively and safely, what type of fuel to burn, and how the room will be vented.
There are also a number of other factors that need to be considered when buying a wood burner, and so I’ve put together the complete list of things to consider when buying a wood burning stove.
What To Consider When Buying A Wood Burning Stove
- Choosing a location for the stove
- Type of stove
- Size of the area to be heated
- Heat output of the stove
- Efficiency of the stove
- Ventilation in the room
- The hearth
- The flue
- Type and moisture content of firewood
- Storage of the firewood
- Cleaning & maintenance
- Options on the stove
- Smoke controlled areas
- Cost of the stove
I go into a more detail below on each of these things that you need to consider when buying a wood burning stove for your home.
Choosing a Location For The Stove
The first thing you should consider before buying a wood burning stove is where you’ll place it in your home. You should consider in which room in your house the stove would be best situated, and where in that room it would be best located.
A common place to start is within the existing fireplace in your home, but if you don’t have one then a room where you, your family or guests would spend the most time would also be a great location for a wood burning stove.
Wood stoves can provide a focal point for any room, and so getting the right location is important. You’ll want people to feel the warmth of the stove while also being able to enjoy the view of the flames. It’s common to design the furniture of a room around the fireplace because a wood burning stove will be a semi-permanent fixture once installed.
Wood stoves can either be inserted into your existing open fireplace or placed in an area of your home where it can be vented, such as on an external wall where the flue can be located on the outside of your home, or on an internal wall where the flue can be installed through the ceiling and roof.
If you’re looking to put a wood burning stove within your fireplace, you’ll need to consider whether:
- Your fireplace firebox and opening is large enough to be able to take a wood stove, and also able to fit the stove size required to heat the room.
- There would be sufficient space around the stove for safety reasons.
- There is a sufficiently sized hearth that is made of the right non-combustible material.
- There would be sufficient space above the stove to install a flue.
- The chimney is already lined with a flue, or the chimney opening is sufficiently sized for the required flue size.
If you don’t have an existing fireplace and chimney then you can still have a wood burning stove in your home, but you’ll need another way to vent waste byproducts of a fire out of your house.
Wood stoves can either be located up against an external wall with the flue installed up the outside wall, or located in an area of your home where the flue can be installed through the ceiling and up through the roof.
You’ll also need to ensure that the stove is far enough away from any combustible items located in the room, as well as having a suitable hearth platform for it to sit on. There are specific offset distances that need to be met for each type of stove, so consult the manufacturer of the stove you decide to install for further information regarding offset distances from combustible items.
Both my parents decided to place wood burning stoves in their existing fireplaces, and so were able to utilize the existing chimney (but required it to be lined before installation of the stove).
Here’s a photo of my dad’s wood burning stove:
Type Of Stove
There are three main ways you can burn wood in a stove, and you should consider which type of stove will be best suited to you and your home:
- Wood burning stoves
- Multi-fuel stoves
- Pellet stoves
Wood burning stoves can only burn wood, while multi-fuel stoves can use coal as fuel as well as wood.
Pellet stoves burn compressed forms of waste wood in the shape of pellets, and can also burn other types of compressed biofuels. You can read my list of things you need to know about pellet stoves for more information.
There are also three forms of stove:
- Stove inserts
- Freestanding stoves
- Cassette stoves
Stove inserts are typically used for within existing fireplaces, while freestanding stoves are designed to suit any location within your home. If you’re tight on space in your home or don’t want the stove to take up too much room, cassette stoves can be built flush into a wall. You can also buy stoves that heat water to supply your water and your central heating.
My dad opted for a multi-fuel stove so that he has the option to burn authorized fuels other than wood in the future, but only burns wood in the stove for the time being.
The Size Of Area To Be Heated
Once you’ve chosen a location for your wood burning stove, you’ll need to consider what area of your home you want to heat; whether it’s the room, a number of rooms, or the whole house. The cubic area for the whole space will then need to be measured, as it will determine what size of wood burning stove you’ll need.
To be able to work out the approximate size of stove you’ll require, simply measure the length, width and height of the room(s) to be heated in your house.
The size can be measured in either feet or meters.
My parents decided that they only wanted the stoves to be able to heat the rooms they’re in, meaning that the heat output of the stoves would only need to be large enough to heat that particular room.
Heat Output Of The Stove
With the size of your room(s) measured, you can determine what type and size of stove you’ll require. The stove must be large enough and efficient enough to be able to provide the heat output for the specific area.
Apart from the size of the area to be heated, other things an installer will need to consider when choosing the right size of stove can include:
- The age of the building.
- The air tightness of the building.
- The amount and quality of insulation.
- The number of windows, their size and whether they are single or double-glazed.
- Whether the floor is carpeted or solid.
Typically, the larger the stove, the more heat it can output, as more fuel can be added and burnt at any one time.
Heat output of wood burning stoves is typically measured in in kW (kilowatt hour) or BTUs (British Thermal Units). The higher the number, the more maximum heat the stove can put out.
You’ll need to ensure that the right size of wood stove is determined, because a stove that is too small won’t be able to heat the required space, and can be damaged due to ‘over firing’ as you try to increase the heat output beyond what it’s been designed for. On the other hand, a stove that is too large can make a room too hot for some people to be comfortable.
As a rule of thumb, for working out the required heat output of a wood burning stove, you’ll need to work out the cubic area of the room and divide it by either 14 (for older homes) or 20 (for more modern houses) to give the heat output in kW.
For every 14 cubic meters of space to be heated, your stove should have 1kW of heat output.
To work out the volume of the room, times the length of the room by the width and the height:
Length x Width x Height = Cubic Capacity Of Room
Do this for every room you want to heat and add them together to give you the total cubic area of space your wood burning stove needs to heat.
For modern and well-insulated homes, divide this number by 20, or divide it by 14 for older homes:
Cubic Capacity / 14 = Required Stove Output in kW (for older homes)
Cubic Capacity / 20 = Required Stove Output in kW (for newer homes)
For conversion to BTU units, you need to times the stove output in kW by 3412:
1kW = 3142 BTUs
Required Stove Output in BTU = Stove Output in kW x 3142
My dad’s wood burning stove is located in the living room with a length of 25ft (7.6m), width of 15ft (4.6m) and a height of about 9ft (2.7m).
With this information he could work what stove size would be required to heat the room, based on the fact that his lives in an older home (so a insulation value of 14 is used)
Required Stove Output = (7.6m x 4.6m x 2.7m) / 14 = 6.7kW
My dad therefore had an 8kW Clearview wood burning stove installed in his home because he knew that the stove would have a large enough heat output to heat the room. Prior to purchase and installation the manufacturer confirmed the actual required heat output of the stove, but the above calculations gave my dad a rough guide of stove size required before he starting looking for one.
The above is only a guide and an installer should be always be contacted to confirm the required sized stove based on more detailed calculations.
Its efficiency and the type of wood being burnt can also partially determine the heat output of a stove, and I discuss both of these points further in this article.
In our experience, a wood burning stove releases quite unbelievable amounts of heat; far more than any standard open fireplace can provide.
Efficiency Of The Stove
Each particular model of wood burning stove comes with its own efficiency rating. The higher the efficiency rating, the more heat the stove can provide for the amount of wood used.
The efficiency of a stove is determined by how it well it transfers the energy stored within the wood into heat energy to warm your home.
You’ll therefore need to consider how efficient you want your stove to be.
My dad’s wood burning stove comes out at just over 71% efficiency, which is respectable. A couple of percent won’t be noticeable but wood burning stoves can reach up to around 94% efficiency for the very top of the range models.
Wood burners with such high efficiency ratings are generally more expensive than those with lower efficiency ratings, and so there is a compromise to be made between efficiency and cost.
Ventilation In The Room
A fire in wood burning stove will go through a lot of oxygen as it’s burning through the wood.
It’s therefore important to consider how the room in which your stove will be located will be ventilated so that the stove will receive sufficient oxygen supply.
Newer homes are typically built to a higher standard than older homes, and so for new homes it may be more difficult to provide a source of airflow to the fire. Newer homes are built to be more airtight, whereas older homes tend to have more drafts.
A fresh supply of air can be had to a room through the opening any doors to other rooms in the house. Fresh air from outside also needs to be considered.
My dad had to consider this when getting new wood burning stove for his home. The house is fairly old but they still had to think about ventilation. The stove installer confirmed that because the house was old there was sufficient air supply to the room without the need to install air vents.
As every homes is different, an installer will recommend any further ventilation requirements in order to have a wood burning stove in your home.
Stoves burn solid fuel, and so require will an adequately sized hearth to be located underneath it for safety reasons.
A hearth is a non-combustible platform of material that provides a barrier between a fireplace and the floor of your home.
An existing open fireplace will come with its own hearth, and so you’ll have the right platform on which to put your wood burning stove if you decide to place it there.
If you’re looking to locate a wood stove in another location in your home you’ll need to consider:
- How large of a platform is required for the hearth depending on the size of the stove.
- The desired material for the hearth.
The hearth should be sufficiently sized so that there’s enough of a gap around the stove.
The flue is a vital component of a wood burning stove as it transfer the waste smoke and gases from your stove to the outside of your home.
You’ll therefore need to consider how the flue will be installed as part of the installation of your wood burning stove.
If you’re looking to have a wood stove installed in your existing fireplace (as we did), the chimney will need to be lined.
My parents both had their wood burning stoves installed in their living rooms within the existing open fireplaces.
My dad’s chimney had to be lined, by dropping it from the top of the chimney. The installer of the wood burning stove then connected the flue coming out of the top of the stove to the flue newly lining the inside of the chimney.
The throat (base) of the chimney then had to be capped and completely sealed to ensure than the only form of airflow up the chimney was coming through the stove. This would ensure that the stove would be working to its maximum potential and prevent any other form of airflow from reducing the efficiency of the draw from the chimney on the new stove.
You’ll also need to consider cowling the top of your chimney if it hasn’t already been done. A cowl will help protect your wood stove and flue from animals, debris, rain, and help to prevent any potential backdraft problems.
My dad put a cowl on the top of the chimney to help prevent anything from getting into his newly installed stove:
Probably the biggest factor in how well your stove will provide heat is the type of firewood that you’ll be burning.
Firewood that isn’t dry enough will be harder to light, harder to sustain in a fire, produce more smoke than usual, and release less heat overall.
It’s therefore important to consider what type of firewood you’ll use within the stove and to ensure that the moisture content is low enough for it to burn efficiently, in order for the stove to be achieving the designed heat output.
Softwood should be used at the start of a fire as kindling and the first few small logs if necessary. Hardwood logs can then be used throughout the rest of the fire to provide more heat output per piece of log.
Whatever type of wood you choose to burn, you need to ensure that it has low enough moisture content to burn efficiently in your wood burning stove, either through seasoning or kiln drying.
Storage of Firewood
Just as you’ll need to consider the type of firewood that you’ll be burning, you’ll also need to consider where it will be stored in your home, and ensure that there’s enough space available for the required amount of logs.
The more you expect to use your wood burning stove, the more space you’ll need for storing the wood between each delivery.
It’s common to have a larger stack of logs located within a dry place within your property, while having a smaller pile of logs near your stove for when it’s next being used.
Logs are typically stored in garages or outside in an area that’s protected from the rain and on a hard standing flat platform. Wherever placed, it’s important that the wood stays dry.
It’s also beneficial to have a storage area near you stove, with enough space to hold the required amount of logs for your next fire.[Cold wood is harder to burn in a stove because it takes longer to warm up to combustible temperature, and so a storage area near your stove allows the wood to reach room temperature before being burnt.]
My dad sources firewood from his garden and seasons them under a canopy behind his garage for at least two years before using the logs in his stove to ensure they are dry enough to burn efficiently.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Owning and using a wood burning stove won’t require constant care and attention, but will need periodic cleaning and maintenance to ensure that it’s working as efficiently as possible.
Burning wood is always going to produce mess, and there’s no exception with a wood burning stove. One advantage a wood stove has over a wood burning fireplace is that the leftovers of a fire are contained within the stove rather than spread across the fireplace.
A bed of ash can be kept within a wood burning stove to insulate the hot coals and help improve the fire, but the ash should be kept to a maximum of a few centimeters to ensure that it doesn’t start to block the air vents.
Options On The Stove
As every model of wood burning stove is different, you can choose to have a stove that has a number of different options.
My dad’s wood burning stove included the following as standard:
- Airwash system;
- Removable ash tray;
- Double glazed door;
- And much more.
Stoves with Airwash systems help to prevent the blackening of glass on the doors due to a buildup of creosote.
There were also a number of other options available that my dad could have gone for with his stove, including:
- The ability to have a smoke control kit to be able to use the stove in smoke control areas.
- Heat shield for reducing the required distance from the stove to combustible items in the room.
- An option for including a boiler on the stove.
It’s therefore worth considering what added extras you would like your wood burning stove to come with, and to compare what each manufacturer is offering on their range of stoves.
Wood burning stoves are generally built to last, and because there are no electrics or moving parts, they come with quite generous warranties.
Longer warranties show that the manufacturer has belief in their product, but may be reflected within the price.
Before buying a wood burning stove consider what length of warranty you want to have on the stove.
My dad’s stove came with a 3 year warranty, which he believed was sufficient enough. He knew that he had chosen a good brand of stove, wouldn’t use it too regularly, and would look after it well.
It’s recommend that an approved installer undertakes the installation of your wood burning stove to ensure that you have a safely operating fireplace within your home.
You’ll also need to consider whether the cost of installation is included within the price of the stove, and whether installing a flue is added cost.
Installation of my dad’s stove was included within the price, but he had to pay extra to have his chimney lined with a new flue.
Smoke Controlled Area
If you live in a smokeless area then you’ll need to consider that the type stove you’re looking to buy is on approved lists.
My parents don’t live in a smoke control area but it’s something that you’ll need to consider if you do, as it will affect the model of wood burning stove that you’ll need to buy.
My dad’s wood burning stove could have come with an optional Smoke Control Kit to allow the stove to be used within smoke controlled areas, but cannot be retrofitted.
The fire in a wood burning stove will be safely contained behind the doors, but the stoves themselves get extremely hot, and can stay hot for an extended period of time even after the flames have subsided.
Wood burning stoves are also required to be located a certain distance from away from any combustible materials in a house, including walls. These distances are different for each manufacturer and model but must be considered before buying a wood burning stove.
My dad could have chosen an optional heat shield for the stove to allow it to be installed closer to combustible materials, but it wasn’t required because there was sufficient space between the stove and the walls of the fireplace.
Design Of The Stove
From traditional to modern, there are a range of wood burning stoves designs available to suit your home.
My dad went for a traditional looking wood stove in black to compliment the design of his home, but could have chosen a range of other colors including brown, green, blue and grey.
Cost Of The Stove
The last thing to consider before buying a wood burning stove, and ultimately the one that can influence your decision on which model to get, is the cost.
The initial cost of a wood burning stove and its installation won’t be cheap, but it’s a long-term investment into your home, and one that has the potential to effectively heat your home for many years to come.
The cost of a stove can be influenced by factors including:
- The type of stove, whether it’s wood burning, multi-fuel or a pellet stove.
- The size of area to be heated, and therefore the size of stove required.
- The brand and the model.
- The efficiency of the stove.
- Options on the stove.
- The design and color of the stove.