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Why you shouldn’t install a wood-burning stove yourself

We found that 7% of the 1,434 members we surveyed installed their stove themselves

Why you shouldn’t install a wood-burning stove yourself

Installing a wood burner or multi-fuel stove is not something you should do yourself. An ill-fitted stove could result in it becoming a fire risk, but there’s also the potential for it to release lethal carbon monoxide into your home and create more pollution.

A stove should be treated like any other heating or cooking appliance – it should be installed professionally and adhere to building regulations to keep you and your family safe.

Even before installation, there are a number of things to consider with a stove, both with regards to the type and wattage, as well as the changes that might need to be made to your home to accommodate it. That’s why we’d recommend getting a professional involved before you even buy one.

See whether an electric or gas stove might suit you and your home better in our comparative fireplaces guide

Stove installation: what you need to know

The flue should stop gases getting into your home

Stoves need a flue to allow smoke and potentially harmful gases to escape out of the top and not into your room.

This includes carbon monoxide, which is produced if fuel isn’t burnt properly. It’s invisible and odorless, so very hard to detect, but can be lethal.

The flue can either be run through an existing or purpose-built chimney, or it can run directly up and out of the ceiling.

To check an existing chimney, or once a flue is in place, an installer should conduct a smoke test to ensure nothing leaks into the room. If they don’t, ask them to.

The chimney/flue will also need to be sealed off at the bottom using a metal plate and a chimney topper added to stop birds nesting.

We’d also recommend getting a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.

Finger about to press a carbon monoxide alarm

Insulating the flue will reduce fire risk

Insulating the flue means that the gases will be kept hot, stopping them from turning into condensation. This will prevent tars and creosotes building up in your chimney, which could catch fire.

You should also get your stove and chimney/flue swept and checked regularly to ensure that any deposits are removed and that it hasn’t cracked or become distorted.

Visit our full page on multi-fuel stove and log burner installations for all you need to know about flues and getting a stove installed.

The stove will need to meet regulations

The flue must comply with Part J of UK building regulations, Part F in Scotland and Part L in Northern Ireland.

Other specifications might mean changes need to be made to your room. For example, all stoves must have a hearth, the size of which will depend on the stove and location. Therefore, if you don’t already have a hearth, one will need to be added.

You must also have proper ventilation in the room the stove is installed in to help the fuel burn without creating extra carbon dioxide. This means that a vent may have to be added into your home, particularly if you have a high-wattage stove.

Logs burning fiercely in a wood-burning stoveStoves also have to be a certain distance from combustible materials; again, the amount depends on the stove. For example, when we filmed the installation of a stove at a Which? members house, an old wooden beam built into the chimney had to be taken out.

You can watch our log burner installation video to see exactly what happens.

Building control needs to be informed

Because of the regulations, building control needs to be informed when your stove is installed. That’s why it’s worth using an installer that is part of a government-recognised Competent Person’s Scheme.

Installers that are registered with a scheme will have been trained on installing solid fuel heating and can certify the work themselves, so you won’t need to get building control approval.

Some 47% of the people we spoke to said the installer they used was part of one.

If you’re looking for a stove installer near you, use Which? Trusted Traders to find someone reliable who’s been through our rigorous checks.

Using your stove correctly will minimise pollution

Dry log being held about to be added to a wood-burning stove

Although the way a stove is installed is crucial to its safety, how you use it is also integral. Make sure your installer runs through how to correctly use your stove once it’s installed.

Also use the right fuel. Wet wood or house coal with a high sulphur content will create more smoke and pollution. Dry wood and smokeless fuels, on the other hand, are less polluting and far more efficient.

Don’t let your stove ‘slumber’ (setting it to burn at a low output) ‘or smoke’ either. Keeping it burning well with a visible flame by using your stove’s air vents will ensure harmful gasses are burnt off instead of being expelled.

Our page on using a wood-burning stove gives you more details, including the different types of fuel, the costs and things to remember when using it.

*January 2019 survey of 1,434 Which? members who have bought a stove in the past 10 years.

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