Wood burning stoves: what you need to know
Multi-fuel and log burner installation
By Liz Ransome-Croker
Article 5 of 7
Find out what's involved a multi-fuel or wood-burning stove installation, with tips and insider knowledge from experts and stove owners, plus watch our video of a typical installation.
Thinking of getting a wood burner or multi-fuel stove? We’ve spoken to installers, industry bodies, manufacturers and owners to find out exactly what you need to know about buying and installing a stove.
In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about what an installation will involve - including our video guide - and how it will affect your home on the day of installation and afterwards. We cover:
- Who can install a log burner or multi-fuel stove
- How stove gases will be expelled from your home safely
- What you should check with an installer before you buy
- How a stove survey works and why they are important
- What will happen on the day of a stove installation – including our video guide
- How building regulations affect a stove installation
Plus, download our handy checklist, which includes advice to help you easily navigate the process of buying and installing a stove. This will help you be assured that you’re getting a safe installation that won’t cost you more money in the long run.
You'll also get access to our wood-burning stove reviews, based on ratings from thousands of customers having asked them how satisfied they are with their stove and whether they would recommend it.
Getting a stove installed is not something you can do yourself - worryingly, 7% of the Which? members we surveyed* installed it themselves. You'll need a qualified installer and the installation will need to meet building regulations.
A badly installed stove is not only a fire risk, but could also produce potentially harmful pollutants and gases - see more below on how stove gases need be expelled safely and find out more about the pollutants stoves emit on our stoves and pollution page.
The majority of people did the right thing and had their stove installed by the retailer they bought it from (51%) or by an independent installer or chimney sweep (37%).
Competent Person Scheme – why it's important
We strongly recommend that you use an installer that's registered with a government-recognised Competent Person Scheme (CPS), such as Hetas.
Of those who got their stove installed professionally, 48% used someone registered on a Competent Persons Scheme, while 5% didn't. Some 47% didn't know whether or not their installer was part of a scheme.
Installers who are registered with a CPS will have been trained on installing solid fuel heating and can certify the work done themselves, instead of having to get building regulations approval (read more details in our section on how building regulations affect a stove installation).
All our traders have been through our rigorous checks to ensure they're safe, reliable and have the relevant qualifications. You can also see what scheme's they're singed up to.
All stoves need a flue to take the expelled gases out of the room. This can either be through an existing or purpose-built chimney, or the flue can run directly up and out of the ceiling (see more on these below).
It’s very important that your flue will not let the gases escape anywhere other than out of the top and that it keeps the gases hot so they don’t turn into condensation. This can result in tars and creosotes being left in your chimney, causing a potential fire hazard.
The chimney needs to be lined or, as is often the case with old brick chimneys, relined as it could have defects. The lining – effectively a long, flexible tube often called a flexi liner – is usually the standard size of 150ml/6in, but on occasion a smaller or larger one is needed. Each home can be different, depending on the age of the building.
Insulating the chimney also helps the gases the stove produces stay hot. With a lined chimney, insulation will be added between the chimney wall and the lining. Our video below shows what's involved in lining and insulating an existing chimney.
Can you install a wood burner without a chimney?
The simple answer is yes. If you don't have a chimney, you can simply have a standalone stove and flue, like in the image below. But there might be other factors that affect where it goes, as one owner found:
You'll also need to have an insulated twin-walled or double-wall flue, though, to ensure the gases stay hot. The more that needs to be done for this, the more it will cost.
Every home is different and there are a lot of factors that can affect installation and the stove you can buy. For example, the room the stove is being installed in will impact on what wattage of stove you get, which is measured in kilowatts (kW).
A third of the people we spoke to didn’t get any information about choosing the correct stove wattage when they bought theirs. Get the wrong wattage and your room will either be constantly stifling hot or not warm enough.
Before you get an installer in to give you a quote and advice, it’s worth working the wattage out for yourself as a guide. To calculate it, multiply the height, width and length of your room together, then divide this by 14. You can use our tool below to do this.
This is just a guide. You should get an installer to check this and to give you advice before you buy. When you do, make sure they explain how they came to this (for example, what elements of your home they took into consideration) and what heat output it will give your room.
The installer should also show you calculations for how efficient the stove will be in your room. We would always recommend getting a survey done in your home before you buy a stove, to save spending money on one that may not work in your home.
How your home needs to be changed may also affect the stove you get. One owner said:
To see what other elements you need to consider when buying, including the stove efficiency and fuels to use, go to how to buy a stove.
Once you've decided, head to our wood-burning stove reviews of big-name companies to discover which brands people rated highest - one brand got an impressive customer score of 94%.
In order to check what kind of work needs doing before fitting the stove, an installer will come to your home to look at all aspects of the room. From whether there is a chimney or what state it's in, to the size of your room and how many windows and doors you have.
If you have a chimney already, an installer may run a ‘smoke test’, usually using a smoke pellet in the chimney. This will show whether there are any cracks or fissures letting smoke out of the chimney. If they don't do one, we'd recommend suggesting they do.
If this is inconclusive, the installer will use a camera to check inside the chimney. Installers are legally bound if anything goes wrong, so it’s not uncommon for an installer to reline the chimney, especially if the building is old. You should be given a written breakdown of the results, so ask for one if you're not.
We recommend getting three surveys done on your home so you can get some comparative quotes. They should all give you written confirmation of the cost and what it will include, from the work to the parts.
It’s worth noting that some installers charge for this survey (you'll often be offered this amount back if you choose them), particularly if they are not local to you.
Take the hard work out of finding an installer by visiting Which? Trusted Traders. We vet all our certified installers so you can be sure you'll find the best.
Wood-burning stove installation video
So you can see what's involved in an installation, and what it means for you and your home, we filmed a typical stove installation.
Which? members can log in to watch our video to see the process and read on below to understand more about the different stages and building regulations. If you're not yet a member, join Which? today.
Multi-fuel or wood-burning stove installation: what will happen on the day
Find out what's involved in a stove installation and hear from owners about what they wish they had known before they bought a stove and had it installed by logging in.
No matter what type of chimney, flue or stove you have, it will need to meet certain building regulation and building control will need to be informed. The Hetas website has a full list of all the British standards each element needs to meet. We list the key elements below.
The flue must comply with Part J of building regulations in England and Wales, Part F in Scotland and Part L in Northern Ireland.
You must have sufficient ventilation to ensure the stove has enough air for the chimney to operate correctly and for complete combustion of the fuel.
For proper ventilation in the room to help the fuel burn, you may need to have a vent added into your home, particularly if you have a high-wattage stove.
This is something a number of stove owners said they wish they had known before buying one.
As mentioned, it's important to get in an installer for a quote and understand what's needed for your home. It might be that instead of ventilation being added to the room, which could cause drafts, the stove can be fitted with a direct air kit. This is essentially a vent duct taking the emissions direct to the outside.
Regulations also stipulate that you must have a carbon monoxide detector in the room where the stove is installed.
There are also rules around the hearth and its size. For example, if the stove is installed in an alcove, the hearth must come in front of it by 500mm and have 150mm either side.
You’ll therefore need to consider the space and cost to accommodate this. You can find exact hearth sizes needed in Part J of the building regulations and the guidance documents that help professional installers comply with regulations.
Distance from combustibles
The flue and stove must be a certain distance from any combustibles, which varies from 100mm to 450mm depending on the stove (you can check the manufacturer's instructions).
The stove flue should be a minimum of three times the diameter from combustibles. It's less for a twin-wall insulated pipe, but again can vary by manufacturer.
You also might be able to get a heat shield installed to minimise the heat emitted from a stove, so that it can be closer to combustibles.
Again, all of this might affect the stove you get, so it's important to get a professional in to check what you need before you go ahead and buy.
Download our exclusive handy stove checklist for all our key advice on buying and installing a stove.
An installer that has been registered with the Competent Person Scheme (CPS) will be able to sign off the installation.
If the installer you use isn't registered with CPS, you'll need to get someone from Building Control to inspect the installation. This can cost as much as £300 and they may not even pass the installation.
Even if your installer is part of the CPS scheme, there are some circumstances where Building Control still needs to be informed, such as if you live in a listed property or conservation area.
The installer should give you full details of what will be done to your home, how much disruption this will cause and how long it will take. It’s good to get this in writing.
You can use Which? Trusted Traders to find an installer near you to assess your home and specific circumstances. You'll also be able to see whether the trader is registered with a CPS.
Workmanship warranties for stoves
All installers should provide a minimum one-year warranty on your installation. If your installer is part of the CPS, ask if they can also provide you with a Workmanship Warranty, which will cover you for six years after the installation in the event of the company going out of business.
Make sure you ask for written confirmation of what any warranties cover and the time period.
There is also a Deposit and Workmanship Warranty Insurance scheme to help protect your deposit. It’s worth noting that the installer should not ask you for more than a 25% deposit for the work.
Don't miss our reviews of well-known wood-burning stove brands. They include ratings from customers for five key areas: durability, quality, ease of use, ease of cleaning and value for money.
*January 2019 survey of 1,434 Which? members who have bought a stove in the past 10 years.