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Home & garden.

Updated: 30 Dec 2021

How to buy a log burner or multi-fuel stove

We guide you through what you need to think about when buying a log burner or multi-fuel stove, with advice from experts and stove owners.
Paula Flores
Modern wood burning stove 451102

Whether you're considering buying a wood-burning stove to top up your heating, to replace an open fire, because you don't have a gas supply or for any other reason, our guide will walk you through the things you should consider before making a decision. 

First, read our guide to wood-burning stoves and pollution

If you're already set on a wood-burning stove, or you rely on burning wood because your other options are limited, discover the best-rated wood-burning stove brands.

What to consider when choosing a log burner or multi-fuel stove

Is a wood-burning stove bad for the environment?

Although using wood as a fuel could be considered environmentally friendlier than some other options (see more on this below), a stove still emits particulate matter (PM) pollution. 

This is particularly the case if the stove is not efficient, if you don't burn the right fuel or you're not using it in the right way.

If you have a health condition that puts you at greater risk from the effects of pollution, you should think twice. 

Even if you don't, read our guide to stoves and pollution – where we also have advice on other ways to create a cosy, rustic aesthetic at home, if that's your primary motivation – before deciding. 

If you decide against a wood-burning stove, head to our guides to gas stoves and electric stoves to see the pros and cons of these alternative types of stove.

In the UK, building regulations state that new heating appliances must meet a minimum gross efficiency rating. This is currently 65% for a standalone stove when operating at normal output, and 70% for pellet stoves. 

The higher the percentage, the more efficient it will be – higher efficiency ratings means that it can produce the same amount of heat but by using less fuel. 

However, new EU laws coming into force in 2022 mean that stoves will need to meet more stringent efficiency levels, called ‘seasonal efficiency’. 

These relate to the amount of heat the appliance needs to produce to meet average energy consumption based on the stove’s design. 

New maximum emission limits, including for Particulate Matter (PM), Organic Gaseous Compounds, Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Oxides, will also be introduced.  

Any new appliances made and sold in Europe after 1 January 2022 need to have been independently tested to verify that they meet the criteria.

Stoves that meet these five emission criteria have been on the market since 2018. The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) worked with manufacturers during the transition period to create stoves that met the requirements ('Ecodesign Ready' stoves). 

Hetas, a government-backed organisation that approves stoves, fuel and heating engineers, has also introduced its own Ecodesign scheme for stoves and boilers.

Nevertheless, some studies, including a 2017 report by the government's air quality expert group, and a 2021 report from the European Environmental Bureau, have found that even Ecodesign stoves produce fine PM pollution, which is dangerous for human health. The SIA believes these claims are overstated.

Our guide to stoves and pollution goes into more detail.
Hunter cleanburn wood burning stove 482668

Do you live in a smoke-control area?

If so, you will have to get stove approved by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to burn wood.

If you don't want to buy a Defra-approved stove, you can instead burn smokeless fuels, on a multi-fuel stove, but you won't be able to burn wood. 

Visit the Defra website to find out more, including an approved list of smokeless fuels.

Will you be able to comply with building regulations?

All stoves must meet UK building regulations. For example, there are specifications around how the flue is fitted, the size of the hearth or the distance of the stove from combustibles. 

Also, every home and installation is different, and there are a number of other factors that affect what stove you need, from the size of your home to what chimney you have. If you live in a listed building, this also might affect your options.

These can all affect the type of stove you buy, so make sure you speak to an approved installer and/or retailer to do a survey on your home before buying. One Which? member told us:

Invite more than one installer to visit and give advice. Ask friends and acquaintances who use wood burning stoves. Check on the wood supplies you will need to use.

You can use Which? Trusted Traders to find a recommended stove installer near you. 

Keep track of all the things you need to consider, from buying through to using your stove, with our wood burning stoves checklist:

There is a file available for download. (pdf812 KB). This file is available for download at .

You can also visit our guide to the best wood-burning stove brands to find out how stove owners rated popular brands.

What type of fuel do you plan to burn?

We source wood from local suppliers who plant trees to offset.

In October 2021, we surveyed more than 1,300 Which? members who had bought wood-burning stoves in the past 10 years.* 

54% said they used season logs, with 29% said they use 'ready-to-burn' wood (less than 20% moisture content), and 5% said they used wood from a certified scheme, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). However, if you burn the wrong types of wood, such as wet logs, it will create potentially harmful gases and greater numbers of polluting particulates. 

House coal is far less eco-friendly, particularly if it has a high sulphur content. It is being phased out by the government. 

After 1 May 2023, traditional house coal will no longer be allowed to be sold in England. But there are lots of smokeless fuel alternatives, such as anthracite, which will only be available from approved coal merchants.

Your choice of fuel might also depend on what supply you have locally and what the costs are. There are a number of websites that list local fuel suppliers or sell fuel in bulk for delivery. 

Which? members also told us:

I do everything I can to ensure my wood burning produces very little smoke - best fuel, well lit and burning hot.

What fuel you choose will also affect the type of stove you go for. Take a look at our guide to multi-fuel vs wood-burning stoves for more to help you decide.

How much space do you have to store fuel?

For the most cost-effective way to use a stove, you’ll need plenty of room to store fuel, especially if you'll be burning logs. 

Of course, you can buy smaller bags of logs at a time, but buying in bulk is cheapest. It will also cost less if you buy or collect wet wood and dry it yourself. This can take two or more years. As one participant says:

It is important to consider where you can source the fuel you intend to use and also that it will have to be stored somewhere and carted into the room with the stove.

You will need somewhere dry where the wind can get to it, but not the rain. It should ideally be easily accessible for deliveries. 

Take a look at our guide to garden storage for more on dedicated log stores.

Smokeless fuel takes up less space, but is also best value if you buy it in bulk. Visit our guide to using a stove to find out more about costs.

Do you want to heat one room in the house or the whole property?

Stoves are generally used to heat one room, but you can attach it to the central heating system to heat other parts of the house. Some 88% of respondents told us the stoves are mostly used to heat the room they are in, while 9% use it as the main source of heat in the house. 

Will a wood-burning stove lower your energy bill?

Of our members who use a wood-burning stove, 57% told us they believe it has reduced their energy bills. Some told us:

'We do keep the house thermostat at a lower level so our use of central heating has gone down.'

'Decrease in energy bills -- used less gas for central heating.'

However, whether a stove could save you money depends on many different factors. This includes how energy-efficient your home is, how often you use the stove, how efficient the stove is and how much your current heating costs are.

To make the most of your stove, read our guide on using a stove.

How often will you light the fire and clean the ash away?

Keep in mind that stoves can take time to light, need to be controlled effectively and some need the ash cleaned out every time you start the fire. As one member said:

"Be prepared for daily chores"

It’s also worth noting that you will need to get the chimney swept at least once, preferably twice, a year and pellet stoves will need to be serviced once a year as well.

In our survey, most members were aware of the need to sweep chimney frequently, with 4% saying they do it more than once a year. 

And although 62% do it once a year, as recommended, 3% said they never do it. This might be because some members use their stoves sporadically.

Getting the right wood burner or multi-fuel stove for your home

A key part of choosing the right stove for your home is getting the right size and heat output, which is measured in kilowatts (kW) and ranges from 3kW to more than 15kW. 

If you get a stove that has too high an output for your home, you may end up having the windows open all the time to cool it down – or running the stove at a lower temperature, which will create more tar and smoke, and be less efficient.

The size you need can be affected by:

  • the size of the room (you’ll need to measure the height, width and length)
  • the layout of the room and your house (for example, if the room you want the stove in is open plan)
  • the size of the windows and whether you have double glazing
  • if the room has insulation of any kind, such as wall or cavity
  • the age of the property.

It might well be that you don't need a stove at all. One stove owner we spoke to said:

Carefully calculate heat output relative to room size, burn a ready dried fuel log produced from wood waste like Hotties and you hardly have to clean the glass

Stove features to consider

We also asked stove owners what features they find useful. Scroll through our gallery below to see examples of the features they were glad to have, and read on below for the full list.

Log burner or multi-fuel stove?

A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/wood-burning-stoves/article/wood-burning-stoves/how-to-buy-a-log-burner-or-multi-fuel-stove-aoa9D9n943G6

In order of popularity, stove owners value:

  • 72% Removable ash pan An ash pan that can be taken out, or one that swings out, will make cleaning easier.
  • 72% Controllable vents or fans These (which you can see in the image above) allow you to regulate the amount of air in the stove to control the heat output and size of flames.
  • 63% Large window A big window at the front will help you keep an eye on the fire and help you make the most of the cosy feeling a stove creates.
  • 59% Airwash systems help to keep the glass cleaner by drawing cool air through the system and over the glass. Most stove users have commented that you'll still need to clean the glass yourself, but less frequently. The way you burn your fuel is also likely to have an impact on how dirty the glass gets.
  • 39% Riddling plate This allows you to break the ash off, so will help you clean more easily.
  • 27% Large ash pan The size of the ash pan can impact how easy it is to clean, so look for a larger one.
  • 19% Stove thermometer These are really useful as they help you to keep the stove at a constant temperature.
  • 17% Stove fan This sits on top of the stove and circulates the heat around the room.
  • 7% Automatic damper This adjusts the burn rate of the fuel to ensure the stove operates as efficiently as it can.
  • 3% Cool-touch exterior Doesn’t get hot and remains cool to touch.
  • 2% Side windows These aren't that common, but one owner commented on how it's a great way to check how the fire is burning from all angles. It also lets out more light into the room.

What to check with your stove installer before you buy

Charnwood Island III wood-burning stove

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. 

This is just a guide though. 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:

'Because we were removing an open gas fire with a lower heat output, we were limited to one type of stove – a cassette (also called inset stove), which sits in the fireplace and two inches above the floor as it could have cracked the hearth.'

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, 51% used someone registered on a Competent Persons Scheme, while 3% didn't. Some 46% 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). 

You can find the full list of schemes on the government's website, and find recommended traders in your area using Which? Trusted Traders

All our traders have been through our rigorous checks to ensure they're safe, reliable and have the relevant qualifications. 

Log burner and multi-fuel stove building regulations

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. For example:

Flue

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

Ventilation

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 there was no existing chimney, I knew that I needed a metal flue to be installed along with the stove. I was not aware that building regulations require there to be space around the metal chimney where it passes through the ceiling. This meant ventilation had to be added, causing some heat leakage from the room into the loft space.'

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.

Hearth size

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.

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.

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.

Find which are the best wood-burning stove brands as rated by stove owners. 

*October 2021 survey of 1,375 Which? members who have bought a stove in the past 10 years. Which? conducted an online qualitative study with 15 members of its own panel who have bought a wood burning or multi-fuel stove in the past three years.