Wood Stoves

Today’s wood-burning stoves are excellent investments and they provide one of the most cost-effective ways to heat your home.  A wood stove can be located almost anywhere there is enough space and where its chimney can be properly routed.

The ideal wood stove is located centrally in the main floor living area of the house, with the flue pipe running straight up from the stove flue collar into the chimney. This installation provides the best performance and needs the least maintenance.

Size matters

Wood stoves range in output from small ones designed to heat a single room, to large stoves able to heat whole houses.  Large stoves can be used most effectively in houses of open plan design where the heat readily circulates to other areas.

wood stove

Selecting the right stove to match your needs can be tricky because its performance is not necessarily related to the way it looks. The best guide to heating capacity is firebox size rather than the overall size of the stove. The best way to choose a stove that is sized correctly for your needs is to get advice from an experienced wood stove retailer. Since experienced dealers know the performance of each of their stoves, they can help you match a stove to your heating goals.

Installation

Wood heating technology and its safe installation have become more complicated in recent years. No longer is it sensible to simply hook up a wood stove to an existing chimney and begin using it for heating.  To get the best performance from a wood-burning system and to be assured of its safety, you should get reliable advice from a trained professional and consider having the system professionally installed.

Basically, a typical wood stove installation consists of the following components, starting from the floor level:

  1. a floor pad to protect flooring or carpets from embers which might fall from the stove during loading or ash removal
  2. the stove itself
  3. the flue pipe that connects the flue collar of the stove to the chimney and expels the exhaust gases to the outdoors.

For the DIYers who choose to install their own wood stove appliance, click here for detailed rules and Canadian Installation Code on how to install a stove pipe, courtesy of woodheat.org.

clearance chart

Common Problems with Wood Stoves

These appliances are efficient and beautiful, but they are not always problem-free.

Smell

The most common problem among homeowners who have a new wood stove is a strong paint smell. This happens because the paint is still in the process of curing. The smell should be gone within a few days. If the odor continues longer than four days, it could be indicative of a problem; and you should contact the manufacturer.

Deteriorated Grates

A problem that homeowners experience with wood stoves that have been in use for a long while is that the bars or grates become deteriorated. One of the results can be excessive smoking.  Several conditions contribute to accelerated deterioration of the grates, including leaving air vents or ash pit doors open for extended periods and over firing the appliance.  If the ash pan is not cleaned out regularly, the ashes will touch the bars, which also results in premature damage and drafts.

Drafting

Homeowners frequently experience drafting problems with their wood stoves, and there are many possible causes, including the following:

  • The wood stove must be properly connected to the flue, and the size of the flue needs to meet the requirements given by the manufacturer. If a seal is leaking or if there is a break in the flue, the result could be a smoky wood stove. The joints can be resealed with heat-resistant cement. If the pipe is damaged, however, the damaged section should be replaced.
  • If there is some type of chimney or stove pipe obstruction, some of the combustion materials will exit through the wood stove instead of outdoors. A blocked chimney can occur at any time. Some of the causes include debris such as leaves, animals, birds, and bits of masonry, if the chimney is deteriorating.
  • Sometimes when a wood stove is smoking it is because the door is damaged and in need of repair. The gaskets or glass on the doors may be broken, but they can be replaced. Stove suppliers typically carry all of the needed parts for modern appliances. One of the challenges homeowners face with wood stoves is that, over time, parts such as these are no longer available because the appliances have become outdated.  In many cases, stoves need to be replaced altogether, which is still less expensive than, for instance, rebuilding a damaged fireplace.
  • Burning unseasoned firewood is another cause of a smoky wood stove. Moist firewood does not burn efficiently. It creates a lot of smoke because the heat from the fire is used to burn out the moisture. This type of firewood also causes a lot more creosote and soot to be deposited in the stove and in the flue.
  • A problem in modern homes that comes up with wood stoves is that the house is sealed so tightly, it’s difficult for the fire and chimney to get a sufficient amount of air for the chimney to function properly. The result is a drafty wood stove.
grate
smoking stove

Discolouration

Some change in the colour of your stove can be normal.  If you have a stove with porcelain enamel cladding, the enamel may darken as it heats up and then return to its original colour as it cools.

Some wood-burning appliances have a stainless steel firebox, rather than the traditional firebrick or refractory cement. Although this lighter, thinner firebox will transmit heat to your room faster, the lighter constructions means it’s also subject to a certain amount of warping and discolouration.

Chimney Fire

While many stove issues are comparatively minor, there are some situations that require the immediate attention of a certified wood service professional. If the wall in front of your chimney, or surrounding the thimble where your stove plugs into the wall, becomes hot to the touch or begins to discolour, stop using your stove immediately, and call your local certified stove technician.  This may be an indication that you have had (or are having) a chimney fire.

chimney fire

Final Thoughts on Safety

If you have the stove inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney sweep every year, you’ve taken the best possible preventative maintenance steps.

A serious effort to improve the safety record of residential wood burning has been ongoing since 1980. Before that time stoves were not tested for safety and homeowners had little or no guidance on installation. The result was many house fires. Today, after many years of cooperative effort by all levels of government and the wood heating industry, a number of systems have been put in place to help you heat with wood safely. These safety measures include:

  • A reliable installation code was developed— CSA Standard B365.
  • Safety testing standards for stoves, inserts, fireplaces, furnaces, chimneys and flue pipes were developed. Now almost all of the equipment offered for sale carries a certification label indicating that it conforms to safety tests.
  • A training program for retailers, installers, chimney sweeps, municipal fire and building inspectors, and insurance inspectors was created. There are now professionals across Canada who have completed the courses of the Wood Energy Technical Training (W.E.T.T.).
fire safety
DO DON’T
Make sure there is enough clearance between the stove and combustible materials, including floors, walls and ceilings. Extend the stove pipe through a wall or ceiling unless there is no possible alternative.
Place the stove on a noncombustible, fire resistant base. Connect a wood stove to a fireplace chimney unless the fireplace has been sealed off.
Have a mason or other competent person inspect the chimney. Connect a wood stove to a chimney serving another appliance burning other fuels.
Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood. Start a stove fire with flammable fluids, such as gasoline.
Consider opening a window a crack for ventilation. Burn trash in a stove; doing so can start a chimney fire.
Dispose of ashes in a closed metal container outside the house. Let a wood fire burn unattended or overnight.

 

Can I get my older wood stove certified?

No. Certification is completed by stove manufacturers when introducing a new model line. To meet certification requirements, stoves must have pollution control systems built into them.

How much does it cost to install a wood burning stove?

You can expect to pay on average $3,000-$4,000 which includes the appliance, the stove pipe and labour costs for installation.

Will I pay more for insurance?

Your premiums will likely increase if you have a wood-burning stove, but the increase is usually insignificant. It’s possible that your insurer may treat your wood stove like a space heater or similar heating appliance.  If this is the case, having a wood stove may not increase your premiums

insurance