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Installing a wood burner

By November 27, 2020Knowledge & Tips

As part of her ongoing renovation project in Hove, Jo has just had a wood burner installed. Their home is a classic Brighton & Hove terrace; it has poorly insulated solid walls and rising and penetrating damp. Making serious inroads into those problems will involve significant work (watch this space) – so Jo and her husband decided to get the burner installed asap as a fairly independent piece of work that would make a huge difference to their experience of being in the house (all the time) this winter.

Newly installed wood burner with square edged opening finished in plaster, with stack of wood next to it. From renovation project in Hove - managed by Absolute Project Management.

If you are thinking about fitting a wood burner in your home, she has put together some things to consider;

Environmental considerations

Burning solid biomass fuel (like wood) as a means of heating the home is a mixed bag, environmentally. On the plus side, it is considered low-carbon (as trees absorb carbon while they are growing). On the negative; the DEFRA Clean Air Strategy (Jan 2019) states that burning solid fuels in residential homes is the biggest contributor of particulate matter emissions in the UK. This is important to consider when choosing and using your woodburner;

  • If you live in a smoke exclusion area (most of greater London, and these areas of Brighton & Hove), you need to choose a model from the DEFRA ‘exempt’ list.
  • From 2022 there will be new rules for minimum efficiency levels of woodburning stoves – called ‘Ecodesign’. Stoves which are labelled as ‘Ecodesign Ready’ are those that meet the emissions part of the Ecodesign criterion.
  • Choose a model that has the right (heat) output level for the size of your room. Most stoves have an optimum setting in terms of air intake, and running it outside these settings increases the particulate matter output; so choosing a stove that is too powerful and then running it cold is not a good plan.

This which article is a good detailed guide to the pollutant impact of fires and stoves.

Deciding where to fit it

Fireplace with lots of house plants in front and on either side - in living room of house converted from shop in Brighton and Hove.
  • If you have an existing fireplace, this is likely to be the best/ least disruptive place to have the stove fitted. See our guide to opening up an existing fireplace here.
  • If not, you may still be able to fit a stove, but you should engage an expert installer to work out the best place to fit the flue, and remember that you may need additional permissions to make external changes.

Choosing a model

There is an overwhelming array of choice of woodburning stove models. Things to consider;

  • Size; if you are fitting your stove in an existing fireplace opening, this will restrict the possible dimension of your stove.
  • Environmental performance; As above – aim for a model that is as efficient and clean as possible.
  • Fuel type; Some stoves are designed to burn only wood, while some can burn mixed solid fuels.
  • Appearance; Stoves range from deeply traditional, through simple and timeless to modern statement pieces. 

We chose the Burley Launde 9304-C on the basis that it is Defra approved, EcoDesign Ready, compact, efficient and has contemporary clean lines.

Note that some models can only be supplied/ fitted by certain installers, so consider whether you want to choose your model or your installer first.

I’ve put together some style options for inspiration below, being traditional, modern, and something in between:

The installation process

First, choose your installer! Bear in mind that by the time a wood burner feels like a good idea (the first chilly day in September), installers will already be starting to get busy – so it pays to plan ahead. Look for an installer with HETAS accreditation.

Opening for Wood Burning stove.

The work will depend on your home, but should include;

  • Creating, or clearing out and preparing the opening for the stove and flue. This is messy, dusty, work. You will need to clear the room out as much as possible.
  • Installing a suitable flue. This will usually require access to the roof (many flues are flexible and designed to be dropped down from the top so they can get round all the angles like a slinky). Check that the installer has a plan for working safely at height, and that they will repair any accidental roof damage.
  • Making good the opening; This will involve re-plastering, so it is a good idea to do this work before any redecoration work. The plaster also needs to dry before the stove is installed which may take a while in winter if your house is damp (did I mention my house is damp?)
  • Fitting a hearth. For safety, the stove needs to sit on a suitable hearth. This safely absorbs some heat so that flammable materials (carpet and wood floor) don’t get dangerously hot. There are lots of options. We’re getting a new wooden floor at a later date and will likely fit a slate hearth at that point. For now, we’re using the old concrete and tile slab.
  • Connecting the stove. Once the flue and hearth are in place, the stove can be fitted in place and connected by your chosen expert.
  • Fitting a carbon monoxide alarm. You may have one already for any gas appliances – but you will need one sufficiently near the stove. You should also ensure you have suitable, up to date smoke/ heat detectors in your home as a matter of course.

Use and maintenance

Running your stove well is a key factor in minimising its pollution output, so take the time to learn about how to run yours, and get used to getting it started and running efficiently.

  • You must get it swept at least once a year. Sooty deposits prevent smoke from escaping properly and are a significant fire hazard. 
  • Clean the glass regularly to maintain a great view.
Wood burner stove moisture reader. Absolute Project Management.
  • Get a moisture reader (shown above) to check the wood is dry enough to burn. 
  • Get some stove tools. You’ll need a heat-proof glove, poker, and ash shovel at least… and probably an axe.  There are of course loads of other stove accessories you don’t ‘need’ but are fun or attractive to have around.

Now you just need to find somewhere to store all the wood…like the lovely basket shown above.

To get you inspired, enjoy a snippet of our wood burning stove in action!

If you need help with your London or Brighton renovation, contact us now!

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