10 tips for installing wood burners

As wood burners become increasingly popular with homeowners for both style and function reasons, David Ebbs offers some top tips on the important areas that should be considered when installing them.
Wood-burning stoves are gaining popularity amongst homeowners for their ability to provide a practical heating solution while adding a stylish focus to the room into which they are fitted. However, it is vital that ten key aspects are considered when first visiting a prospective installation site to ensure that the introduction of a wood burner is a viable option.
woodburnerweb1. Plan it properly
For most, the ambiance and warmth from an open fire makes a house a home, and it’s important to remember that a customer will end up looking at their stove every day, so any decisions shouldn’t be made on impulse.
The best results come from planning, and it’s important that the right initial questions are asked to ensure that the customers end up with the right product. Key questions include: Where will it stand? (Any stove will need a hearth that projects at least 225mm in front of the stove). Is a classic or modern look stove required? Do they want a single or double-door appliance? What colour do they want?
2. The flue requirements
The flue often presents the most challenges for any installation. Issues such as where it will go, what its route is and how big it is going to be are all crucial. Installers also need to be aware of whether the stove is positioned next to an existing chimney stack that can be used, or does a twin wall flue need to pass up through the house (or through the external wall) and rise up outside. If you want to use an existing chimney stack, this needs to be checked first to ensure that it is not being used for something else and that it’s in good enough condition to use with a flue liner. If the stack is going to have a new flexible flue liner installed, you need to ensure it is fully swept first. When considering the flue size and route, installers should be aware that many Defra-certificated stoves are able to run with a 125mm diameter flue. Sometimes, this is crucial if the installation involves a flexible liner within a tight stack. The flue route has several regulations to consider, such as total height and number of bends. All flue installations should be carried out by a HETAS qualified installer and a HETAS certificate issued.
NOTE
A flue should be installed that will last the life of the wood burner. So, in most circumstances, it isn’t a good idea to try and re-use an old
flue system.
4. The room itself
When a wood-burning stove is to be installed, it is important to assess what impact it will have on the room into which it is being fitted in case any changes are to be made in advance. For instance, curtains must not be able to be blown within reach of the stove. The distance of soft furnishings needs to be checked against the stove manufacturer’s instructions but allow for a clearance of 600mm to 1m in front of the stove.
5. Air supply
All stoves require air for combustion. If the stove is under 5kW, an external air vent is not required under Building Regulations, but air will still be needed from somewhere else. Even older properties now have draught-free double-glazing and fully fitted carpets, which eliminate small gaps for air to enter the property.
Any air vent for stoves 5kW and above must be HETAS approved and installed directly on the external wall. If the wood burner is being installed in a kitchen or open-plan room with an extractor fan, this must be taken into account because the extractor will draw air from the room. All appliance testing must take place with the extract fan running on full power.
6. Data-plate
The data information plate must be completed and secured where it is easy to read – either beside the appliance or next to one
of the incoming mains services – e.g. gas, water or electricity.
7. Termination
The installer must ensure that any termination is approved for the fuel. For instance, a gas terminal would have small mesh and would block up with the residues of wood and solid fuel burning. An open terminal allows the smoke and products of combustion to clear quickly, but offers no protection from rain or bird and vermin. A rain cap will offer protection from some rain ingress, but will also create a barrier to the escape of smoke and gases. Some rain caps also have wood and solid fuel approved mesh to keep out any birds or vermin. If the flue suffers down-
draught, then specific terminals can be supplied to help eliminate this problem.
8. Essential maintenance
The home owner should be given a full demonstration of how to use the appliance and what to check to ensure everything is running as it should. Cleaning should take place every few fires and the flue should be swept at least once a year by a qualified chimney sweep. Failure to keep the sweeping certificates could invalidate house insurance and would definitely invalidate the flue warranty. Installers should also explain the stove air vents and air wash vents.
NOTE
It is now a legal requirement to install a carbon monoxide alarm for each stove, and these alarms should be tested regularly.
9. Fuel
Some stoves are designed to only burn wood, while some are multi-fuel and can burn coal and coke as well as wood. All wood must be seasoned and have a moisture content not exceeding 20% – a moisture meter can give this moisture content. All coal type multi-fuels must appear on the HETAS-approved list.
NOTE
You should never burn treated or painted wood, household rubbish or plastics in any stove.
10. Burning temperature
Flue and stove thermometers should be used for monitoring the burning temperature to ensure both safety and maximum fuel efficiency. Burning at a low temperature will increase the likelihood of tar deposits building up inside the flue, which in turn will increase the chances of a chimney fire as well as making the flue warranty invalid.
Meeting expectations
By taking these aspects into consideration at every step of the installation, it is highly likely that the customer will benefit from an effective heat source that meets – and even exceeds – their initial expectations. The more work that goes into the planning stage, the more likely it is that the homeowner will end up with the product they want that performs the way they expect.

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