Installing a wood burning stove - a step by step guide
In collaboration with Arada
When we first moved into our house there was so much renovation work to do that it definitely didn’t feel like home at first. Over the past few months we’ve ripped out, removed and peeled away layers of the old and gradually replaced it with the new, and bit by bit it’s finally starting to feel more like a place we can call our own. To date the one thing that’s made it feel like home more than anything else we’ve done though is installing a woodburner.
A wood burning stove was pretty near the top of our wish list for the new house. They provide a focal point, create a sense of welcome and just somehow really give the house a heart, but when we first thought about fitting one we had lots of questions. What were the regulations on using them in built up areas? What work would we need to have done to done to the chimney and hearth to allow a stove to be fitted safely? Where could we find a qualified person to do it for us and how much would it cost?
We were also aware that there have been lots of stories in the media recently about air pollution control and new regulations governing the use of wood burning stoves, so we wanted to ensure that if we did fit one we chose a model that would cause the minimum amount of pollution and was designed to meet any future environmental regulations that might come into effect.
I’d read about the Arada Farringdon range as part of my initial research into fitting a stove. As well as having the kind of clean minimal styling I love all the stoves in the Farringdon range are also EcoDesign ready which means they are designed to meet the strict environmental standards woodburners will have to meet when the new legislation comes into effect, so I was delighted when Arada expressed an interest in working with me and offered to supply one of their beautiful stoves. Our new stove was fitted just before Christmas and it really has become the heart of our home. The temperatures have plummeted recently (it was -5 here in Warwickshire last night) and I am so happy we got one fitted. If you are thinking about installing one in your home here’s a step by step guide to some of the main things you need to consider.
Preparing the opening
If your home already has an old fireplace the first thing you’ll need to think about is preparing the opening.
The original 1930s fireplace in our living room was still intact when we moved in. While removing it was something we did ourselves in an afternoon, the stove installation itself is something that is best carried out by a qualified installer. You may want to choose one who is also able to do any building work that is required - opening up the chimney breast to create a larger opening, inserting a lintel or laying a new hearth stone for example.
Complying with building regulations
Unless you are planning to build a new chimney you don’t need planning permission to fit a woodburning stove but you do need to make sure that the installation complies with building regulations. You should be able to find information about this on your local council’s website.
Finding a qualified installer
You can search for qualified installers in your area on the HETAS website.
All HETAS registered installers will have been trained and assessed to carry out building regulations compliant work and will provide a Building Regulations compliance certificate upon completion of the work. This demonstrates that the installation complies with the relevant Building Regulations, so they basically notify your Local Authority building regulations department that the installation has taken place on your behalf. You’ll need this certificate to validate your home insurance and you may also be asked to provide it if you subsequently decide to sell your home.
Installing a wood burning stove in a smoke control area
Before you can fit a stove you need to find out if you live in a smoke controlled area. You can check this by contacting your local council.
If your home does lie within a smoke controlled area and you are planning to burn wood (as opposed to smokeless fuels) you will only be permitted to do so using an exempt appliance. You can find a list of all exempt appliances on the DEFRA website here.
Choosing a model that complies with current & future regulations
A new European wide law that aims to lower emissions and improve air quality is being brought into effect from 2022. Despite Brexit related uncertainty about future regulatory frameworks it obviously makes sense to consider this if you are fitting a new stove. We opted for the Arada Farringdon which offers a clean burning performance that exceeds the new 2022 European regulations and also meets the even stricter North American EPA low emission levels.
Choosing the right model size
Stoves come in a wide range of different sizes so you’ll want to choose one with a heat output that is suitable for the space it is going to be located within. Arada have put together a handy guide on this here. You’ll need to calculate the heating requirement of the space in kilowatts. To do this measure the width, depth and height of the space in metres, multiply the three figures together and then divide by 14.
For example our living room measures 3.2 m wide by around 7m deep and is 2.4m high. This gave us a heating requirement of 3.84 kw, so a 5kw stove like the Farringdon Small Eco was fine for us. If your stove is going to be positioned in a large open plan space or in a room with very high ceilings then you may need to choose a model with a higher output.
Designing the fireplace
There are a number of regulations covering the construction of the hearth and how far away the stove is from plasterboard walls or any other combustible materials - your hearth must extend beyond the front of the stove door by a minimum distance, for example. This can have an impact on the design of your fireplace so if you are buying materials such as tiles or a new hearth stone it is worth checking the distance regulations with your installer or local building regulations inspector first to ensure that you order the correct size and amount.
Our installer completed the work over two days. In addition to fitting the stove and installing the flue liner this also included removing some of the existing bricks to open up the chimney breast (which immediately made the room feel bigger), rendering the back of the fireplace and laying a new hearth stone.
Choosing the right type of wood
Wood with a low moisture content is best. We use kiln dried logs. After comparing them to a bag of regular logs we picked up from a garage forecourt we noticed the difference immediately. Wood with a higher moisture content creates more smoke which will cause a build up of tar in the flue and cause the glass on your stove to blacken. Wood kept outside can have surface moisture so we bring a few logs indoors first thing in the morning and keep them next to the fireplace ready for use later on in the evening.
Will installing a wood burner add value to my home?
Not necessarily, but it may very well make your property more desirable to prospective purchasers and therefore more saleable. As well as creating a key design feature within a space, in my view they just make a house feel more like a home.
How much will it cost?
This will vary depending on the amount of work involved. Is your existing fireplace ready to accommodate a woodburner or will the old fire surround and hearth need to be removed and a new one added? Will the area around the stove need rendering? If you are having an old fireplace removed you may also need to have a lintel inserted to support the chimney breast. All of these will affect the cost of the installation.
As a rough guide we paid around £1300 for our installation (which excluded the cost of the stove itself). This included fitting a flue liner, opening up the chimney breast, inserting a new lintel, rendering the brick opening and fitting a sandstone hearth stone which we purchased from a local architectural salvage yard.
Can I install one myself?
Technically yes, as long as you undertake the work in accordance with building regulations and obtain a compliance certificate. Given the potential for life threatening danger caused by fire or toxic fumes from incorrectly installed stoves though it’s not a job for the average DIYer. Installing a wood burning stove is a job best carried out by a qualified installer.
Since we had our stove installed a couple of months ago lighting it each evening has become a daily ritual I look forward to. This simple act marks the time of day when I stop working, marking the transition from daytime to downtime. And as soon as it’s lit I know it’s time to relax for the evening, pour myself a drink and lay the table for dinner. It’s become my favourite part of the day.
If you are thinking of installing one in your home you will find lots of inspiration in my Pinterest board here.
The stove featured is the Arada Farringdon Small Eco which was kindly gifted to us by Arada. We paid all installation costs ourselves.