Do I need a Professional to Install my Woodburning Stove?

In short. Yes.

On several occasions recently, visitors to the showroom at Embers Heating Studio have revealed they were installing a wood burning stove themselves with no previous experience or qualifications. The attitude tends to be one of ‘I am good with my hands and, anyway, how hard can it be?’ Although we cannot prevent them from doing so, the staff strongly advise against the ‘Do It Yourself’ fitting of solid fuel stoves for a number of reasons.

Firstly the Regulations

This kind of projects are set out in Building Regulations, as the law does require certain standards to be met and, indeed, that a ‘Competent Person’ should be employed. The Government’s own leaflet on the subject states that work not completed under the regulations will be illegal and could result in prosecution. But surely rules and regulations are made to be broken? In this instance, there are excellent reasons to comply with the regulations as they are not simply there to keep officials in business (as others seem to be!) nor do they exist to allow a group of individuals to charge more.

One advantage of using a qualified professional to install your multi fuel burner or wood burning stove is they can deal with the Building Regulations without you needing to deal with the local authority direct. Although this obviously makes things simpler for a householder, there are still more fundamental reasons for keeping to the rules.

Fire and Air 

In January 2014, the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service recorded a total of 17 house fires were attributed to chimneys and wood burning stoves in 2013 increase from 2012).

One of the main problems they identified was stoves not being fitted by a competent installer. Multi fuel burners and wood burning stoves get extremely hot and their flues can reach temperatures of up to 600˚C. Every stove comes with specifications for distance from combustible materials to ensure this heat does not transfer and create a fire hazard. Even the incorrect siting of a metal bracket can transfer heat to roof timbers or wall panels. Several Fire and Rescue Services have also produced a leaflet for owners of thatched houses explaining the cause of most fires in such homes are caused by heat transfer.

HETAS

The foremost professional body for stove installation, ensure their members understand the problems caused by the intense heat of wood burning stoves and their flues. Considering this alongside the threat posed by naked flames and by carbon monoxide, correct installation is the best way of ensuring the safety of you and your family.

It’s not just about the “physical act” of putting your burner in, a professional installer will also be able to understand the most effective method of fitting your stove. Air flow is an essential part of a stove’s function: if the fire is not fed enough air, such as in a modern, sealed room, it will not function correctly. For this reason, any wood burning stove producing more than 5kW of heat requires an additional air vent. Equally, chimneys and flues have to be carefully designed or adapted to ensure the correct draw removes any exhaust gases. Any error could result in smoke and carbon monoxide ‘spilling’ into the room and problems with inefficient use of fuel as well as keeping the fire alight.

An obvious mistake that the uneducated installer would make is to attempt to reduce the size of the flue part way up, perhaps from 8 inches diameter down to 6 inches. This would result in an eddy of smoke and gases, which would then cool and fall back down into the stove and room. Finally, another compelling reason for using a competent professional, such as a HETAS member, is to comply with the possible requirements of house insurance policies and the stove manufacturer’s warranty. Stovax, for example, the makers of the ever-popular Stockton 5 wood burning stove or multi fuel burner, state on their warranty terms “It is a condition of the Extended Warranty that the installation complies with relevant Building Regulations and the rules in force, and is carried out by a suitably trained and qualified individual (HETAS registered)”. In any case, should you want to sell your home at some future point, a knowledgeable solicitor will ask to see suitable certification of both the installation of the stove and subsequent servicing by an appropriate professional.

Why Failing to Have Your Woodburning Stove Professionally Installed Could Cost You Dear

Chris Chubb ACII, Managing Director of Chubb Insurance Brokers, Bournemouth, kindly passed on this advice:

“It is wonderful to enjoy the warmth of a solid fuel stove but do take care if you use a non-professional installer or you decide to install yourself. Using a professional installer is always best practice but many people do not realise that if you do not use one, you could invalidate your household insurance. Many household policies, particularly where the house is of non-standard construction contain a clause excluding fire damage unless you can show that all chimneys and flues to solid fuel stoves, multi fuel stoves & boilers have been professionally installed. There may also be a requirement that chimneys are lined in accordance with approved document J Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems of the Building Regulations.

“If you are about to undertake a project without using a professional installer, notify your insurer. You should ask them if any policy restrictions will apply and then keep a record of the exchange with them in case you need this in the event of a claim. Our recommendation would always be to use a professional installer.”

Conclusion

It is clear that the installation of a wood burning stove or multi fuel burner is not a matter for an amateur, no matter how talented. Given the overwhelming evidence, you will understand why we were less than enthusiastic when a visitor to our showroom was looking for ‘a bit of pipe’ so he could fit a wood burning stove into his wooden shed! We recommend you visit the HETAS website and find your nearest member so you can have a stove fitted correctly and safely and enjoy the warmth with peace of mind.

If you have any other stove installation questions not covered in this article the friendly staff at Embers heating Studio will be happy to answer them.