According to the National Ag Safety Database, a wood stove can produce interior temperatures surpassing 1,000 degrees F and surface temperatures surpassing 400 degrees F, while a chimney fire in a wood burning stove can reach temperatures of over 2,000 degrees F. But while wood stove heat may increase fire risk over other forms of home heating, wood stoves lower heating bills and you can do a great deal to reduce the risk by learning how to install a wood burning stove safely. To ensure your protection, take the following safety precautions during your wood stove installation.
Select only a safety-tested and certified wood stove. Only purchase a wood stove that has been certified by a recognized safety authority, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) or Underwriter's Laboratories (UL).
Read the manufacturer's directions carefully. Not all wood burning stoves are built alike and it's important to be clear on your particular wood stove's requirements and limitations. For example, you do not want to accidentally block a vent when you place your wood stove because you didn't know the vent was there. The metals in different kinds of wood stoves heat up and radiate heat differently, which means different wood stoves will need to be placed a different minimum distance from the walls, walkways and other objects.
Know your local building codes, as well, and abide by them. You could lose your insurance, face a steep penalty and possibly not be able to sell your home with the wood stove installed in a way that does not abide by building codes. Some jurisdictions may actually demand that you have your wood stove installed by a professional and/or inspected by the building or fire inspector before use. Take all of these requirements seriously. They are not suggestions, and treating them as such could come around to haunt you later.
Mark placement of the wood stove, allowing for sufficient space on all sides from combustible materials. This includes walls, walkways, furniture and floors.
Before placing the stove, prepare the surface. That means laying down sufficient non-combustible material over the floor and along the walls where the stove will be placed.
As mentioned above, you can find the recommended clearances for most wood stoves listed by the manufacturer or (the authority that trumps the other sources) local building codes. If not, you can go by the following recommendations from the NFPA:
With no protection between it and combustible surfaces, radiant wood stoves should be spaced 36" away, circulating wood stoves should be spaced 12" away and stovepipes should be spaced 18" away. These numbers can be cut down to half their number with ¼" non-combustible board installed between it and any combustible surfaces and cut to a third their number with 28-gauge sheet metal put up as a barrier. Avoid asbestos millboard as your barrier, as it poses health and safety hazards of its own.
As for floors, unless the wood stove you choose has at least 4"-legs, prepare the floor beneath the stove with a non-combustible layer of brick, tile or stone. Make sure the materials are placed so that air can still circulate beneath the stove. Masonry bricks are good for this, because you can turn them to face the side. You can find clearance recommendations from the same selection of sources: the manufacturer, local building codes or the NFPA.