How Wood Stoves Work

Wood Stove Installation Specifications

First things first: get professional help with your wood stove installation. Problems may not always show themselves right away. However, when a problem does arise, it could be in the form of a house fire. To find a reputable professional, check with the nonprofit organization National Fireplace Institute (NFI) [source: EPA].

You must have a chimney for every stove. If you're installing a stove where you used to have a fireplace, you'll need to know how the old chimney was constructed before you attach the stovepipe. If your house is older, the chimney may not be up to current safety codes.


Placing a wood stove depends on the layout of your home and the lifestyle of your family. Like any space heater, a wood stove heats its direct surroundings, so it works most efficiently if you place it in the space where you spend the most time. A wood stove heats best when it's in the middle of the room [source: Wood Heat Organization]. You'll need to think about the way you use your space and the tradeoffs you're willing to make.

Before you place any stove, you must know its minimum clearance requirements. Stove clearance -- the minimum safe distance between a wood stove and surrounding walls and floors -- depends on several factors:

  • Are the walls and floors combustible?
  • Is the stove is certified? Any new stove must be certified by law, which means it meets certain safety requirements. Antique stoves or home-built stoves are likely uncertified.
  • What is the stove made of?
  • Are you willing to install heat shields on combustible walls?
  • Where do you live? There are different clearance requirements in the U.S. and Canada, and the requirements can vary by municipality as well [source: Wood Heat Organization].

Don't place a wood stove in the basement, where it will lose heat to its immediate surroundings, especially if basement floors and walls are poorly insulated. Using a basement stove to heat the upstairs of your home can often result in overfiring -- building bigger, hotter fires than necessary -- which can damage the stove [source: Wood Heat Organization].

Stove size and room size go hand in hand. A stove that's too large will overheat the room. One that's too small will not provide enough heat; or you may find yourself firing the stove so much that you damage it.

You'll also need to install a floor pad around your stove. For more on floor pads, as well as some tips on protecting your walls, go to the next page.