How Wood Stoves Work

Protecting Walls and Floors from Wood Stoves

You'll need to install a noncombustible floor pad surrounding the base of the stove for a minimum area. Like clearance areas, this minimum is specified by local law. Both the U.S. and Canada require at least 18 inches (45 cm) of pad in front of the stove door and 8 inches (20 cm) on the other sides [sources: Hearth, Wood Heat Organization].

The pad isn't designed to protect your floor from overheating but to ensure that no stray sparks or embers from the stove set the floor on fire. The floor pad can be brick, concrete, slate, ceramic tile or another noncombustible material; in most cases, it may not be installed on top of carpeting. The Wood Heat Organization recommends setting the floor pad so that it's flush with the surrounding flooring -- you don't want to remove a fire hazard but create a tripping hazard.


If your walls are combustible, you can install a shield on a wall to reduce the stove's clearance area. Like the floor pad, the shield should be made of a noncombustible material, such as sheet metal. How it's mounted and what sort of clearance the stove will still require depends on your local building codes, but it's fairly standard for the shield to be on spacers, 1 inch (2 cm) from the wall [source: Hearth].

Another way of reducing a stove's clearance area and still protecting walls is to install a rear heat shield on a stove. This option is not available for every stove, however, as the heat shield must be custom-made for the stove in question [source: Hearth].

Remember, the risk of fire doesn't end with heat shields and floor pads. Fire safety is not just a matter of the surrounding construction materials but also what's in the room. Don't store kindling or wood within the clearance area. Keep blankets, throws, curtains, rugs, cleaning rags or other combustible fabric away from the stove, too. And avoid storing chemical cleaners anywhere near the clearance area.

Finally, even if you've taken all these precautions, you could still damage the walls or floor if you constantly overfire the stove. Extreme heat melts metal, after all, and your heat shield -- while it's very strong -- is only meant to stand up to certain conditions. Burn wood rather than paper, and don't build larger fires than you need.

OK, so you've protected everything from the fire. Now, where does the smoke go? Read on.