Do you have a traditional fireplace in your home but are starting to see the positives of buying a wood burning stove? If so, you might be wondering if it’s possible to install one into your existing fireplace.
Failure to properly install the stove pipe can cause creosote to leak out of the pipe and can be a very unpleasant experience. The male end of the stove pipe for wood burning should always point down and/or pointing at the stove. Also, the wood stove pipe should always be inserted into the collar of the wood stove outlet. Inserts & Factory-Built Fireplaces. Do not install a wood stove – whether freestanding or insert type – into a factory-built fireplace and chimney system, unless the insert you are using has been tested and listed for that systemand in the installation of that particular stove is approved by the manufacturer of the chimney system (not just by the stove manufacturer). Observe your stove's clearance rating when picking a suitable spot. Wood stoves can get very, very hot during use. Radiating heat from the stove can pose a hazard to nearby walls and furniture, so wood stoves generally have a specified clearance - a minimum safe distance between the stove and nearby floors and walls.
The good news is that installing a wood burning stove into an existing fireplace is often a straightforward job. You just need to ensure you have the correct:
- Chimney type
- Flue diameter
- Fireplace opening size
- Stove heat output
- Room ventilation
- Hearth size and thickness
Read on to find out more about how to fit a wood burner in your fireplace!
What to Know Before Installing a Wood Burning Stove in an Existing Fireplace…
Whether you are opening a fireplace especially for a wood burner, or have an empty recess ready to go, consider these things when installing your stove…
Pictured: Firefox 5 Wood Burning / Multi Fuel Stove
Chimney and Flue Size
You can only fit a wood burner in your fireplace if it has a class 1 chimney. If you had an open solid fuel fire previously, this should be the case anyway! If you are replacing a gas fire, check to make sure it isn’t a class 2 or pre-cast flue, as these won’t be suitable for a stove.
Next, you want to check the diameter of your fireplace flue. It is very important that your wood burner is connected to the correct size flue or flue liner – if it isn’t, it will not only perform badly, but won’t be safe either.
Most stoves of up to 20kW need a minimum of a 6” flue diameter. If you have a DEFRA approved stove and your manufacturer says it is safe to do so, a 5” flue can also sometimes be used.
You can find out more about what flue you need for your stove here.
If your fireplace chimney is smaller than the required flue diameter for your stove, it won’t be safe to install one. You will have to watch out for any cracks, too – even if you are installing a flue liner, they will have to be repaired.
For chimneys that aren’t suitable for use with a stove for any reason, you do have an alternative by installing a twin wall flue. See how they can help you have a stove without an existing chimney here.
- You must have a class 1 chimney
- Be sure to check the diameter of the flue in your existing fireplace before you buy your stove
Distance to Combustibles
If you are fitting your stove into an existing fireplace chamber, you need to make sure it is big enough to allow for the required distance to combustibles – this means it must be the stated distance away from anything like plasterboard or wallpaper that has the potential to catch fire. The specific required distance is different for every stove, so check the installation manual before fitting yours.
If the fireplace is made of only brick, stone or other non-combustible material, there is no legal regulation on how far away the stove needs to be. However, performance of the stove might be affected if there isn’t enough space to allow air and heat to circulate.
If you have messy brickwork in your fireplace, you can easily neaten it up for your stove with one of our fireplace chambers.
- Measure your fireplace chamber to see how well your stove will fit inside it
- Ensure there are no combustible materials within the required space around the wood burner
Stove Heat Output
Stoves are significantly more efficient than fireplaces and can give out a lot of heat!
Even if you have a big fireplace opening for your wood burner, that doesn’t mean you should fill with as large a stove size as possible.
Use our stove calculator to work out what heat output is best for your room to avoid it getting too hot.
- Make sure you are choosing the correct heat output when putting a stove in a fireplace
Stoves need air to be able to work. When they are placed in a room without enough ventilation, you can experience all kinds of issues, such as smoke failing to rise out of your chimney and difficulty getting your fire started.
If you are putting a wood burner in a traditional fireplace, make sure you check the air permeability of the room. If it is too low, you might need to fit a small ventilation brick somewhere.
You can find out more about log burner ventilation here.
- Check that your room has adequate ventilation to place a stove in your fireplace
Stove Hearth and Surround
When putting a wood burner in a traditional fireplace, you need to follow the correct regulations when it comes to the hearth you use. As your stove will likely be a different shape and size to a traditional fire, don’t assume that it will still be suitable.
Stove installation regulations require that hearths that reach up to 100°C should:
- Extend at least 300mm to the front and 150mm to both sides of the stove
- Have an area of at least 840 x 840mm
- Be at least 12mm thick
- Be made from non-combustible materials
If the hearth temperature exceeds 100°C, it should be a minimum of 250mm in thickness.
For very old fireplace openings, make sure there are no cracks in the hearth if you plan on reusing it – stoves throw out a high level of heat, and cracks can quickly become an issue.
We have more information about stove installation regulations here.
You might also have an old fireplace surround you want to keep for your wood burning stove. If your fireplace opening is big enough and it is made from a non-combustible material, there is no reason why you have to replace it. However, a fireplace beam is often preferred.
- Measure the hearth of your fireplace to make sure it is the correct size for a stove
- If the hearth is too small, damaged or not a suitable material, replace it with a new one
Can You Open Up an Old Fireplace For a Wood Burner?
If you have a completely boarded up fireplace, or maybe a gas fire in a recess, it is possible to open it up to fit a stove inside. However, again, this will depend on a few things.
First of all, it’s important that the fireplace opening size is big enough to accommodate a wood burner. Unfortunately, you might know exactly how big the builders opening to your fireplace is until you get to work knocking it through!
The exact fireplace opening size you need for your wood burner depends on what size stove you want. You need to be able to leave enough space around the stove to provide the required distance to combustibles and to ensure an adequate air supply is available to the stove.
If your fireplace opening is on the small side, don’t worry – take a look at our range of small stoves to find something that will fit in nicely!
Remember, if your fireplace has been boarded up for some time, you will also need to check that the chimney is in a good working order. You will need to ask a chimney sweep to clean it and inspect it to make sure there are no cracks. Traffic spirit cracked. If there is no chimney liner, consider installing one to make your stove as efficient and safe as possible.
Find out more about why your stove needs a flue liner here.
Are you looking for a wood burner to fit into your fireplace? Take a look at our fantastic range online at Direct Stoves – all with free delivery and finance options available.
You can find more stove installation advice and buying guides on the Direct Stoves blog…
Can I Install a Wood Burning Stove in a Conservatory? What Do You Need to Fit a Log Burner? Log Burner Fireplace & Surround Ideas
Wood burning stoves work by using the metalbody of the stove to absorb the heat from the fire inside and radiate that heatout into the room.
As a result, sufficient distance must beprovided to any nearby objects, and more clearance must be provided tocombustible objects than non-combustible objects.
Protection can come in form of decorativefeatures such as stone effect to help create a backdrop to a stove.
Wood stoves are commonly placed up againsta wall in home, and so what should be put behind a wood burning stove?
Wood Stove Installation Cost
Anymaterials placed behind a wood burning stove should be fire resistant and mustmeet offset distances in line with your local and/or national buildingregulations. Brick and stone are a common materials to use behind a wood stove,while many stoves can be purchased with optional heat shields to help reduceclearances.
Our own wood burning stoves were installedwithin existing masonry open fireplaces and so we’ve explained in more detail belowwhy brick is a great material to put behind a wood stove, as well as discussingwhat other materials can be a good choice.
We’ve also discussed what other optionsthere when it comes to helping protect the wall behind a stove, includingbuying stoves that can come with optional heat shields, and using products suchas a fireback.
What To Put Behind A Wood Burning Stove?
Wood burning stoves are commonly installed within existing open fireplaces because, not only can a stove help to improve the heat output compared to open fires, but a chimney provides a suitable pathway for installation of a flue, and a suitably sized hearth fit for a stove is often provided.
In many cases an existing open fireplacewill be able to accommodate a wood stove without the need for any structuralchanges.
Open fireplaces will also have fire-resistant materials lining the firebox.
Many traditional fireplaces (like ours)will have a brick back and surround for the firebox.
Along with stone, brick is a very commonmaterial to be used behind a wood burning stove. Its heat-resistant propertiesmeans that it won’t combust or be damaged as a result of the heat from a stove.
Brick can also retain some of the heatgenerated by a stove and can continue to radiate out that heat long after afire in a stove has gone out.
As brick is a fire-retardant material, astove can typically be placed closer to brick walls compared to combustiblematerials, meaning that a stove won’t stick as far out into a room.
Even if brick if put behind a wood burningstove, sufficient clearances must beprovided to nearby materials in line with your local and/or national buildingregulations.
Wood Stove Chimney Installation
We’ve had two stoves in the familyinstalled within existing open fireplaces.
The material lining the fireboxes of the openfireplaces was brick.
The use of brick allowed for both of thestoves to be installed without any changes required to the existing fireplaces.
However, not all homes will have an existingfireplace to install a wood stove into and so must be placed elsewhere.
Up against a wall on the first floor of ahome is a common location for a stove, but in many cases something will have tobe put behind a wood burning stove toaccommodate it.
Common things to put behind a wood burning stoveinclude:
- Faux panels, such as stone
A common way to help protect the wallbehind a wood stove and create a backdrop for your stove includes using masonry veneer faux panels.
Stone or brick is a common material to use behind a wood burning stove.
These panels help create more of a focalpoint for a room.
The NASD explains that any area within 36 inches of the stove in all directions should be covered.
The NASD also states that using suchprotection behind a wood stove won’tallow you to provide reduced clearances from the stove to the wall.Sufficient distance to combustible material must still be provided.
A firebackis a cast iron object that can be placed behind a stove to help protect a wall.
Firebacks are also very decorative features that can help toenhance the look of your stove.
Wood Stove Setup
You can find the list of firebacks available here.
Fireproof Wall Behind Wood Stove
In many situations when installing a wood stovethere may be combustible materials used within the wall behind the stove.
For safety reasons, much like how a wood stove should be placed on a suitably sized hearth, any surrounding wall behind a stove should also be protected.
Drywall is a combustible material andshould be removed from a wall behind a stove.
This includesremoving it from behind any wall shield used to protect the wall from theheat of the stove, as wall shields can still get as hot on the back of them asthey do on the front.
Wall protection ideas for wood stovesinclude:
- Stone or brick
The NASD website provides information on clearances to walls from wood stoves as well as how far any fireproofing behind a stove should reach from a stove.
Heat Shield Behind Wood Stove
Certain models of wood stove can be boughtwith heat shields that can helpreduce the distance to combustible materials to the rear of the stove.
One of our stoves, made by Clearview, couldhave been purchased alongside an optional rear heat shield, which would haveallowed us to reduce the clearance between the back of the stove and anycombustible materials behind it.
As this stove was installed within anexisting open fireplace with a brick firebox there was no need for a heatshield, as there are no combustible materials located within the firebox of theopen fireplace.
Heat shields aren’t typically too expensivebut can be worth it if it helps push back a stove further against a wall. As anexample, a heat shield for our stove would have cost around $150.
The wall behind a wood burning stove mustbe sufficiently protected from the heat generated by stoves.
Certain clearances must be provided betweenthe back of the stove and a wall in line with local and/or national buildingregulations. Required distances to nearby combustible materials such as drywall will typically be more than distances to non-combustible materials such asbrick or stone.
Many wood stoves are installed insideexisting open fireplaces and a traditional fireplace may already providesuitable protection in the form of a masonry firebox.
Common fireproof wall ideas for behind astove include stone, brick and tiles.
The look of a wood burning stove can beenhanced by using a faux panel (such as a stone veneer look) or using afireback.
A heat shield can be installed on the backof a stove to help reduce the distances between the stove and any combustiblematerials. Heat shields are typically specific to each stove and so must bebought as an optional extra when buying a stove, or can potentially be retrofittedat a later date.