How Safe is Your Wood-Burning Stove

Posted on Jan 5, 2012

In my 27 years of being a Nationwide Insurance agent, wood stove has been leading cause of total losses for homes that I have had insured. Some had been improper installation of triple wall pipe or some have been improper disposal of ashes.  I have also seen claims where hot ash or embers has gotten loose and burnt floors and carpets. Fortunately no lives have been lost or no one was hurt.

Each year many lives are lost and numerous homes destroyed by fire because of faulty installation of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces

Many homeowners are installing such auxiliary heating units themselves. Sometimes shortcuts are taken to save expense or time and these shortcuts often result in a disastrous fire.

Below is a checklist that can help you avoid costly mistakes. Please look over this list carefully check each item to assure yourself that your installation meets the required safety standards. This check list does not take the place of a trained professional. It is advisable to have a trained professional inspect and clean your wood stove or fireplace  once a year before you start burning. If you would like a copy of this sent you in a PDF form simply contact me and I will forward a copy.

  • The stove does not have broken parts or large cracks that make it unsafe to operate
  • A layer of sand or brick has been placed in the bottom of the firebox if suggested by the stove manufacturer.
  • The Stove is located on a non-combustible floor or on an Underwriters Laboratories listed floor protector
  • Floor protection extends out 18 inches on all sides.
  • The Stove is spaced at least 36 inches away from combustible material. If not, fire-resistant materials are used to protect woodwork and other combustible materials as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • The stove pipe diameter is not reduced between the stove and the chimney flue.
  • A damper is installed in the stovepipe near the stove unless one is built into the stove.
  • The wood-burning stove is located as close as practicable to the chimney or vent and the stovepipe is as short and straight as possible.
  • There is at least 18 inches between the top of the stovepipe and the ceiling or other combustible material.
  • The stovepipe enters the chimney horizontally through a fire clay thimble that is higher than the outlet of the stove firebox.
  • The stovepipe does not extend into the chimney flue lining.
  • The inside thimble diameter is the same as the stovepipe for a snug fit
  • The Stove pipe passing through a combustible wall or partition is a n Underwriters Laboratories listed stove pipe and installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • The stovepipe does not pass through a floor, closed, concealed space or enter the chimney in the attic.
  • The factory built chimney (Underwriters Laboratories Listed) may be used where a masonry chimney is not available or practical.
  • The masonry chimney has a fire clay flue liner and is in good repair.The chimney flue lining is not blocked by overhanging tree branches, bird nest or other obstructions.
  • The chimney flue lining and the stovepipe are cleaned regularly.
  • A metal container with tight fitting lid is available for ash disposal.
  • The company insuring the building has been notified of the installation.
  • Fire emergency procedures have been established and are know by all occupants of the building.

This again is just a check list for your own information and does not take the place of a trained professional. Always have a train and qualified professional woodstove installer or chimney sweep clean and inspect your wood burner once a year.

  • Source of checklist, Nationwide Insurance Loss control information Boucher