Add Heat and Character With a Wood Stove

by Carmen Corbin on January 19, 2012

During the chill of a winter snowstorm, it would be comforting to know that you have an alternative heat source in case the electricity goes out and you’re snowed in for a few days.  Installing a wood stove might just be the answer.

Types of Wood Stoves

Today’s wood stoves today are not only efficient heat producers, but also come in many attractive styles and colors.  Cast iron is the preferred material – with a plain, painted or enameled surface – and many models have a clear side for fire viewing.  A front or side door opens up for easy wood loading, and a stove pipe connects the wood stove to your chimney.  For a touch of elegance, consider a stove with polished soapstone inserts.  Not only does the natural stone add a decorative element, but soapstone is an excellent radiator of heat (visit for examples and more information).

Floor, Wall and Chimney Considerations

Flooring:  The floor base that your wood stove sits on must be made of a non-combustible material such as ceramic tile, concrete or stone (marble and slate are attractive options).  This type of surface also allows easier clean up of wood debris and ash pans.  If your room consists of carpeting or hardwood, just cut out an area for the wood stove, and have a home improvement professional install the new base.  According to, the floor base area should extend a minimum of eight inches away from the stove, and 18 inches away from the loading door(s).  Be sure to leave extra room for a fireplace tool set and wood basket.

Walls:  Nearby walls should also be covered with a non-combustible material like brick or stone, even if you are using a rear heat shield on the back of your stove.  The unit should be placed between 8-36 inches away from the wall (consult with your heating contractors for their specific recommendations).

Chimney:  Regardless of whether you have a masonry chimney or a metal/prefab one, you’ll want to have it inspected before installing a wood stove.  In addition, special types of inserts are required when operating a wood stove with a metal/prefab chimney.

Other Stove Options

For small amounts of zoned heating, a pot belly stove is a quaint (and smaller) option for heating with wood.  If you like the look of a wood stove, but don’t wish to deal with the wood, gas operated stoves are also on the market.  On a larger scale, heavy duty wood stoves capable of heating your entire home (often placed in basements) can be either used as the sole heat source or in conjunction with a gas or electric heating system.

For more information on using a wood stove in your home, call or visit your local heating service or home improvement contractor.

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