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Wood Stove Safety

With the ever-increasing cost of home heating, more and more energy conscious people are installing wood stoves. An undesirable result has been a corresponding increase in the number of wood stove and chimney fires.

To protect your family and property, this equipment must be properly installed and operated.

To reduce the chances of having a fire in your home, follow the recommendations below on proper selection, installation, maintenance and operation of a wood stove.

Selection and Installation

To ensure that your wood stove is safe, particular care and attention must be paid to the selection and installation of the stove.

The stove that you select should be one that is listed by an approved testing laboratory. If you purchase a second-hand wood stove, make sure that the stove does not have any broken parts or large cracks that might make it unsafe to operate.

Furthermore, you should make sure that the stove is not too large for the room or area it will be heating.

Prior to installing the stove, read and follow the manufacturer's installation instructions. The following items should be carefully checked prior to the initial fire-up of the stove.

  • 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 noncombustible floor or an approved floor protection material is placed under the stove.
  • Floor protection extends out 6 to 12 inches from the sides and back of the stove and 18 inches from the front where the wood is loaded.
  • The stove is placed at least 36 inches away from combustible materials, if not, fire-resistant materials are used to protect woodwork and other combustible materials.

Know Your Wood Stove

Once the wood stove is installed, you should become familiar with its parts and their operation. The proper and timely maintenance of your wood stove can reduce the possibility of a fire. The following points concerning your stove pipe and chimney should be carefully checked during the initial set up and maintenance of the stove.

  • The stove pipe shoould be of 22 or 24 gauge metal.
  • The total length of the stove pipe is less than 10 feet.
  • There is at least 18 inches between the top of the stove pipe and the ceiling or other combustible material.
  • The stove pipe enters the chimney higher than the outlet of the stove firebox.
  • The stove pipe does not extend into the chimney flue lining.
  • The inside thimble diameter is the same size as the stove pipe for a snug fit.
  • The stove pipe does not pass throughh a floor, closet, concealed space or enter the chimney in the attic.
  • A UL approved "All Fuel" metal chimney is used where a masonry chimney is not available or practical.
  • The chimney should extend at least 3 feet above the highest point where it passes through the roof and 2 feet above any portion of the building within 10 horizontal feet of the chimney.
  • The chimney flue lining should not be blocked and the chimney flue and stove pipe kept clean.
  • If you connect the stove to an existing chimney, the chimney should be inspected before using the stove.

After Installation

The following precautions should be taken to ensure the greatest amount of safety in your home.

  • Make sure the smoke detectors on all levels of your home are operating.
  • Keep small children away from the stove. A touch to the stove's surface can result in severe burns.
  • Develop and practice an escape plan from all rooms (especially bedrooms) in the house.

Protecting Your Home and Family Depends on YOU!

Source: Office of the Fire Marshall (Maryland).

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