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CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CHIMNEY COMPONENT DEFINITIONS
CHIMNEY FIRE ACTION / PREVENTION
COMBUSTION GASES & PARTICLE HAZARDS
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
FLAME COLOR, BLUE vs YELLOW COMBUSTION
HEATING SYSTEM INSPECTION
HOME HEATING SAFETY
ODORS & SMELLS DIAGNOSIS & CURE
SAFETY RECALLS CHIMNEYS VENTS HEATERS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
WOOD, COAL STOVES & FIREPLACES
WOOD STOVE SAFETY
Woodstove fire clearance distance specifications: This article describes safety distances required between wood stoves and coal stoves and the nearest combustible surface.
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Watch out: Check with your local fire marshall about local building code requirements for fire-clearance distances before installing and using a wood stove, coal stove, or other auxiliary heat source. Making a mistake can lead to a dangerous building fire.
Our photo (above) shows an unsafe wood fireplace installation that lacks adequate clearance from combustibles. Notice also that the connection between the fireplace top and the flue is upside-down and that considerable leakage has occurred out of the flue onto the fireplace top.
Some basic rule of thumb fire clearances for woodstoves are shown in the sketch at left. (Click to enlarge the image).
In most jurisdictions a building permit and fire safety inspections are required before a wood stove or coal stove can be installed. But we often find that a permit was not obtained and no inspections performed.
Typical clearance between a wood or coal fired heater and the nearest combustible surface is 36" unless approved heat shields have been installed.
The free-standing fireplace (photo at page top) is less than 12" from wood paneling which is in turn installed on a wood-framed wall - this is an unsafe installation that should not be used.
Warning: even when a wood or coal stove has been properly installed there are other fire and burn hazards, such as placement of kindling, papers, or furnishings too close to the appliance, chimney fires, and combustion air or (with coal stoves) carbon monoxide hazards.
See Wood Stove Inspection Checklist for a safety checklist provided by State Farm® Insurance.
Examples of Unsafe Fire Clearances for woodstoves
Above we illustrate two egregious examples of wood stove installations. The Jotl type woodstove (above left) is installed half in a weird (and improperly constructed) fireplace and half standing on carpeting.
The odd shape of the fireplace was creative but we suspect that it may not have performed well - another reason for adding the woodstove. This is an unsafe installation.
Placing a woodstove in a living room next to the couch (above right) is asking for a fire.Readers should also see FIRE CLEARANCES for MASONRY CHIMNEYS and FIRE CLEARANCES, METAL CHIMNEYS and FIRE CLEARANCES, SINGLE-WALL METAL FLUES as well as FLUE VENT CONNECTORS, HEATING EQUIPMENT. The process and temperatures under which wood deteriorates and becomes more readily combustible is also discussed at SOLAR COLLECTOR WOOD HOUSINGS.
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