What type of stove do I need?
To find the best stove for your requirements you will need to consider various questions. Your stove should be chosen with due consideration given to the size of space the stove is being asked to heat. To this you need to add any other personal requirements such as whether you want it to do any water heating, what the installation requirements might be, aesthetic preference, etc. For more in depth information please see our 1st Time Buyers Guide which gives a more detailed breakdown of the important areas to consider.
Should I line my chimney?
We consider it essential to install a low-mass flexible liner into any chimney serving a closed appliance. Unlike an open fire, smoke from a stove is extremely dense and slow moving and must be kept as hot as possible. At reduced temperatures wood smoke condenses to a ‘goo’ of moisture, tar and creosote that can create a serious chimney fire hazard and coal smoke condenses to sulphuric acid which attacks the inner surfaces of the chimney. A liner’s purpose is to heat up rapidly to a safe temperature that minimises or hopefully eliminates these problems altogether but if they do occur they will at least be contained and prevented from damaging the chimney or leaking out at its base.
Can a stove be installed in any situation?
In most instances the building will be suitable, or can be made suitable. However if you require a sectional chimney to be built up there may be restrictions as to where you can situate your stove in order to assure you of a problem-free fully functioning chimney. A stove cannot be treated like a piece of furniture and placed anywhere therefore it is best to seek the advice of a professional who can advise on the installation specifications before setting your heart on a particular spot.
If you have an existing chimney then there is usually no reason why a stove could not be installed unless your chimney has suffered serious damage for some reason. Most houses with open fires have a British Standard Opening which is too small to recess the majority of stoves into. This needs to be removed and the opening enlarged enough to recess the stove properly, all of which is now standard procedure. See our Installation section for further details.
Do I need planning permission for a sectional chimney
to be built?
If a house has no chimney then a sectional twin-wall chimney can be built up. The planning regulations have been relaxed to allow a chimney to be installed into any house provided it does not project more than 1 metre above the roof line without having to seek permission. However if you live in a listed building or designated park land you may still have to apply for approval from the local authority. Also Building Standards must be strictly complied with in any stove and chimney installation. See our Chimneys section for further details.
Can I burn wood and coal together?
Many people do, and seem to be happy with the results. There are one or two points to consider though. The most important is that mixing fuels can significantly shorten the life of the boiler if your stove is equipped with one. Much of the coal now imported into the country has a high sulphur content. Burning wood inevitably produces water vapour. Mix these two things together and you get an extremely aggressive sulphuric acid which will condense onto the nearest cold object it reaches – typically the boiler. If there is no boiler present then it can attack the stove components and flue. It is therefore vitally important to ensure your wood is thoroughly dry before you do decide to mix the two together.
Secondly, a stove that has been optimised to burn wood will not burn coal at the same efficiency. “Multifuel” stoves attempt to get round this problem by allowing you to operate the grate and air controls in different ways to suit the fuel you are burning. This compromise works well enough for many people but can never be as efficient as a “pure” woodburner, or a “pure” solid fuel stove run on the appropriate fuel.
Can I burn wood and peat together?
No problem. Peat is a marvellous fuel for stoves, either on its own, or mixed with wood. It is particularly good for those long, slow burns you need at the “fringe” of the season when you simply want to take the chill off the air. The only drawback is that peat produces a large volume of very fine ash so you’ll need to de-ash the stove at more frequent intervals.
How does wood compare with other solid fuels in terms
of heat output?
It has roughly half the calorific value of coal and its derivatives, but is far more reactive. This is demonstrated when dry kindling is burned; the fuel ignites at a low temperature. You can turn a woodstove up or down according to need and get an immediate response. And wood needs little air to burn completely to a fine ash which gives it the edge in combustion efficiency; the less air you have flowing through the stove the less heat you lose up the chimney.
Which is best, cast Iron or steel?
Steel and cast iron are virtually identical in terms of heat transmission and resistance to ‘burnout’ – the important thing is the thickness and quality of material used. You may want to consider other pros and cons though.
Cast iron stoves can be offered in a range of embellished and coloured enamel finishes. Steel stoves are of necessity plainer in appearance and don’t ever fracture, but they can warp. Cast-iron can develop hairline fractures, particularly if a stove is heated up too rapidly from cold. Both of these problems are rare and clearly indicate that the stove is being misused.
The emphasis is on a good quality stove, cheaper stoves use lower quality material and are therefore more prone to problems regardless of whether they are steel or cast iron. If you buy from a manufacturer with a sound pedigree or take the advice of your local stove agent you shouldn’t have to worry what materials your stove is made from. However do beware of buying off the internet – there are plenty of ‘cheap & cheerful’ products available which are likely to disappoint in the longer term!
Do I need an external air vent?
If your stove is above 5kW in output then yes. Building Standards stipulate that you must have an air vent for any stove over 5kW. In size terms the vent should be 550 mm2 per kW above 5kW (550 mm2 = roughly an inch). Consult Technical Standard Scottish Building Regulations 3.21 for further clarification.
Do I need a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm?
Yes, by law. Since the 1st of October 2013 Scotland’s regulations changed to stipulate that any room served by a closed appliance along with any other high risk rooms which the flue passes through (e.g. bedroom) must be fitted with a carbon monoxide detector/alarm. Click here for further installation details.
I want a central heating stove that will do hot water and heat a kitchen, bathroom and three bedrooms. Can you suggest something?
No! Before that question can be answered you need to measure the length, breadth and height of each room, and jot down other details. Whether windows are single or double glazed. Number of outside walls for each room (a room on a corner with two outside walls will lose more heat than its neighbour with one outside wall.) Finally, note down the type of outer wall construction – timber-frame, 24″ (60cm) stone, or 11″ (275cm) cavity brick.
Take this information to your local stove agent and ask him to ‘short-list’ the stoves he recommends in writing, bearing in mind the fuels you intend to burn.
Whatever you do, don’t buy a central-heating stove “blind” even if the price seems tempting. A wrong choice could result in your sitting room being swamped with excess heat from the stove whenever you try to get the bedroom radiators hot – or else the opposite happens and the rest of the house overheats before your sitting-room is warm. Getting the sums right is the most important part of buying a stove so don’t take unnecessary chances!
Should I fit a cowl? I have a problem with poor chimney draught and smoke coming back into the room.
Chimney cowls are best suited to curing “blow-down” of the type that occurs in certain wind conditions. They may also help temper excessive draught in an exposed site (the Aerocowl has a good track record.) However, if you have problems in “still-air” conditions the chimney itself needs to be looked at closely. Is it correctly matched to the appliance? Is it of adequate height? Is there a blockage?
The other thing to consider is that if the chimney has been out of use for some time it may have become cold and damp, in which case simply bringing it back into service may clear up the problem quite quickly.
You can often speed things up by “priming” the flue. This involves lighting a modest fire at its base with newspaper and dry kindling in a manner that leaks as much heat up as possible. But before you do this check that there is no heavy build-up of soot or you could start a chimney-fire.
If the problem persists call in your local stove agent or chimney specialist.
How often should I clean my chimney?
Your chimney ought to be swept at least once a year, preferably before the heating season starts. However the condition of your chimney is very dependent on how you run your stove and what you are burning. Dry wood with a moisture content of less than 20% produces very little in the way of creosote and tar deposits whereas wet pine is particularly bad for causing a chimney to foul up.
Also if you are inclined to ‘slumber’ the stove over night or for long periods you are likely to have a more significant build up in the chimney since the fuel is not being burned cleanly. We recommend you err on the side of caution when you first start using your stove and from there on you ought to be able to gauge how often to clean it based on the deposits you are getting out each time.
What should I do about heavy deposits of soot in my chimney which cannot be removed by a sweep’s brush?
Assuming you have a brick or stone chimney, your best hope is to free things up with some chemical flue powder – available from your local stove agent or hardware store.
Use the chemical in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and only with dry fuel (moisture neutralises the chemical, rendering it ineffective.) Continue the regime for as long as is necessary and you should find the carbon deposits convert to a loose dry powder that is easily removed.
The problem is more serious if you have a stainless steel chimney or liner since chemical flue powders should not be used with these systems – they can damage the metal. Make sure your sweep uses the special polypropylene brush but if this fails to do the trick you may have to replace the affected components.
Take the experience as a warning that you are doing something seriously wrong which needs to be changed. In particular you should avoid long slow burns.
Why does my new stove smell?
When a stove is lit for the first time the stove paint still has to go through its “curing” process. This means that the stove will give off some unpleasant fumes on the first and sometimes second lighting as it reaches temperature. While this is happening make sure the room is well ventilated and avoid touching the paint as it softens during this process and it is possible to mark the finish.
What maintenance does a stove require?
It is well worth looking after your stove as it will then last you for many years and give relatively trouble free service. If good quality fuel is burnt and the stove is used efficiently then there should be very little maintenance required by the home owner other than occasional replacement of “sacrificial” parts.
These are the various items regarded as “consumables” by the stove manufacturers which are not covered under warranty and which you are expected to replace as and when necessary. They include door glass, door seals, fire bricks, baffle plate, grate bars and log fence. The replacement factor will be very dependent on how well you treat your stove and also what fuel you burn.
Keep the glass clean, do this little and often to stop the build-up of soot and tar deposits. Replace door seals when necessary to ensure you are fully in control of the stove. Glass should also be replaced if there are any cracks.
Firebricks routinely crack when the stove is in use which is not any particular cause for concern. Providing the bricks haven’t crumbled or disintegrated leaving parts the stove body unprotected then they are still doing their job and need not be replaced. However they do wear down and eventually start to disintegrate over time so do keep an eye on them and replace as necessary.
Metal components such as baffle or throat plate, grate bars and log fences are susceptible to becoming warped when subjected to extreme and continuous intense temperature conditions, for example if the stove is overfired on a regular basis or left roaring with the air controls open when.
Obviously you will need to remove the ash as and when is necessary. It is worth retaining a decent bed of ash (say at least 1”) when burning wood in order to trap the embers. This helps to retain the fire’s heart meaning you are burning wood much more efficiently. If you are burning solid fuel then the ashpan must be emptied at least once a day. If the glowing clinkers in the ashpan rise high enough to make contact with the grate bars you will find they turn banana shaped before too long!
The flue, whether it is lined or not, should be swept by a professional a minimum of once every twelve months, and more often if the stove is used constantly such as its part of your central heating system.
I bought a stove on the internet, can you install it for us?
No. We do not offer an installation service at Backwoodsman as we cover such a large and tricky geographical area. Instead we recommend local contractors with whom we have developed good working relationships. However the contractors we use prefer us not to recommend their services to install stoves bought from the internet since these jobs regularly cause problems due to incorrect components being supplied. If you choose to buy your stove from the internet then it is up to you to find someone willing to install it for you.
I can find the stove you offered us cheaper on the
internet, can you match the price?
No! Many things can be found significantly cheaper on the internet and if you are buying books, CD’s etc. then it certainly makes sense as these are cheap items with little in the way to go wrong. Stoves however are comparatively technical products. Installation can be complicated and must be done in accordance with legally binding Building Standards to ensure it is safe to use.
When we recommend and supply a stove we go to great lengths to ensure that our customer ends up with the right stove for the job and with a safe and efficient installation. This means that in most cases we travel to the site at our own expense, assess each job individually, discuss your personal requirements and give advice based on many years of experience, not only of the industry but also of working in a fairly rugged West Highland / island environment. Our emphasis is on providing a quality reputable service and after sales service that can be relied upon if any problems should arise.
You can also be assured that you will be buying a reputable product and be able to get spare parts for any product we sell for at least 20 years (often much longer).
If you buy your stove online and are then delivered incorrect flue components or the stove does not perform as expected then you can suddenly find you are dealing with a “box shifter” from the Midlands with no interest in your personal plight! When you buy your stove from a remote seller then you enter into the contract with them and not a “bricks and mortar” retailer or even the stove manufacturer meaning all sorts of complications can arise should something goes wrong. Often warranties are severely reduced if you buy the stove online, for instance Charnwood offer a 10 year warranty if you buy from a recommended retailer which is reduced to 1 year only if you buy the stove online. In addition to this your remote seller is also responsible for servicing the stove under warranty which you may find they are unwilling to do if you are on Mull and they are in Luton!
Does my stove have to be installed by a HETAS approved
No. Not in Scotland, though many companies are now offering HETAS approved installers.
At Backwoodsman we put more emphasis on ensuring any installer we recommend has time-served experience along with an interest in the subject and a good working knowledge of the current Building Standards. We also work closely with all our installers to ensure that they understand that good practice is just as important as adhering to Building Standards in terms of achieving a properly functioning installation.