Everyone loves the idea of owning a wood burning stove. When you think of wood stoves, you imagine cozy winter mornings spent sitting around the stove with your family. A cup of hot cocoa warming your fingers. The sound of the crackling flames and the smell of burning wood drifting on the breeze outside.
Yet wood stove safety is incredibly important. Many people of younger generations have not grown up using wood burning stoves, so it’s essential to educate them on proper etiquette. Remember to keep these safety tips in mind — even if you’ve been using wood stoves for years.
Clean the Stove Pipe
Cleaning the stove pipe is the most important aspect of preventative care for your wood stove. Over time, the stove pipe can acquire a buildup of tar and deposits from the wood. This stove pipe buildup is called ‘creosote’. If left to accumulate in large quantities, creosote can occasionally catch fire. Your stove pipe should be cleaned and serviced on a regular basis by a professional to remove these fire hazards.
Ensure You Have Proper Clearance
Every wood burning stove requires a certain amount of clearance between it and surrounding objects — particularly combustibles like wood furniture, cushions, or fuel for the fire. It is important not to store anything too close to a wood stove. Stoves get hot! Your things can become fire hazards, just due to their proximity. Check what the manufacturer recommends as a clearance for your stove model and ensure you leave the appropriate distance free of clutter.
Even walls can get too close to a stove. In those cases, you should…
Install a Heat Shield
When wood stoves are installed too close to interior walls, they can cause damage to those walls over time and create fires in the future. Heat shields can be installed to protect your home in these situations. Check with your installer to see if you need a heat shield along with your new wood stove.
Open the Damper
The damper (sometimes called the ‘flue’) is a small device on your wood stove that allows the toxic smoke to escape. The damper is often closed when not in use, to prevent a draft from coming down the stove pipe, bringing unwanted cool air into the house. Even someone accustomed to using wood burning stoves can forget to open the damper!
When building a fire in a wood stove, make sure the damper is properly opened or smoke will spill out into the room. Imagine leaving a new fire unattended for a few minutes, only to return to a room full of smoke! Opening the damper is a simple detail that can help prevent a dangerous situation in your home.
Dispose of Ashes Properly
Did you know hot ashes or embers from a fire can take up to 3 days to cool properly? When you go to clean the ashes out of your wood stove, make sure you use a metal container with a metal lid as an extra safety precaution. Store it a safe distance from combustible materials as well! A plastic or cardboard container can melt and become a fire hazard. Let the ashes cool properly in the container before dumping them out.
Your Wood Stove Can Be A Risk
Wood stoves can create a major risk for fire damage in your home. Even if you follow all the wood stove safety tips that we’ve outline above, all it takes is one forgetful moment! Make sure that your home is protected — and practice proper fire safety.