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Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a summary of the things we get asked most about owning and maintaining a real fire.

Maintenance & Safety


What should I do before a Sweep's visit?

To prepare for a sweep’s visit it is helpful if you:

  • Remove ornaments and other items from your fireplace.
  • Ensure that your cats, dogs and other roaming pets are not in the room as soot is harmful to them.
  • Don’t light the fire!
  • Empty the stove or fireplace of ash and clinkers before we start to save time.
  • Have a power socket available for our vacuum.
How often should I have my chimney swept?

It is recommended that in normal use, chimneys should be swept as follows:

  • Chimneys with solid fuel appliances
    • Smokeless fuels – at least once a year
    • Domestic bituminous coal – at least twice a year
  • Chimneys with wood burning appliances – Quarterly when in use
  • Chimneys with gas or oil appliances – Once a year

You may need your chimney swept up to two or three times a year, particularly if you are using your stove regularly for long periods of time. This also applies if or you are using wood that is not dry, or operating the stove at too low a temperature for extended periods, which is more likely to cause a build up of creosote in the chimney.

Why do I need a carbon monoxide detector?

The new Building Regulations which were introduced in October 2010 require that a Carbon Monoxide detector be fitted in a room whenever a solid fuel appliance is installed.

Why is the glass on my stove going black?

If you have a modern clean burning stove with airwash then the appliance may be designed to burn with clear glass: confirm this with the supplier or manufacturer. If the stove is supposed to be clean burning but the glass gets heavy deposits of tar or soot when burning wood then the problem is usually due to wet wood. The moisture from the fuel is adhering to the glass surface. Test the wood to measure its moisture content; it should be less then 20%, as anything above this means you will not be able to achieve a hot, clean fire.

What maintenance does my woodburning stove require?

All woodburning stoves should be serviced and their flues swept at least once a year. The service would include the replacement of broken or damaged, rope seals, gaskets, firebricks, glass and fire cement seals. All moving parts should be checked in order that they are able to move freely when in operation.

Why do I need a chimney liner?

When a chimney was designed originally for an open fire it was typical for a fire to burn 12kW of fuel per hour and give nominally 2kW into the room. When a stove is fitted, for every 2kW it gives into the room there is less than 1kW of heat going up the chimney. Thus there is insufficient heating of the clay or stone masonry if a stove is fitted without a lining. In this situation it is typical to have tar condensation and an incorrect draught for the stove to work correctly and efficiently. A chimney lining will also prevent smoke and fumes from your fire from leaking into other rooms of the house.

If I don’t have a traditional opening or chimney stack, can I still have a solid fuel fire?

Yes. A solid fuel stove can be fitted, providing that either a pre-fabricated (steel insulated flue) is installed, or a new precast sectional flue is built on the outside or through the building. It is normally best to have a woodburning stove, as a flue or chimney for an open fire will have greater cost and the installation is less efficient.

Stoves and Woodburners

What are the benefits of a solid fuel stove over a traditional open fireplace?

Most solid fuel stoves are approximately 40-50% more efficient than an open fire and allow the user to have control over the rate of burn and heat output to the room. Often a large percentage of the heat generated by central heating is lost from a room where an open fire is present (even when not in use). The installation of a stove will mean that the room is much warmer as the air flow is greatly reduced due to the installation of a register plate and the ability to close the air controls fitted on the appliance.

What heat output do I need for my room?

Height x width x depth (in metres) divided x 14.

This is only an approximate figure and does not take into account the numerous other factors such as; the number of exterior walls, the construction of the building, how well insulated the property is, number of windows within the room or even whether there is a staircase off of the room.

How much does it cost to install a wood burning stove?

If you already have a chimney and no additional building alterations are required, installation cost can be as little as £350, our engineer can confirm costs during a site survey.

If you don’t have a chimney then a class 1 HETAS approved twin wall stainless steel insulated liner is required and installation costs would start at around £1500. Planning permission is not normally required. 

Is My Property Suitable for Wood Fuel Stove Installation?

You should be able to build or convert a chimney, since the most important part of installing a wood fuel stove is the flue vent, which should be designed for wood fuel appliances and have sufficient air movement for the stove to operate properly, existing chimneys can often be used by adding a flue liner.

  • If you live in a smoke control area you should fit a clean burn stove which is approved for use in such areas.
  • You should have somewhere for fuel storage and a local fuel supplier.
  • You need to comply with safety and building regulations in particular Part J of the Building Regulations and Part L related to conservation of fuel and power.
  • Listed buildings or properties in areas of outstanding natural beauty need additional permission from the Local Authority Planning Department.
The Flue Liner

It is important that all the hot emissions from the stove travel up the chimney through a flue, usually with a stainless steel liner, otherwise tar deposits can accumulate in the chimney, or worse, emissions can escape into the property. Building regulations stipulate that a Class 1 Chimney is required, the masonry construction should have at least a 6 inch diameter which is air tight so as not to leak gases. A steel register plate should be used to seal the throat of the stove and to connect to the flue pipe.

Stove Installation and UK Building Regulations

Building Regulations related to stove installation include Part J Combustion Appliances and Fuel Storage Systems and Part L related to conservation of fuel and power. That means that any chimney work including the fitting of the flue liner and or chimney construction is under building control. Often a visual inspection is required to ensure that the chimney is in good order, of proper size and without obstructions. Occasionally a smoke test is required to make sure that the flue is air tight. In addition the stove should be positioned on a plinth of non combustible material which extends around the stove. We recommend approaching the building control department of your local council and Alfred Poppins can do this on your behalf.

Clean Air Act Compliance and Smoke Control Areas

Recent Climate Change legislation requires compliance with Building Regulations Part L related to conservation of fuel and power. If you are located in a smokeless zone there are clean burn stoves which comply with the Clean Air we can recommend the right type of stove and we can still work to your budget.

DIY Stove Installation

Not Recommended!

Whilst it’s an interesting and challenging diy project, incorrect stove installation can be very dangerous, please be aware that hot fumes from the stove are a fire risk if the stove has been improperly connected with the flue or if the flue itself is incorrectly installed, secondly carbon monoxide fumes can cause suffocation, poisoning and death if they enter closed areas with poor ventilation. If you are installing a wood burning stove yourself, you should at the very least install a fire alarm and a carbon monoxide detector and the installation MUST be inspected by your local authority building control to check it complies with building regulations.

I only have a 16” opening in my fireplace. Can I still have a woodburning stove?

If you have an opening that is constructed to the British Standard of 16” wide x 22” high opening, then you can have a small stove which has been designed to suit this size of opening, such as the Stockton 3. Alternatively, many people either enlarge the opening to allow for a larger appliance, or opt for an inset woodburning appliance.

What is the difference between steel and cast iron stoves?

A cast iron stove is slower to warm up but will radiate heat much more evenly, often providing better control. They hold their heat for a long time after the fire has been extinguished. Originally stoves made of steel were less expensive and less sophisticated than those of cast iron. Today this is not really correct and many manufacturers are using a combination of materials to produce a high quality appliance which is both stylish and durable so the difference is really one of appearance; steel stoves tend to be of a more plain design and cast iron stoves tend to be heavier with more patterns in the design.

What is an airwash system?

Airwash is the movement of air across the doors to create a barrier between the burning fire and the glass. In some stove models this air is drawn through the stove to pre-heat it to a higher temperature to give a cleaner glass when the fire is used at a medium or lower temperature.

What is a clean burn system?

Clean burn is a new term and really is a concept to describe the fact that some new designs of stoves are able to burn all the fuel with very low emissions. Also referred to as “secondary burn”, the most common type is where warm air is fired into the stoves firebox just above the normal height of the fire. This allows unburned products of combustion in the smoke to combust. This creates a cleaner burn as less soot is going up the chimney and into the atmosphere, meaning that the stove is more efficient as you get more heat from your fuel.

What does DEFRA Approved mean?

This approval allows you to use the stove with dry wood only, or approved smokeless coal, in a smoke controlled area. These restrictions are usually placed in heavily populated urban areas, normally larger towns or cities.

Do I have to have a DEFRA Approved stove?

If you live in a smoke controlled area and wish to burn wood then yes you do, otherwise you will be breaking the law.

What fuel can I burn on my multifuel stove?

A multifuel stove can burn wood, coal, smokeless fuels and also peat. Before purchasing a fuel it is important to check the manufacturer’s instructions which will inform you which fuels are prohibited for use within your particular appliance.

How do I know if the wood I burn on my stove is dry?

If the wood is dry it will have cracks which reach to the core of the wood often big enough to fit a coin in. The bark will usually be able to be peeled like an orange, either easy or reluctantly. If the wood is dry then the flames will burn translucent with some blue flames and leave a large quantity of embers which will burn with tiny charcoal flames whilst the stove is hot. It is possible to buy wood moisture testers to measure how dry your wood.

Can I burn my solid fuel stove with the doors open?

Depending upon the model of the stove chosen the answer is usually yes, but there will be a dramatic reduction in appliance efficiency, unless the appliance has a damper fitted. We would recommend checking the manufacturer’s instructions for details on individual appliances.

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