Installing Your Wood-burning / Multi-fuel Stove
Wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves are becoming more ever popular in the modern home. Your stove will become part of the family. Your stove choice should be an extension of the 'happy you' your refuge after a hectic schedule and ever increasing busy lifestyle. Whether in the hub of the house hold, an open plan kitchen / diner or in the snug of your living room - a real wood-burning / multi-fuel stove will be the beating heart of your home. Gas fires are great and instant, but theres no relationship there. You simply press the buttons and expect without fully understanding the technology involved. Wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves have simple principles and ancestrally a real fire brings a fulfilment and calmness that more modern ways of heating can not.
In the areas that we cover (typically the suburbs) our customers are not relying on their stove to be the sole heat source in their home. Quite often its a boost for their existing or way of keeping the hub warm without the need for using central heating for the whole of the house. For many of our customers its simply the the unrivalled warmth and ambiance created from a wood-burner is why they always wished they had found it sooner.
We're a 2 man team with over 20 years of experience in the industry, we have now chosen to specialise in the installation of wood-burning and multi-fuel stoves into existing chimneys. Our customers take comfort in knowing that from every stage of initial enquiry to survey & every email, phone communication and even on the day of installation you'll have the same person taking care of your unique requirements.
Because we carry out both surveys and installations ourselves we don't rely on office or administration staff or 3rd party contractors. We pride ourselves on a bespoke installation service where communication is key.
Surveys are free, and will usually take place during the day, every Friday. (cut off time for getting on Fridays survey list is lunch time on a Thursday)
The timing of your survey will normally depend on the route of that particular day and we will initially call you on Thursday afternoon with exact timings for your survey on Friday.
Sorry - we don't carry out surveys or installations during the weekend. If arranging a home survey during the day on a Friday is not practical - we have a generic email that we send that asks for specific detail, photographs and measurements. From the information that you provide we should be able to give you a good idea of work detail and costs. Then if you're happy with the price in principle, we'll endeavour to carry out a home survey during an alternative time at mutual convenience.
Areas we cover
Here at Woodchuckers we offer free home surveys in and around St Albans, Watford, Kings Langley, Amersham, Rickmansworth, Northwood, Croxley Green, Chorleywood, Gerrards Cross, Chalfont, Harefield, Ruislip, Pinner, Harrow, Stanmore & Barnet
What size kw stove?
Although the heat from you stove will likely drift through out the house. Your stove should be sized to support only the room it is located in. An oversized stove may spread the heat further but you shouldn't underestimate the heat that they produce and it could make the room of the stove uncomfortable. Just like radiators and original fireplaces are located in in each room of the house you would never rely on just one heat source in one room to support the heating for the whole house.
It is widely excepted that every house with with its modern insulating features such as double glazing, insulated floors, walls and draft excluders etc will have rooms that are too air tight to support a stove that is rated above 5kw. Current regs require stoves that are above 5kw to have a perminant external air vent installed in the room of the stove. (no matter whether it has these insulating features or not) The air vent would usually be installed by core drilling an external wall, then sleeved and a louvered grill on each side. The vent must remain permanently open and unobstructed. (they can not be closed) The size of the vent will depend on the kw of the stove and the environment of the room. As well as stoves above 5kw - a vent will also be required in rooms where a stove is installed in a poor environment or in the same vicinity as an extractor fan. A vent is not the end of the world and usually quite straight forward to install. Theres always a benefit when you have natural air passing through the house but its worth noting the increased potential of draft and sometimes noise from outside a vent may bring. Please bear this in mind when choosing a stove thats above 5kw or that is installed in the same vicinity as an extractor fan or poor environment.
With the above and our usual clientele in mind we usually recommend a 5kw stove. You'll find that 5kw stoves are the most popular stoves on the market. Our showroom that we have recently just 'discontinued' had many of these stoves on display, and just like the way of the world these days we found it increasingly more difficult to stay competitive with some of the heavy hitters online. Our customers would normally love the service, the complete package and piece of mind we offered but would often come back to us showing that they had found the same stove sometimes £300 or £400 cheaper online. It was quite a natural decision for us to go back to Installation only. We now actively encourage you to find the best place that meets your requirements to purchase your stove. We will happily recommend both shops and online companies that can offer a product that best suits you needs.
Wood-burning or a Multi-Fuel Stove?
The choice between multi-fuel and wood-burning is often brought up. Wood will burn a lot better and more efficiently on a Wood-burner rather then a multi-fuel stove. A multi-fuel stove is required when burning coal. Multi-Fuel stoves will have a grate, which allows a constant air flow underneath the fuel bed to support and maintain the burning of the coals. Theres nothing wrong with burning wood on a mult-fuel stove but it will usually burn a lot quicker so you may compromise slightly on the efficiency. Wood-burners won't normally have a grate so can't be used for burning coal. On a wood-burner the wood burns on a 'flat bed'. Wood burns best from the top down and doesn't need the grate and the air flow underneath to support the burn. For my customers I would normally suggest burning wood and if possible kiln dried wood or approved seasoned logs only. But if the stove that you've happened to fall in love with is Multi-fuel only - as long as it meets the spec its fine. However if the stove you've fallen in love with & meets all the spec has a choice of wood-burning only or Multi-fuel and you only intend to burn wood - you should opt for the wood-burning version.
What dimensions should the stove be?
The stove dimensions that you're looking for should suit the opening dimensions of the recess it sits in. In an ideal world your stove will have plenty of air flow around it. A manufacturer will insist on a suitable non combustible opening and hearth that allows for example a min of 4" left and right of the stove and 4" above. For us personally we're looking for closer to 6" (or more) left and right and between 8" and 12" above. So if your opening is 30" wide by 34" high you're looking for a stove thats ideally between 16" - 22" wide by 22"-26" tall. The more air flow around the stove the better it will look aesthetically and the more efficiently it will operate.
My Chimney breast is sealed. What size opening can I achieve?
The achievable opening dimensions will usually depend on the age of the house and the flue construction. Many of the houses in our area are victorian and as for many of the houses built before the 1940's the chimneys are brick built with a 9" - 12" class 1 chimney / flue. For these houses we are interested in the width of the chimney breast, and if the chimney breast is on the ground floor. We would normally expect the chimney breast to be between 50"- 60" wide with an achievable opening width of between 30" - 40". In some cases you can subtract 20" from the width of your chimney breast to get an idea of the original or achievable opening width of a purpose brick built recess. The opening height can differ put we can normally expect the original height to be at around 33". For us 9/10 we would normally always install a new concrete, steel reinforced lintel - its not normally a big effort on our part to alter the height slightly where required. For chimney breasts on upper floors the dimensions can differ greatly. Usually these openings will be much smaller and quite often off centre. Before any of the above is taken for granted and before any products are purchased - we strongly recommend that you take advantage of a free home survey.
What we're looking for on a survey
The minimum that we require is an existing purpose built brick chimney breast with an original flue that runs through the property unaltered with a chimney stack. We can restore where required but we no longer offer new flue systems for single storey extensions or new twin insulated flue systems for houses without existing purpose built chimneys.
Whether you have an existing fireplace that needs updating or your current fireplace is blocked up and plastered over - We can knock out and reform to the original brick opening / recess and make the required alterations to widen and raise where required. When the opening isn't standard at all we can complete extensive works to get it back up to scratch.
Its good practice to sweep and test the flue before committing to any installation but we will always do this regardless on every installation. Where the chimney can be proven to be sound and fit for purpose it isn't always essential to reline the chimney for a stove installation. However, for best practice, efficiency, warranty and guarantee - as a company we only install stoves into chimneys that we have lined. To line the chimney we will require access to the chimney stack. We would hope to access the stack safely with a ladder and roof ladder, and with your average 1930's semi this is often the case. In some cases where the stack can't be accessed safely we will occasionally require scaffold or a cherrie picker. Its not often that these are needed but if they are we will happily put you in touch with a recommended contractor. We can arrange this on your behalf or you may have your own recommendation. Either way you would pay the contractor direct (we do not take any commission)
During the survey we will smoke test the flue if accessible, & we'll check the route of the flue in the rooms directly above and in the loft space. We're looking for an unaltered flue / chimney breast & stack that is in its original condition. We're looking for a stack that is sound with a clay chimney pot. We can normally accommodate when there are remedial works are required to bring this up to standard.
Once we have an idea of the opening dimensions and the type and size of stove you're after we can think about the overall look of the installation. Your stove will need to sit a non combustible hearth that has a prominent change in level from your existing floor. The dimensions of the hearth typically pretrude into the room by 15" and will normally have a width of 48" or 54" (subject to survey) This hearth will normally be in 2 sections - with the second section covering the recess. There are different options for the hearth material but the most popular is slate. Slate provides a natural matt black smooth finish which will suit both a contemporary and traditional installation. It can scratch and mark, but these can be oiled quite easily with slate oil or wd40 to bring up as good as new every time. We prefer slate because its black and unassuming. The alternative is granite. Granite is much more robust but for us its a bit too shinny and blingy even though it can work in some contemporary installations.
Other then slate or granite you can purchase your own slabs for us to cut fit. In the past with used York Stone, Indian Sandstone and a variety of tiles, each really help to create a homely traditional look. Its worth noting that some of the more lighter coloured slabs like marble and limestone can look great as hearths on a modern installation but tend to be quite porous and do not age well.
Chimney Cowls & Flue Terminals
Included within the installation kit we will supply and fit a pot hanging chimney cowl. This cowl screws into the liner then is is fixed to your chimney pot with a jubilee clip. The purpose of the cowl is to minimise rain entering the flue and most importantly to prevent birds from building nests or entering / blocking your chimney. For disused chimneys or flues its a good idea to install a chimney Cap. These are really straight forward to install and if we're working on the same stack and your disused chimney pot is suitable you have the option to purchase any caps in advance and we will install these free of charge on the day of installing your stove.
Also included with your installation kit is a register plate. Each register plate is custom made on site to meet your exact requirements. The register plate is fully fabricated with brackets and heat sprayed black for a tidy finish. The purpose of the register plate with a lined chimney is to prevent any loose dust and debris from your original brick built flue from falling in and around the stove area within the fireplace recess. The register plate will also help prevent any heat loss into the chimney void, keeping the heat produced from the stove in the room for maximum benefit.
Fireplace opening, Chimney Recess, Fireplace chamber
Design & Installation
Whether you have an existing opening thats good to go, or if you require us to open up and expose the original recess, There are a few options available for creating the nicest finish inside the fireplace chamber. Your choice will depend on a few factors but its important to remember that the heat from the stove will encourage its surroundings to expand and contract and some finishes will inevitably crack over over a period of use. Rendering the opening is fine but it wouldn't be unusual to see a couple of hair line cracks appear. Having said that a rendered opening looks good in in a lot of instances and can sometimes look more homely and 'lived in' compared to some of the modern alternatives.
Our most popular finish is a 3 piece painted fire board chamber. The board is cut to your exact requirements on site. We will normally ask you to purchase your choice of paint in advance and we'll paint the the boards as they go in. These boards are A1 fire rated so the chance of any hair line cracks are are minimal.
Your next choice would be to keep the existing brickwork. Sometimes if we open up and the natural brick recess has the correct dimensions we can leave the brick work exposed. For this option we normally find that the brickwork has discoloured over time and can look in bad order with much of the pointing missing. In these cases will will normally spend some time cleaning up the surface dirt from the face of the bricks and rake out all the old pointing. We've found that the bricks don't have to be in perfect condition to look good. Once we re point it will bring them all together leaving you with the most original of openings and a great feature to compliment a period house.
The minimum requirement for a stove installation is a correctly sized non combustible fireplace recess and Hearth. This is the basis for for any overall design. In a lot of homes this is all that's required. The minimalistic look with a painted fire board chamber and a plastered opening. The same stove and surroundings will lend themselves to both a modern or traditional design depending on how they are dressed. For instance if you hang an old painting on the wall and have an old wicker basket of logs next to the hearth this will create a whole different appearance then snazzy over sized mirror with some pink, green and yellow hearth vases.
As mentioned - the above is the starting basis for every installation, even if you intend to have a fireplace beam or a fireplace surround installed. Sometimes you might feel rushed in choosing the right beam or surround and you may not be completely set on the finished interior design of the room. If this is the case, we find its best to start off with the above and that leaves a simple process of installing a beam or a surround at a later down the line with minimal disruption or 'backward steps'
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
When installed, operated and maintained correctly, instances of solid fuel appliance CO spillage are rare, nonetheless the Building Regulations still require all new or replacement solid fuel appliance installations to permanently affix a CO alarm in the room in which the appliance is located.
These stated parameters allow for the earliest possible detection of CO as the combustion products disperse and mix with the air within the room