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Keeping Your Wood Burning Stove Safe

Installing a wood burning stove can be an excellent way to add ambiance and extra heat to your home during the colder months. However, proper placement and clearance are crucial when setting up your stove to prevent potential fire hazards. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about what to put behind your wood stove and how far away it should be from walls and furnishings.

Why Proper Clearance Matters

Wood stoves radiate intense heat and can reach surface temperatures of over 600°F. Without adequate clearance, the excessive heat can scorch walls, ignite combustible materials, or even cause a house fire. That’s why manufacturers include specific installation instructions that advise how far the unit must be from various surfaces.

Follow these recommendations carefully, as they are based on scientific testing and designed for your safety. We’ll go over the common clearance distances shortly.

Key Takeaways:

  • Wood stoves get extremely hot and require proper clearance to prevent fires.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines for clearance distances.
  • Proper clearance is crucial for safety when using a wood burning stove.

What Not to Put Directly Behind Your Stove

There are certain items that should never be placed directly behind a wood stove under any circumstances. Doing so blocks proper airflow and creates a fire hazard.

Fabrics and Textiles

Any fabric or textile, including curtains, tapestries, and upholstered furniture should not be located directly behind a wood stove. Fabrics can easily catch fire from the intense heat radiating from the stove. Always keep these flammable materials at the clearance distance recommended by the manufacturer.

Paper Products

Paper materials ignite rapidly when exposed to excessive heat. This includes items like books, magazines, newspapers, and cardboard boxes. Make sure to keep a safe distance between paper goods and the rear of your wood stove.

Wood Surfaces

Wood is combustible, so lumber, plywood, particle board, and wood furniture should not be placed right against a wood stove. The heat can cause wood to catch fire. Leave proper space between the stove and anything made of wood.

Chemicals and Fuels

Flammable substances like paints, solvents, cleaners, and lamp oil should never be stored behind the stove. The risk of explosion is high. These items require increased clearance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Never place fabrics, textiles, paper products, wood surfaces, chemicals, or fuel behind a wood stove.
  • Doing so creates an extreme fire hazard.
  • The intense heat can ignite these combustible materials.

Minimum Clearance Requirements

Manufacturers include a specified minimum clearance that must be maintained behind the stove to prevent fires. Typical distances range from 6 inches to 36 inches. The exact minimum clearance required for your model should be stated in the installation manual.

Here are some common minimum clearance requirements:

  • Unpainted masonry – 6 inches
  • Painted masonry – 12 inches
  • Wallboard/drywall – 18 inches
  • Wood stud walls – 36 inches

If using rear heat shields, these distances can sometimes be reduced slightly. Follow the guidelines in your manual.

Remember, these are minimum clearances, so allowing greater distance is even safer. And maximum clearance is required for more flammable substances like fabrics and paper.

Key Takeaways:

  • There is a minimum clearance distance for what can safely be placed behind a stove.
  • Common minimums range from 6 to 36 inches depending on the material.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s specified minimum clearance.

Ideal Items to Put Behind a Stove

While some items should clearly be kept away, there are certain materials that are perfect to have positioned behind your wood stove.

Stone Surfaces

Stone surfaces like granite, marble, tile, and brick are non-combustible and withstand heat well. Placing these directly behind your stove is safe. The mass of the stone can even help retain warmth.

Cement Board

Cement board provides an affordable and durable non-combustible surface for behind a stove. It is comprised of cement and sand reinforced with fibers. Some brands can tolerate temperatures up to 1,300°F.

Metal Cabinets

Metal is non-flammable, so metal cabinets and shelving are an excellent choice for behind a wood burning stove. This is a perfect spot to store items like dishes, cookware, or canned goods.

Heat-Resistant Paint

Special high-temperature paints are designed to withstand the intense heat from stoves. Use these to treat walls behind wood stoves. This allows placing the stove closer to the wall than with regular paint.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stone, cement board, metal, and heat-resistant paints are great behind stoves.
  • These non-flammable materials won’t catch fire from the heat.
  • They allow safely placing items closer to the stove.

Example Setups Behind a Stove

To give you a better idea of safe setups, here are some ways to effectively use the space behind your wood stove:

Stone Backsplash

Installing a stone tile backsplash behind the stove not only looks great but also safely handles the heat. Granite, marble, or ceramic tiles make an attractive option. Use heat-resistant mastic and grout.

Metal Storage Shelves

Mount non-combustible metal shelving on the wall behind the stove to take advantage of the wasted space. Use this to store cans, pots and pans, or utensils. Just be sure to allow proper clearance between the shelves and stove.

Cement Board with High-Temp Paint

For a budget-friendly option, mount cement backer board behind the stove and coat it with high-heat paint suited for stove temperatures. This provides a durable, inexpensive surface that tolerates heat well.

Brick Wall

Consider using brick or stacking stone to create a heat-resistant surface behind your stove. This material can absorb and retain heat effectively. Just be sure mortar is rated for high temperatures.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stone backsplashes, metal shelves, cement board, and brick walls work well behind stoves.
  • Non-combustible materials paired with high-temp paints create safe setups.
  • These surfaces hold up to heat and provide extra storage space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Instead of leaving empty space behind my stove, can I just install a heat shield?

A: Heat shields can reduce required clearance in some cases, but are not a blanket solution. Unless specifically approved by your stove’s manufacturer, do not rely solely on aftermarket heat shields in place of proper clearance. Follow the official guidelines.

Q: How close can furniture be placed to wood stoves?

A: Furniture needs to remain at the clearance distance recommended in the stove manual, which is typically 24-36 inches. Upholstered furniture containing flammable stuffing should be kept at an even greater distance.

Q: Can I store firewood behind my wood stove?

A: No, it is not safe to store firewood directly behind a wood stove. The intense radiating heat can ignite the wood. Firewood should be kept in a separate spot, ideally outdoors.

Q: What about wall hangings like tapestries or artwork?

A: Do not place flammable wall decor like tapestries, paintings, dreamcatchers or artwork directly behind the stove. Keep these items at the manufacturer’s specified safe distance.

Key Takeaways:

  • Heat shields alone don’t replace proper clearance. Follow official guidelines.
  • Furniture requires 24-36 inches clearance according to the manual.
  • Firewood should be stored separately away from the stove.
  • Flammable wall hangings need significant clearance from the stove.

Maintaining Safety

Wood stoves provide wonderful ambiance and heat, but also require caution and awareness. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended installation instructions, minimum clearances, and safety tips. This ensures your stove is properly positioned to prevent fire hazards. With safe placement and common sense, you can enjoy cozy winter warmth for years to come.

Laura Kassovic

Laura Kassovic, a former engineer at Intel SOC, now dedicates her efforts to mentoring startups in the realms of Wearables and AI. As a co-founder of New Tech Brake, she spearheads a wireless sensing solution enterprise catering to diverse applications including product development, research, location tracking, and people monitoring, as well as asset and cargo supervision. The platform empowers developers to craft an array of innovations such as fitness trackers, temperature-monitored cargo systems, medical trial tools, smart running garments, or even straightforward transmission of unprocessed accelerometer data to cloud-based repositories.

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