The 5 Best Building Practices When Installing a Fireplace or Wood Stove
It’s probably easy to imagine how much you will enjoy the wood stove or fireplace being installed in the house you’re building. What many homeowners don’t realize is that maximum enjoyment of these appliances occurs only if the best possible practices are followed during the building process. The placement of a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove largely determines whether it will backdraft when the exhaust fan in the kitchen is on or whether it will smoke when lit. Much time and effort among experts in the fireplace industry has gone into determining how to prevent fireplace and wood stove problems through smart installation design. The following are the five best practices for fireplace and wood-burning stove installation:
1 – The location of your fireplace or wood stove should be on the inside of the building’s main structure. Fireplaces are frequently installed on an outside exterior wall, and the chimney is often a pop-out structure. In cold climates, this positioning of the chimney creates difficulties. What happens as temperatures drop is that a cold column of air fills the chimney that’s located on the home’s exterior. Getting a fire started will be difficult due to the lack of a proper draft, and the cold air will cause smoking. What people usually do to combat the problem is to create a torch, such as with a rolled-up newspaper, and hold the lit torch up near the flue opening. It may take a repeat of this action before the air in the flue finally warms up enough to allow an adequate draft and avoid frustrating smoking. By placing your fireplace inside the home’s core, you virtually prevent the issue of a chimney packed with frigid air.
2 – The chimney should penetrate the building envelope at or near the highest level. The surrounding air will do a good job of keeping the chimney warm, and starting a fire will be a snap. Because the chimney is above areas of wind turbulence on the rooftop, this positioning also helps to reduce the potentially adverse effects of wind.
3 – Avoid high-volume, uncompensated exhausts. Large exhaust fans can depressurize the natural draft in the chimney and pull cold outside air into the home. The negative pressure prevents the natural, upward flow of combustion gases in the chimney and can cause spillage of smoke into your home. To prevent this effect, avoid installing high-volume, uncompensated exhausts in your home. In addition, do not use your kitchen exhaust when starting a fire in your fireplace or wood stove.
4 – Avoid a very short chimney system. A good draft in your chimney is an essential element of optimal operation. At certain temperatures, a taller chimney produces a stronger draft than a shorter one. Factory-built fireplaces are not a good gauge because their approved minimum system heights are in about the 15-foot range. A chimney height of at least 20 feet is best for fireplaces with large openings. Chimney height limitations are provided by manufacturers of factory-built fireplaces, and they should be precisely followed.
5 – Build the chimney straight. When a fire’s combustion gases have a smooth, straight path through which to exit the home, fireplace and wood stove performance is greatly enhanced. Fires start more quickly, there is less smoking from the fire, and the chimney is also less expensive to clean.
If you are fortunate enough to plan ahead and go with optimal fireplace and wood stove placement, you are fortunate. You’ll not only be able to enjoy the crackle of a pleasant fire on cold days, but you’ll avoid common frustrations that many experience when using their wood stove and fireplace.