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Your Complete Guide to Wood Stove Safety

There's nothing quite like a crackling fire in a wood stove while the cold rages outside. That beautiful heat surrounding you, the smell of burning wood, the glow from the flames through the grate - it's just one of those cozy experiences that bring a sense of peace and gratitude.

But as lovely as a wood stove is, it's also a huge hazard when used improperly. Over 4,000 residential fires start from wood stoves annually.

If you want to make sure your home isn't included in that number, keep reading for our best wood stove safety tips!

The Do's of Fire Safety

Most wood stove fires start for predictable reasons - combustible materials too close to the stove, failure to clean creosote from the stove and chimney, burning the wrong kind of wood, and installing the stove incorrectly.

Follow these practices to reduce the fire hazard from your wood stove.

Dispose of ashes correctly.

Always wait until the fire has died to remove ashes. Use a metal shovel and transfer ashes to a metal pail. Dispose of the ashes outside in a metal bin stored away from the house.

Burn the Right Wood

Only burn wood that is dry and well-seasoned. Burning green wood that contains moisture can cause a buildup in chimney pipes.

Make Sure You Have Proper Ventilation

Wood stoves, especially older models, can emit more than 100 different harmful chemical compounds. Keeping the room the wood stove resides in properly ventilated means you won't have those chemicals circulating in your air where you can breathe them in.

Have Your Chimney Inspected

Creosote is a buildup that happens in stoves and chimneys from wood combusting. Unfortunately, it can cause a chimney fire if it ignites. Check inside your wood stove and down the chimney once a month to make sure everything is clean and clear.

Make Sure Your Clearances Are Adequate

Every wood stove has recommended minimum clearances from surrounding walls and combustibles. Make sure yours is installed following these clearances to avoid combustion from heat. If you can't follow clearances, make sure you install a fire shield that can allow reduced clearances.

Install the Stove on a Fire Resistant Base

A wood stove should only sit on a non-combustible surface. Rock, concrete, and brick are all common choices for a wood stove surround.

The Dont's of Fire Safety

It's not just about doing things right, it's also about avoiding practices that increase fire hazards.

Don't Store Combustibles Near the Stove

Make sure wood and other combustibles are far away from wood stoves. Keep blankets, curtains and pillows at least two feet away. Don't lay anything on a wood stove to dry.

Don't Start a Fire With Flammable Fluids

Liquid firestarters that are acceptable in starting a BBQ or campfire should never be used in a wood stove. They can cause residue to be left behind or result in a chimney fire from flames shooting too high.

Don't Leave a Wood Stove Unattended

Fires can start quickly, with no warning. Never leave a wood stove burning unattended if you can help it. If a fire does start, you'll be there to extinguish it right away. If you must leave, make sure you've installed an automatic fire extinguisher that will deploy if a fire starts.

Don't Burn Garbage in a Stove

It might be tempting to dispose of trash by burning it, but you can cause creosote buildup or an out of control fire that can ignite the chimney.

Don't Build a Fire Too Big

Keep fires small and controlled. Aim for a hot, small burn over a larger one. Start a fire small with kindling and continue to add fuel slowly until you have a bed of hot coals. You'll then be able to maintain a constant heat with less fuel.

Choosing the Right Wood Stove

The number one step you can take to ensure you never have a problem is choosing the right one and making sure it's installed right.

If you're installing a new stove, do your research on the ones with the highest EPA ratings available. Understand the parts and workings before attempting to run it.

Make sure it's installed by a professional who can adhere to necessary clearances and ratings.

If you're inheriting a previously installed wood stove, have a professional inspection done to make sure it's all up to code.

Wood Stove Safety Done Right

Here at Quora, we believe that wood stove safety done right includes the AFG Fireball, the automatic fire extinguisher that can stand guard and smother fires before they spread.

Check out the AFG Fireball in our shop, or learn more here!