Installing a solid fuel stove during the winter months is a dream for many. A wood burning stove or log burner as they are sometimes known adds warmth and character in the home. In writing this article I am determined to resist the use of obvious puns. So I won’t say that it is about a ‘burning issue’ or a ‘hot topic’ and I will not ‘fan any embers’ or ‘rake over any coals’. Suffice it to say that in recent years there has been a marked increase in householders choosing to install solid fuel stoves. This prompted the Herts Technical Forum to produce guidance on this subject, to make people aware of their legal responsibilities and the important safety issues relating to the Building Regulations.
The main point to make is that persons who install a solid fuel stoves (potentially lethal appliances!) need to be competent to do so. In other words, they need to be familiar with the technical requirements of the Building Regulations (outlined in Approved Document J) and specific manufacturers’ advice relating to the particular stove being fitted. Installers who are registered with a government approved ‘competent persons scheme’ such as the one administered by HETAS are deemed to be able to certify their own work. Just like GasSafe is the governing body for gas installers, HETAS is the governing body for solid fuel installers. Installations by others, including DIY work, necessitates that the building owner obtains Building Regulations approval so that the work and associated specifications may be checked for compliance by the local authority building control service.
Choosing between Solid Fuel Stoves?
Simply choosing a solid fuel stove is itself fraught with potential hazards. The market has a daunting selection of products with a huge variation in style, price and output. In amongst the cheaper end of that range is a proportion that should be avoided – those without any accredited testing for safe operation or efficiency. Some are falsely claimed to be CE marked. This should be an indicator of a safe appliance but often just stands for ‘Chinese Export’. To comply with Building Regulations, stoves need to have been independently tested to British Standard BS EN 13240. It’s mandatory for all manufacturers to apply CE marking and to draw up a declaration of performance for their products. Whilst not a building regulations issue, it is good advice to choose a stove with a heat output to suit the room. It’s a common error to oversize the stove and find that you have converted a lounge to a sauna!
Stoves Inspection and Testing
If the stove is going to discharge combustion products to an existing flue or chimney then it’s essential that someone with necessary experience carries out a thorough inspection and appropriate tests to ensure that it is fit for purpose. Sometimes an old flue will need to be relined and the compatibility of the lining system selected and the manner in which it is fitted is crucial. In most cases, it will be necessary to install a permanent air supply to the room as without this a burning stove in an oxygen-depleted atmosphere could start to emit carbon monoxide with potentially fatal consequences. The mandatory installation of a carbon monoxide detector in the room provides a secondary safeguard.
Following installation, the installer must take responsibility for carrying out a commissioning process that includes a final check of the appliance and flue and appropriate tests to show that it operates properly under normal conditions and does not leak any combustion products into the house. Most Building Control Surveyors ask for a copy of a commissioning certificate before signing off the work as satisfactorily complete. If the installer is not registered with a competent persons scheme, or you are installing the stove yourself, the alternative way to gain approval is to apply to your Local Authority Building Control Office . If you live in Hertfordshire you can apply on our Apply Here page on this website by submitting either
A Full Plans application, which will include full details and specifications of the stove and associated information to demonstrate compliance; or
A Building Notice submission that does not require details and specifications, although we may request these when the work starts.
There I got through without a single pun – grate!
by Trevor Clements MRICS
For more detailed guidance on selecting, installing and commissioning solid fuel burning stoves, please see our technical guide and also our helpful guidance notes….