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A Guide to Choosing the Right Wood-Burning Fireplace

A Guide to Choosing the Right Wood-Burning Fireplace

Aside from a campfire, wood-burning stoves or fireplaces are among the oldest methods of keeping warm at night. In fact, people started using them to heat their homes back in the 1500s, and they’re still a common heating option worldwide. In the US, those who experience extremely cold winters use wood stoves to keep their homes warm. With this guide, choosing the right wood-burning fireplace will be no problem for you at all.

How Wood-Burning Fireplaces Work

Wood-burning fireplaces are usually steel, cast iron, or stone, and they all consist of the following elements:

  • Stove: This is where you light the fire. The heat from the stove warms the surrounding air in the room.
  • Damper: The damper allows you to control and adjust the airflow into the stove. Airflow determines the fire size and the overall heat output as a result.
  • Chimney: The chimney draws the smoke from the fire and takes it outside the house.
  • Baffle: Baffles speed up the combustion time of the gases in the fire. These are essential because partially combusted gases are damaging air pollutants.

Wood-Burning Stove Efficiency

Traditional open-flame fireplaces are picture-perfect additions that let you enjoy the warmth of the fire inside your home, but they’re incredibly inefficient. In fact, most of the heat escapes before it can warm up the room. As a result, you end up burning more wood to get the desired room temperature.

On the other hand, wood-burning stoves are a much better option. Although old wood stoves have a less-than-desirable reputation, new stoves burn efficiently without venting smoke and other air pollutants inside your home as a result of new and improved standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Types of Wood Fireplaces

There are two types of wood-burning stoves: catalytic and non-catalytic stoves. They’re both great options, and they meet all necessary environmental standards. However, the main differences lie in their heat output and maintenance requirements.


Non-catalytic wood stove options are cheaper than their catalytic counterparts and require a lower level of maintenance. However, they’re not completely hassle free. Non-catalytic stoves tend to emit slightly more emissions, but they still stay within EPA standards. While these options don’t require as much cleaning, the heat can cause damage to the stove elements over a number of years. Therefore, you can expect to replace parts occasionally.


Catalytic wood stoves contain ceramic honeycomb-shaped pieces that burn the gases and particles from the fire. Fortunately, catalytic stoves can burn the pollutants before they escape, and they produce more heat and fewer emissions as a result.

The boost in efficiency is one of the benefits of installing a catalytic wood stove. However, they do require significantly more maintenance. For instance, the combustion piece needs regular inspection, frequent cleaning, and occasional replacement. The combustion piece may last six or more seasons if you properly use and maintain your catalytic wood stove.

To maintain it well, you should clean it at least every two weeks during the cold months. Additionally, regular chimney and stove inspections are imperative for upholding safety.

Installing a Wood Stove

If you’re looking to install a wood-burning stove in your home, you should consider a few things first. Believe it or not, the fireplace’s location in your home and the room size are essential considerations when deciding on stove installation.


The room size should dictate the stove size, and choosing the right stove for your desired space is essential for proper heat distribution. For example, a small fireplace in a large room may not provide adequate heating for the area, and a large stove in a small space may overheat the room too quickly.


Aside from the size, choosing the ideal location for your wood-burning stove is also important for proper use. You should put the fireplace in a well-insulated area on your main floor. Moreover, it should be in the middle of that room. This way, the stove will heat the surrounding areas evenly and efficiently. Consider drawing out a floor plan to ensure your space will be functional after installing the wood-burning fireplace.

Safety Concerns

Safety is one of the most crucial things to consider when installing a heating element within your home. Of course, you should always ensure enough clearance around the stove to avoid a potential fire hazard. Furthermore, be sure to keep curtains, rugs, blankets, and any other flammable items away from the fireplace. Aside from clearance, there are a few more safety concerns to consider.

Protect Your Home

Protecting the walls and floors near the stove helps reduce the risk of an unwanted fire inside your home. Fascinatingly, non-combustible floor pads keep stray ashes and sparks from burning your floors. Common non-flammable pad materials include brick, concrete, ceramic tile, etc.

As for the walls, it’s best to cover them with a heat shield to prevent burning or melting. Typically, this protection is sheet metal and is best to have installed by a professional, as they’ll know the requirements for heat shields.

Chimneys and Stovepipes

One of the most vital parts of a wood-burning fireplace inside your home is the ventilation system, which consists of the stovepipes and chimney. If you have an existing traditional fireplace, you should consider wood fireplace inserts for sale and use the space. On the other hand, you’ll need a chimney system if you don’t have one. Hire a professional chimney company to install or do any necessary repairs to your system, as they’ll have experience and expertise you can trust.

Maintaining Your Wood-Burning Stove

Although professional inspections, repairs, and chimney cleanings are necessary, not all fireplace maintenance requires a professional. For example, you should remove the ash from the stove regularly, but you don’t need to do so after every fire. In fact, an inch or so of ash on the bottom helps keep your fire burning longer.

With that in mind, you should know that ash and creosote buildup can increase the potential for a fire hazard. You should always remove all ash and have your chimney cleaned at the end of each cold season.

Using this guide to choose the right wood-burning fireplace can save you time and energy as you decide to install a wood stove. Whether you choose a catalytic or non-catalytic option, you won’t be disappointed by the supplemental heating. Although this type of fireplace isn’t ideal for everyone, it’s one of the most efficient ways to have an authentic wood fire inside your home.

A Guide to Choosing the Right Wood-Burning Fireplace
Allan Quezada
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