How to Compare Steel & Cast-Iron Woodburning Stoves

Written by stephen lilley
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How to Compare Steel & Cast-Iron Woodburning Stoves
Woodburning stoves can be used to heat rooms or just add ambience. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Solid steel and cast iron are two materials used to make woodburning stoves, which can be installed inside or outside of your home. Steel and cast iron, nearly identical in many ways, are two of the most popular materials used to produce woodburning stoves today. These stoves can be used to heat areas or simply add ambience. There are a few things to consider when comparing steel and cast iron.

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  1. 1

    Find out what type of material can be used in your woodburning stove, whether real wood or processed wood in the form of pellets. If you have your heart set on a woodburning stove that burns actual wood, you won't want to buy the pellet-fed variety.

  2. 2

    Examine the conductivity of a steel or cast-iron woodburning stove. While cast iron and steel have a nearly identical rating of conductivity, an organisation called the Insurance Information Institute recommends purchasing a cast-iron stove if you have to make a decision between one of the two types.

  3. 3

    Find out whether the woodburning stove is a "box" or "airtight" variety. Box stoves use air to aid combustion, while airtight stoves use no air at all. Which type you buy depends on building code regulations in your area. Find out about local building codes at your City Hall's building department.

  4. 4

    Determine how your steel or cast-iron stove needs to be vented. Certain models need to be vented into a chimney on the side of your house--either a chimney that already exists or one built during the installation of the stove. Others simply vent smoke and excess heat through heating pipes leading to the outside of your home.

  5. 5

    Consider the required maintenance. Most woodburning stoves made from cast iron have a built-in drawer called an "ash drawer" that will periodically need to be cleaned. As wood and other materials burn, ashes fall through from the stove's interior into the pull-out drawer. Steel stoves typically do not have an ash drawer and will instead collect ashes on the inside of the stove itself.

Tips and warnings

  • Woodburning cast-iron or steel stoves require a number of things to watch out for. Flames or sparks could shoot out of cracks in your chimney or the chimney itself. You need a clearance of 36 inches or more around all sides of your stove to prevent excess heat from building up and starting a house fire.

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