Safety Precautions for Wood-Burning Stoves

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A wood-burning stove can be energy-efficient. It can keep your home warm and comfortable. But wood-burning stoves also can be the cause of home fires and burns, if not installed or used properly. Certain safety precautions are recommended when using a wood-burning stove, to prevent mishaps. More than 100,000 residential fires occur every year and almost 200 deaths are the result of fires started in wood stoves, fireplaces or chimney assemblies.

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Installation

Before having a wood-burning stove installed, a local building permit is required. Professional installation is recommended. If not installed by a professional, the stove should be inspected by a professional. If the stove is not installed properly, pollution and sickness can result. Wood-burning stoves discharge fumes containing carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, which can intensify headaches, sinusitis and asthma. Proper ventilation is also important to prevent the back draft of smoke--and pollutants from entering your home.

Cleaning

When cleaning a wood-burning stove, ashes should be stored in a metal container that is non-combustible and has a tight-fitting lid. The storage container should not be stored near anything combustible because ashes may stay hot for a few days. Ashes must be completely cool before they are dumped for disposal.

Fire Prevention

A wood-burning stove should only be used for burning wood. Charcoal, paper or any other items not recommended by the manufacturer should not be burnt in the stove. Seasoned hardwoods, such as elm, oak or maple, are better to burn than softwoods (fir, pine, cedar) because they burn hotter and with less fumes. When burning wood, a screen should be used to prevent flying sparks, which can land on fabric or carpet and ignite, causing a fire. Although wire mesh screens work, glass screens are recommended because they are the most effective.

A wood-burning stove should also have at least a 36-inch clearance on all sides to prevent scorching or igniting other items and potentially starting a fire. An approved radiation shield, under the stove and on surfaces other than concrete, can also be used to prevent overheating.

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