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The Dangers of Putting a Wood Shelf Next to a Stove

Updated April 11, 2017

Wood-burning stoves are an increasingly popular method of providing heat for a house or whole building, whether a home or workshop. In particular, wood stoves are great for heating small rooms, or homes, camps or cabins that are of a relatively small size. In a small room or building, storage space may be limited, and wooden shelving is a good solution to a storage problem. However, siting a wooden shelf near a wood-burning stove obviously carries inherent risks.

Shelf flammability

Wood stoves burn wood, and a wooden shelf is therefore a potential source of fuel for a wood stove's fire. This safety risk can be reduced by ensuring the shelf is very securely installed, and therefore unlikely to fall onto or near the wood stove. If possible, consider an alternative material--such as metal--for the shelving if it must be sited near a functioning wood stove, in order to further reduce this risk.

Items on shelf

Flammable items on the shelf may fall onto the wood stove and, potentially, catch fire. Items that are highly flammable or heat-sensitive create a greater safety risk if placed on a shelf adjacent to a working wood stove. Never store flammable items such as solvents, fuel, or aerosol sprays on a shelf that is situated near a wood stove. Additionally, assess whether this particular shelf is the best place to store flammable items such as paperback books.

Burn risk when retrieving items

There is a risk of a person suffering burns when retrieving items from the shelf while the wood stove is alight. Reduce this risk by retrieving items from the shelf only when the wood stove is not burning, and is not still hot from a recent fire. Remember that the stovepipe, as well as the metal body of the stove, is capable of giving a nasty burn on contact with skin.

Precautions

When installing a wood stove and other furnishings in the room, it is recommended to keep shelving and all other flammable items at least 18 inches from the stove and stovepipe. A larger separation distance will reduce the risk of fire. Ensure all smoke alarms are functioning and tested regularly. Do not place items on the shelf that are likely to roll or fall off. Don't allow children to reach for items from the shelving.

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About the Author

Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.