Given the right conditions, a wood stove is a safe and inexpensive method of heating your home. In order to install and use a wood stove safely, it is essential to understand principles of thermal conduction and to install the stove, chimney, hearth and heat shield safely and properly. The main rule is to keep everything that is burning inside the stove.
Every wood stove has regulations regarding how far from a wall or other combustible you can install it. Generally, the larger the stove is, the more distance it requires. Installation of a heat shield decreases the distance required between the stove and a wall, because the heat shield decreases the amount of heat that will reach the wall. Heat shields are usually attached to the wall using small spacers, so that there is an inch or two of space between the wall and the back of the heat shield. A stove that might require about 30 inches space without a heat shield might only need 18 inches of space with a heat shield. This is a significant difference if you are installing a stove in a small or crowded space.
Many wood stove heat shields are made of either sheet metal or concrete board, and are not particularly attractive. Depending on the material, you can either paint it with heat resistant paint or tile it with ceramic tile. By covering the heat shield with paint or tiles that are compatible with the decor of the room, you can greatly improve the aesthetics of the wood stove area. By laying a tile hearth underneath the wood stove and tiling the rear heat shield with the same tiles, you can create an integrated hearth area.
Back of Stove Heat Shield
An alternative to a heat shield attached directly to the wall is one that attaches to the back of the stove. Many stove manufacturers make heat shields that are custom fit to their various stove models. By doing this, you remove the need for a heat shield on the wall itself. You can create an extra-safe installation by putting heat shields on both the back of the stove and the wall, although this isn't really necessary, as each of the installations is designed to eliminate the risk of fire.
Pipes and Chimneys
The stove pipe that runs from the wood stove to the chimney must also be protected from the risk of fire, as stove pipes can get almost as hot as the stove itself. The single-walled black pipe that comes out of a stove must be converted to the double-walled, insulated silver pipe before it passes through any walls. The insulated pipe must extend at least 6 inches from the face of the wall in order to avoid any proximity between the combustible wall and the hot black pipe.