Home Articles

Wood Stove Safety

While many still heat their homes with natural gas or oil, there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of wood stoves. Using a wood stove can be an economical and environmentally responsible choice; however, it does require more oversight and responsibility than other heating options. -NY State DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. Wood stoves are a popular alternative source of heat for many homes. As long as you have a good supply of fuel wood, the cost is next-to-nothing. There are some dangers associated with wood stoves, however, as wood stoves cause many house fires each year. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you choose this method of heating your home:


Before having your wood stove installed, be sure to provide the installer with the installation guidelines provided by the manufacturer. You will need to obtain the proper certification from the local code enforcement officer. Some insurance companies also have requirements for stove installation. An improper installation can put your homeowner's policy in jeopardy of cancellation. When burning, be sure to follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer of your stove to keep the temperature within the the safety threshold. A fire that is too hot is wasteful and dangerous. A fire that is not hot enough can lead to unnecessary creosote buildup.


For most wood stoves, a fall cleaning is all that you will need. Some wood stoves may need to be cleaned more frequently depending on the type of fuel used, the temperature they burn at, and other factors. You should check at least monthly during the burning season to make sure that creosote is not building up in your chimney. The manufacturer of your stove may also provide guidelines to effective cleaning and maintenance of your stove. Seek the help of a qualified individual to clean your stove.

Fuel Choices

The best choice for fuel is dry, seasoned hardwood. It burns hot, clean, and efficiently. Be sure to use good judgment when making a fuel wood choice. Build your fire with newspaper and dry kindling. Never use charcoal starter fluid, gasoline, or other liquids. Proper seasoning of wood is done when it is stored for at least 6 months before burning. Cracks in the end grain is an indication that the wood is properly seasoned. If you are storing the wood outdoors, stack it neatly off the ground and cover the top. Discard wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood. Never put garbage or other debris in your stove. In addition to causing a fire hazard, burning anything other than clean wood may produce harmful chemicals that can damage the wood stove and lower the quality of the air.

Ash Removal

When cleaning the ashes from your stove, store them in a metal container with a tight lid. place the container outside, and a safe distance from anything that could catch fire. The ashes can stay hot for days. Make sure they are cool before dumping or trashing them.


New York State law requires that smoke from a wood stove have opacity of less than 20 percent. If you can see a clearly defined smoke plume, there may be a problem with the combustion process. The most common causes are wet wood, burning fuel other than wood, insufficient air flow to the stove, an improperly maintained chimney or stove, or an inefficient stove. Smoky fires affect the quality of the air, waste fuel, and cause creosote buildup in chimneys, leading to chimney fires. A properly installed stove should be smoke free.

Children & Pets

It goes without saying that a wood stove is very hot. Children and pets should be kept a safe distance from the stove and not left unattended. Burns can happen in an instant. If you suspect that a member of your household has been in contact with the stove, seek qualified medical help. Never leave home or go to sleep with an unattended fire.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is produced during incomplete combustion of any fuel source, including the wood in a wood stove. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause serious health implications or death. Eliminate the chances your family will be exposed to it with proper detection. All homes should have a carbon monoxide detector. A simple detector can be had for around $20 at a hardware store. For more information about the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, and to read about legislation surrounding carbon monoxide detectors, please see our Amanda's Law article.

Stan Steele Insurance
Stan Steele Agency, Inc.
55 State Street
Bloomfield, NY 14469