Our wood burner was finally fitted yesterday so I thought I’d share our experience so far. We’re in the countryside with a lot of forestry around so able to source logs at a reasonable price plus the wood we have around for free. Eventually we hope to grow enough wood to feed the beast without buying in, but that is at least 5 years away.
Buying a Woodburning Stove
We looked around and asked advice from the forums before making the decision as to which stove to buy. Saltfire in Dorset were highly rated and had some very attractive prices so we chose a Wimborne from them. This is a multi-fuel stove so we can burn coal on it if we wish. A useful back up.
How Big a Stove?
Saltfire give a formula on their site of 1Kw output per 1.4 cubic metres. We have a very open plan house and hope the heat will go through into the other rooms so went for 9Kw
This is a bit overpowered for our room but it’s not a huge fire, almost looks lonely in the fireplace. What we didn’t realise was that stoves over 5Kw must have a clear vent into the room of 550 square millimetres per kilowatt above 5. So we need a hole of 2200 square millimetres, or 3.41 square inches.
Now I must admit to thinking this was crackers. We draught proof, install double glazing and insulate like mad only to knock a big hole in the wall. The idea is to ensure the stove has enough oxygen to burn without producing carbon monoxide.
Well it’s not as crackers as I thought. Apparently there are a number of cases of people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by woodburning stoves. This brings me onto rules and regulations.
Woodburning Stove Regulations
I’m old enough to remember when an Englishman’s home was his castle. Well not nowadays. You have to have building regulations approve the installation of your woodburner. The fee for this varies council to council but can exceed £350!
So the only real choice is to use a HETAS engineer. HETAS is a bit like Gas Safe (used to be CORGI) for solid fuel installs. They will install according to the regulations and certify the installation to the council etc.
OK, we could have done the job ourselves and not mentioned it to the council but, if nothing else, an uncertified installation would probably invalidate the insurance if we had a fire. I’m not betting the house and our safety against saving a couple of hundred pounds.
Apart from the vent mentioned above, the HETAS engineer checks the chimney is OK, the draw sufficient and that we have a correctly fitted carbon monoxide alarm. I’m glad I didn’t try to do the install myself anyway, it was a bigger job than I thought. For a start the stove weighs 95Kg – that’s a two strong man lift. Including installing the vent, the job took two experienced tradesmen with all the right tools about 4 hours. I doubt I could have done it in a week!
Some HETAS engineers are only qualified to do ‘dry’ installations but others can do ‘wet’ where the stove heats a back boiler to supply hot water or central heating. We didn’t go for a wet system as the existing boiler is a combi and we’d need to install tanks, new boiler and so on.
Woodburning Stove Prices and Costs
How much you pay for the stove will depend on which one you buy. You can buy a basic stove for as little as £299 but adding a back-boiler will lift the price up to £750. These are minimums, you can easily double those prices. We paid £329.00 for our stove.
Installation is probably going to cost you more than the stove. We’ve a good, lined chimney and a straightforward installation. It cost us £435.00 So total cost was £764.00 I dread to think what fitting a lined chimney or plumbing in a back boiler would cost.
Woodburning Stove Installers
HETAS have a good system where you pop your postcode in and they give you a list of local installers. The first one we called basically wasn’t interested in the job and refused point blank to quote. The second was recommended to us and agreed to come out to quote but then cancelled. I rang back and asked (nicely) if he still wanted to quote and he said he had a member of staff off and would call back in a few days. Left 3 further messages on his voicemail but never heard back.
Third came out but quoted without including for the vents, which left things a bit open ended.
Fourth chap, Gwynedd Safeflue Specialists, came out and gave us a slightly lower price than the third including the vents so we said yes. The workmen were friendly, efficient and went to great lengths to avoid dirtying the carpets by laying down sheets and even vacuumed up afterwards.
Need a job? Train as a stove installer and you’ll make a packet!
Funnily enough that is what my father did until he retired a couple years back now. He was apprenticed as a plumber, worked for the same building company for 20 years or more before it went bust.
He made a tidy packet out of fitting central heating systems for peeps, it paid for my parents first home of their own in 1993 and probably their last.
Still left him with a tidy wedge of cash in the bank as well, he retired a year early. Did not work, nor did he claim benefits and barely touched his cash in the bank. Still the same now…….
There are few professions in which you can hope to make a living for life one is food or selling/serving there of and the other may possibly just be plumbing. Anyone think of any more? Aside from the oldest profession in the world any ideas?
Hello again John reference “This is a multi-fuel stove so we can burn coal on it if we wish. A useful back up.” I cannot wholly agree with you on this. Although clearly multi fuel stove will burn both I think they have a primary fuel and secondary fuel. I had decided on a little aga for my house (less than 5kw so did not need hole in wall but had one as gas fire had been hearth previously) price was good, very aesthetically pleasing. Spent months on Internet researching but just decided to do one more check. I went to a shop which had tons of different ones in stock. Result I changed my mind and bought an ugly very pricey Scan. Ugly because it was Scandinavian and there idea of aesthetically pleasing are all straight lines or put another a box on legs. Why? when I looked inside of the Aga it was not square the dimensions they gave were maximum while the scan was lovely and square internally with a much bigger opening which neither gave the dimensions of in there info? Either way internally the Aga was primarily a coal burner and secondary a wood burner. While the Scan was primarily a wood burner and in my opinion a very poor coal burner. I would therefore advise any one to look at the multi fuel burners in the shop before buying. Also with the benefit of hindsight the ugly flat top of the scan was perfect for boiling a couple of kettles on.
By the way prices seem to have dropped considerably for multi fuel burners as the aga was about £400 and the Scan about £700 (note only 5Kw) and if i my memory serves me right my total was was above £2000. Although I had a flue pipe fitted (bungalow mind with a modern chimney which i think means lined), thingy on the top to stop birds nesting, A very large metal plate (made to measure) at the bottom and re tiled the fire place with original tiles (some of which had to be taken up). So possibly on the fitting side I did not overpay but prices must have dropped for the fires as I checked the prices elsewhere before buying from that shop. Prices lower after 3 years? Now there’s something new?
After a discussion with our coal merchant, I bought a 20Kg bag of smokeless briquettes and 4 10Kg bags of logs. The logs are just softwood and not very dry 🙁
However, the fire heats up the room a treat and we’re still running it in! The coal is used sparingly to basically form a core of heat. Looks like the bag will last a week, cost £6.40 so £1.00 a day. The logs don’t last as well, about a bag a day and so are costing £1.50 a day.
There are better sources for wood though, it’s a bit tricky with this weather getting them. Will be picking up some seasoned hardwood logs in the coming week.
Our friend in the Limousin gets 12 cubic metres of hardwood logs for €400 which keeps her 2 stove house going through the winter – it can get pretty chilly as well in the Limousin.
The coal merchant said not to go for anthracite as it burns hot and can damage the stove. Checked with Saltfire who replied to my email very quickly that “It can burn anthracite, but quantity is important – it is relatively easy to overfire a stove with anthracite if you load in too much”
What a pleasure they are to deal with! Service is alive and well with them.
Steve – electrician, builder, blacksmith, gardener and on it goes. My feeling is that unless you’re very clever or have a talent like a musician, you’re best of with a skilled manual trade. So many jobs are automated now or outsourced across the internet to India or China but you’ll never outsource to a virtual electrician.
Our old and last friend the funeral director has been going for years and will probably still be earning a vastly inflated wage for many yaers to come. Iread that the ‘average’ funeral now costs £4,500 – the cost of dying is certainly on the increase.
“Our friend in the Limousin gets 12 cubic metres of hardwood logs for €400”
I assume Limousin is in France as you are using euros???????? I can tell you now it is not unusual to see £100 a Square meter here. That is when there honest IE there ase sellers who just say a trailer full…what kind of loads is that??.
Now the bloke who fitted my burner said do not use pallets except the bits with no nails in. They block up the riddle grate AND can weld themselves to the bottom of your burner. Now he ONLY burns pallets but he had made a low wire type grate made to catch the nails. Mind you he paid £2000 plus for his burner it even had a remote control! I cut up pallets and give the bit with nails to a mate (he has an open fire). Now if you come across pallets you should collect them. I use them for kindling. I keep them as long as possible in case I find another use for them IE repairng something and I use them for making wood stores. 4 pallets 2 on the floor and 2 verticals 1 at each end. You have to do some cutting so you can join the verticals 2 the horizontals. If you can use pallets that have full length stretchers (middle bit) for the verticals as it gives you choice were to screw it to horizontals and you will not need as a big as screw. Also you will have to decided what to put across the top. I used string (waterproof non cotton) but i did intend on replacing it with a couple of battens. I would use string to start if you use a batten you will constantly bang your head on it. For a cover I used the plastic that is used under floors for damp proofing, this is sunlight proof as opposed to some tarpaulins (one lasted less than 3 months before falling to pieces) and of course you can cut it to size. Comes in grey and blue the blue is excellent if you are trying to get noticed by a passing plane?? JB
“electrician, builder, blacksmith, gardener and on it goes. My feeling is that unless you’re very clever or have a talent like a musician, you’re best of with a skilled manual trade. So many jobs are automated now or outsourced across the Internet to India or China but you’ll never outsource to a virtual electrician.”
Exactly what I have been saying for years. Do we really need so many people going to University? A huge proportion don’t even end up with jobs that require a degrees and a lot of jobs that ask for a degree would not have in the past. Furthermore skilled manual jobs can pay quite a lot more AND you will get some pay while your learning as opposed to a large debt. JB
@brandeberryj: The advantage of a university education is that you have a broader range of subjects to discuss with your similarly unemployed friends.
wood burners. best thing we ever did installing this.was expensive ( well i thought it was)had new fireplace installed,chimney swept and wood burner.At the time was told chimney was fine but over time probably with all the heat the fire gave out and up the chimney’ well it started leaking into next doors bedroom so had to then have it lined.more expense they wanted nearly as much again to install liner but told them where to getoff… finally got it done and not looked back since.ps i also do slow cooking on mine, yummy grub make everything lovely and tender.
We live a few miles east of you having moved here from Lancashire 4 years ago. We have an old Villager multi-fuel stove with integral boiler. A couple of years ago we also used Gwynedd Safeflue Specialists to fit a new chimney liner and associated pipes to the stove. I think it cost around 1k and, like you, we found them to be friendly, efficient and tidy. The stove gives out great heat and we also run 6 radiators and the hot water cylinder from it. We have an electric shower but during the winter we attach the shower head to a mixer tap fed from the hot water cylinder thereby getting free hot water. We also change the washing machine to fill only from the hot so no need for further heating of the water via the electric element. We actually use less electricity in the winter months than we do in summer! If you are just burning wood then the chimney should be swept every 3 months of use. I can recommend John Richards of Caernarfon – very clean & tidy chap. Your website and excellent forum inspired us to create an ‘allotment’ in a small field we own. We managed to set up about 100sqm – fenced off against rabbits and the occasional sheep that wanders in from the next field! We’ve had a good first year growing spuds, cabbages, cauli’s, sweetcorn, braod beans, peas, french beans, courgettes, marrows and turnips with the leeks and parsnips still in the ground. Good luck with your new venture.
I have never heard of anyone having there chimney cleaned every 3 months. Honest never ever. Even my cleaner said it only needs doing once a year. The flue in chimney is the 6″ metal one I have never had it block up or any problems at all with it. And my wood is far from bone dry mainly only a year or less drying.
Re: Brandeberryj @ 11.59.
Both National Association of Chimney Sweeps and Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps quote sweeping ‘quarterly when in use’ for wood burning.
From GMCS website:
Q / HOW OFTEN DOES MY CHIMNEY NEED SWEEPING?
A / The sweeping frequencies below are for guidance. Frequency will depend on a number of factors including: Type of fuel, appliance used, duration of use, moisture content of wood fuel, type of chimney. Your Guild sweep will be able to advise on sweeping frequency during the visit. Smokeless fuel: At least once a year Wood: Quarterly when in use Bituminous coal: Quarterly when in use Oil: Once a year Gas: Once a year.
I normally start using the stove daily from mid October so would get it swept mid January and then again around mid April (or as soon as I stop using it for the year). This ensures that any deposits are removed immediately rather than left in the flue throughout summer and autumn. This frequency of sweeping also means I adhere to the conditions of the 25 year guarantee on the 6″ flue liner.
I’ll admit that it does seem a bit ‘over the top’ but I’m only following the professionals advice.
We have had a Clearview in our smallish living room for ten years now. Having my own Husqvarna machine means I haven’t ever had to buy any wood; in fact I supply a number of friends as well. In the sunny South-east we have many smokeless New Towns where homes don’t even have fireplaces, so there is little competition for the fallen roadside timber.
Our fire runs from September to May and so does need the flue sweeping about three times a year, even though I do burn well-seasoned timber. In hindsight I would have had the back-boiler, but at the time didn’t feel confident in the plumber we had been using. If you have reliable tradespeople, you are very lucky indeed. We no longer use the people who provided our woodburner as they let us down badly with their servicing: eg leaving their sweeping brush stuck up the chimney!
Steve in North Wales wrote:
“Your website and excellent forum inspired us to create an ‘allotment’ in a small field we own……We’ve had a good first year growing spuds, cabbages, cauli’s, sweetcorn, broad beans, peas, french beans, courgettes, marrows and turnips with the leeks and parsnips still in the ground. Good luck with your new venture.”
Well said Steve – this is what this website is about. It would be an improvement if some bloggers were to send their polemics by email (but not to me please).
John there is a lot of room either side of that fire. You could use it for drying the wood. Even if the wood is seasoned hardwood logs it will benefit from extra drying. Now you can go for the metal baskets which will sit either side, bit expensive for me. I have far less room so at first I stacked the wood at 45 degree angled (roughly) IE with the bottom log against the feet of the burner. But now I don’t even bother doing that I just stack them in the space against the side of the stove. Doesn’t seem to cause a problem IE no smell of burning and doesn’t set of the nearby smoke alarm. Reference the not so dry wood it could just be from leaving outside IE it could have been seasoned just a bit of rain.
I just thought nearly all the wood I have is coppiced IE with all the bark on, may make a difference when stacked against the wood burner.
And a very good way of checking if wood is seasoned is if the bark is starting to peel away of course this may be slightly different for each species. At the very least you should see a decent amount of spliting in the end of the logs.
A sweeping brush up the chimney? dosy buggers. Did they use a vacume (very large one) as well as the brushes? How much do you pay for a sweeping. JB
Of course we stack logs to the left of the stove – there’s less room to the right than may appear in the photo.
We’re having some major building works done and when they’re finished we’ll have a lovely dry area to store wood undercover outdoors as well.
Axe or wood splitter.
People often make the mistake of buying an axe to split wood but an axe is only suitable for cutting down trees. It will be less efficient than a wood splitter and will stick in the log.
A wood splitter is basically a wedge as used for splitting difficult wood but with an axe length handle. It is a touch wider in terms of the angle compared to an ordinary wedge. It is far better a splitting log and never sticks in the log Oh and I have found them to be a fair bit cheaper compared to a useless axe.
A wood splitting axe is called a maul. The design is such that the weight of it drives the wedge through the wood when sufficientt force is used. I have an Aga little Wenlock classic which is ideal for our small lounge but when driven hard can heat the kitchen too.
NEVER burn wood that has seasoned for less than 2 years, ideally 3. this will prevent a mid season sweep and will lengthen the life of both flue and stove. Tar deposits can corrode and emitt a bad odour.
Pallets are often treated with preservative and as we discovered, can cause a build up of gas in a stove which suddenly ignites, blowing hot ash out of any open airway.
We have 25 acres of woodland here and have a total of 5 woodburners to feed, all of which have different quirks but all of which are a pleasure to doze off next to!!!!!
oh, and 3 years ago sesoned wood in Devon was c£100 a ton. It is now c£240 a ton! (so i currently have our own felled, cut, split and sesoned stacks )
At best my wood gets 2 years seasoning mainly only one. Mind I haven’t got my own woods and therefore the space to stack it. As I used to fetch it on my cycle which wasn’t all that practical I could never get that far in front anyway. Now I nearly always get friends to give me lifts so have to go by them AND share the wood. To be honest I am normally happy with the one year seasoning as the wood is normally from coppicing and I always rotate the wood by the side of the fire which dries it out nicely (judging by the splitting). But I think I am about to get some Elder. Some I had from last year is nowhere near ready. I have to leave it in front of the fire for a couple of days and it is unbelievable difficult to split. Nowt to do with knots. The wood itself is spongy IE it takes the impact out of the MAUL and if you look at the split wood the grain is very very wavy again reducing the impact. Worse still the bark is many times thicker than other wood which I think probably increases the time need to dry dramatically. The only thing I can think to do is cut much shorter lengths say 6″ and maybe cut some groves in length ways to help the water out and may possibly create a start to the splitting. Did not try splitting the small amount I have (18″ round max) when I cut it last year but will have a go this year almost certainly pointless but should try?
Just checked, it is not Elder, nothing like Elder. Will need to find out so i can find out some way of quicken up the drying process.