A pile of wood sits next to an upscale wood-burning stove.

Wood Stove Safety Tips

Updated August 5, 2018 . AmFam Team

Wood-burning stoves are back in style, thanks to their rustic appearance and many other benefits. But with those benefits come plenty of dangers — and we’re here to help keep your home and family safe.

Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are timeless in their appeal. And in addition to their appealing rustic appearance, they’ll continue to provide warmth even when your power goes out! But as with any home heating system, care should always be exercised when it’s in use. We’ve rounded up a few safety tips for your wood-burning stove to help you avoid accidents and truly appreciate yours.

Safely Installing Your Wood Stove

As with any heavy-duty appliance, you’re always better off having it installed by a professional. But if you do undertake the task yourself, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the absolute letter. Make sure the installation is compliant with any local building codes, too.

Pick a safe location. While you have some flexibility in the placement of your wood stove (as long as you can run a vent pipe to a chimney), you’ll want to make sure it’s in an area away from any combustible materials such as carpet, drapes or doors. Check the stove manufacturer’s recommendations and consult your American Family Insurance agent to ensure your stove is installed safely and legally.

Put it in a room where you spend a lot of time. There’s no sense in installing your wood stove in the den if you hardly spend any time there. To fully enjoy its warmth and comfort, install it in a room where your family and guests can appreciate it. Plus, you’ll avoid a percentage of the costs that come with moving that heat to the actually-occupied areas of your house!

Keep an Eye On Your Chimney

Your chimney is the most important piece of equipment in keeping the heat in your house and the smoke out. Have your chimney professionally inspected once a year, particularly before cold weather hits. Only burn aged and properly-dried firewood. As a rule of thumb, firewood should be dried for at least one year before it’s burned. In addition, your chimney should only serve your wood stove and no other appliances.

The more you use your wood stove, the more buildup your chimney will have. Have your chimney professionally cleaned when it’s inspected — and if you notice that your chimney is struggling to dispose of the smoke efficiently, immediately extinguish the flames and call a professional chimney cleaner.

Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide

All homes should have a carbon monoxide detector on every level, but homes with wood stoves should take special care to ensure they’ll be alerted if the dangerous gas is present. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and tasteless gas, and those affected by it might initially experience a headache — but even a small amount of exposure can be lethal.

In addition to having detectors on every floor, make sure a detector is in the same room as the wood stove. Check its batteries at least twice per year. Paired with smoke detectors, these devices can save lives in the event of a stove or chimney malfunction.

A smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector can conveniently alert you, no matter where you are, if it senses either of those dangers in your home. And they can help you qualify for a discount on your American Family homeowners insurance, too.

Regularly Remove Ash

You don’t need to clean your stove after every use, but making sure ash isn’t building up and causing extra chimney buildup can greatly improve your stove’s efficiency and safety. Keeping your wood stove clean is great for its looks and safety — but don’t try to remove any ash from it until it has completely cooled. Embers can remain hot for several days, and can reignite when exposed to fresh air.

When getting rid of the ash, put it in an approved and sealable metal container and store it away from any living space. Never use any type of vacuum to clean ashes from your stove, as the ashes can reignite inside the vacuum and start a fire.

Only Use Wood

Never stoke your stove with anything but properly-aged and dried hardwood and be careful not to overload it. Overloading can cause a larger fire that churns out more smoke, create more harmful residue in your chimney and overheat your home.

Keep Children and Pets Safe

To a curious child and an innocent animal, a wood stove can be an appealing source of wonder and warmth. Make sure your kids and other guests in your home understand that the stove is dangerous and can easily cause burns. Dogs and cats might love to sleep next to the stove — but they put their and your family’s health in jeopardy by sitting too close. Only experienced adults should stoke, extinguish or tend to the wood stove.

Your wood stove won’t start with the flip of a switch — but with extra care and patience, you can be sure that your unique heating system will keep your home cozy and comfortable. To add an extra level of comfort and peace of mind, contact an American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) to see how you can protect your home and family from the unexpected.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.