Wood-burning stoves might seem like simple appliances, but numerous problems can lurk that put the health and safety of the homeowner at risk. The stove might have the wrong flue pipe, sit in an unsafe location, have a defective door seal, or a number of other problems.
There aren’t many moving parts, if any, in a wood-burning stove. Unless there’s a mechanical blower, they’re manual appliances. But there are still plenty of opportunities for defects to exist now or emerge over time.
Here are 5 defects that merit a spot on the home inspection report:
#1: Too Close to Combustible Surfaces
Modern wood burning stove manufacturers provide installers with minimum clearances from walls and combustible materials. If the appliance sits directly on a bare floor, that’s a hazard. It needs a noncombustible floor protector unless it’s an insert, which fits inside a fireplace fire box. For all other combustible materials, Joseph D. Conrad Insurance Agency says a minimum of 36 inches of space is required.
#2: Broken Materials or Cracks in the Stove
Stoves are designed to exacting standards. When one part breaks, it renders the stove unsafe to operate and for different reasons. Broken glass can let sparks fly out. Cracks in the housing weaken the stove, which could make it susceptible to collapse. Breaks and weak points in the flue pipe could release carbon monoxide into the home.
#3: Creosote Buildup
Creosote is a natural byproduct of burning a combustible fuel, such as wood. Over time, it can build up inside the flue pipe. Regular cleaning keeps it under control. This matters because creosote is flammable. When the stove is cool, the black material is hard and brittle. When there’s a fire, creosote melts and can run down into the stove. Many home fires are triggered when melted creosote catches fire inside the chimney.
#4: Inappropriate Stove Pipe Diameter
Not all flue pipe is the same. Wood burning stove pipe is larger than the pipe used to install a biofuel pellet stove. It also has a special design with layers inside that help contain excessive heat and route it outdoors. If the pipe reduces to a smaller diameter at any point between the stove and the flue, Joseph D. Conrad Insurance Agency says it’s a hazard.
#5: Inadequate Hearth Dimensions
Not every wood-burning stove sits on a proper hearth. Many modern stoves are safe on the floor as long as there’s a noncombustible pad underneath. However, if there is a hearth, dimensions matter. Professional Home Inspection says a safe stove heart projects at least 16 inches out from the front of the stove. If it’s too small, people may trip into the stove or the stove could accidentally tip over.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America explains that over 20,000 home fires related to a fireplace or wood-burning stove happen every year. Although some home fires are attributed to misuse of the appliance, such as burning materials other than wood or stoking the fire too high, defects and poor maintenance can start fires, as well.
Few things are as cozy and inviting as a crackling fire in a wood-burning stove. As a certified home inspector, you can help customers enjoy the warmth and beauty more safely. If you’re ready for a new career, enroll now with ICA School and learn at your own pace.