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Is a wood stove a good source for workshop heat?

This stove requires a 3' setback from walls (measured here with a yardstick); keep all tools and combustible materials away as well.

Q:

Thanks to the brutal winters here along the Canadian border, I’m considering adding a wood-burning stove to heat my shop. I have access to plenty of firewood and a lot of scrap from the shop. Any advice before I buy one?
—Steve Phillips, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

A:

A wood-burning stove seems like a great idea, Steve, for the reasons you mentioned. A good one generates nice heat, and it creates a comforting, almost nostalgic experience. Besides eating up your scraps, it also consumes a good deal of space, due to the required clearances. Before you commit to it, consider the following:

Check building and zoning codes in your local community because they might prohibit a wood-burner or require significant restrictions.

• Talk with your insurance agent. Some homeowner’s policies (which cover attached and free-standing shops) will not cover fire damages if you use a wood-burning stove. 

• If you’ve made it over the first two hurdles, install the stove according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and vent it to a flue or chimney built in strict compliance with local codes.

• Wood-burning stoves and flues need to be inspected by a licensed expert annually, preferably in late summer or early fall before cold weather sets in and you build the first fire of the season. (Some insurance companies require this inspecttion.) Search locally for a professional chimney sweep, or contact the Chimney Safety Institute of America (317-837-5362, csia.org) to find a qualified inspector.

• Once your stove’s installed, burn nothing but wood. Wood-composite materials, such as plywood, MDF, particleboard, and decking, contain glue, finish, paint, plastics, or other substances that can gum up a flue.

• Finally, keep an A-B-C fire extinguisher within easy reach in your shop. Talk to your local fire department about a model that meets your needs.

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