Things to Know Before Installing That Wood-Burning Stove!

First, we HIGHLY recommend having a WETT-certified professional install your wood stove. However, as with many DIYers, you feel comfortable installing that wood-burning stove yourself. But before you do, there are a few installation requirements you should be aware of. Between initial permitting, through final inspection, and onto continued maintenance, read on for some commonly-ignored requirements you should know to install your stove safely, pass inspection, and have many years of safe use ahead of you. This guide is not comprehensive, nor is it intended to be. Use caution and ensure all installation methods follow your local codes and bylaws!

Certified vs. Uncertified Wood Stoves

Installation requirements are very different between certified and uncertified wood-burning appliances.

Certified appliances will come with an installation manual. Certified appliances are tested in a laboratory and rated for specific clearances that will be part of the label on the stove and shown in the manual. If you are installing a factory-built certified wood stove, there is no need to read further here. Follow the installation instructions that came with your wood stove. This post is meant for those installing an uncertified wood stove.

A wood stove may be uncertified for several reasons. It could be homemade or made and sold by a welder or blacksmith. It could be a steel barrel converted into a wood stove or a previously certified wood stove that has lost its label. If you have a beautiful old antique stove, it’s likely not certified. Uncertified appliances must meet stricter (farther) clearances since they have not been laboratory-tested. Because there are no (valid) installation manuals for uncertified wood stoves, you must follow specific rules when installing one.

Get your permit!

A permit is one of the most commonly neglected processes in installing a wood stove. Permits are crucially important. As far as I know, every municipality or AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) in Alberta requires a permit for a wood stove installation. Failing to get one can affect your property value and insurance coverage and may land you a hefty fine! First thing first: get a permit.

Figure out where it will go

A wood stove shouldn’t just go anywhere in your home. The ideal place to install the stove is a central location where you spend most of your time. Besides wanting the heat to be where you will be, this will allow you to monitor the stove during firing more closely and notice any maintenance issues sooner. Having the stove at one end of the home may make it difficult to get heat to the other. Fans can be used to move the heat around the home more effectively. Avoid installing the stove near the base of stairs, where safe escape may be hindered if the stove ignites nearby combustibles. The basement may seem like an ideal place, and it can be, but make sure the basement walls are insulated if the stove is to be installed there. If installing in the basement, consider installing grills in the floor above to allow heat passage to the main floor more freely.


Wherever you install it, ensure you have enough space for proper clearance around the stove. While factory-built wood stoves typically have very low clearance requirements, uncertified wood stoves may need as much as 48 inches in any lateral direction. See the following chart for required clearances for uncertified wood stoves:

Clearance Reduction

Those clearances can be challenging to meet. Introducing heat shielding! (Not to be confused with “shielding” in the chart above.) Heat shielding can reduce clearances by up to 67%. That means you can conceivably get an uncertified wood stove’s clearance requirement down to 12 inches. Not bad! Just follow this handy table:

Floor Protection

Now that the wood stove is properly spaced away from the walls, you must ensure the floor is properly protected. Two types of protection are required for the floor beneath and around a wood-burning stove.

The first is a floor pad to protect from falling embers. This floor pad needs to extend 18″ beyond any side with a loading door and 8″ beyond all other sides. It can be made of anything continuously non-combustible. Ceramic tile is a popular choice since it can handle the appliance’s weight and the abuse from wood loading. Flagstone, brick, block, tile or other non-combustible material may be used, as long as the joints are grouted or mortared.

The second type of protection needed is a heat shield to protect the floor from being overheated by the bottom of the wood stove. The floor protection you need will depend on the amount of floor clearance you have from the bottom of the firebox:

Chimney considerations

You will also need to consider where the chimney will (or can) go before deciding on your fireplace’s final installation location. There are two main ways you can run the chimney. The first is installing the chimney straight up through the roof. The other is going out the side of the building and then up. The advantage to going straight up is that the chimney will stay warmer between burns and allow you to create a good draft faster. Going out the wall and outside before it turns skyward can save time and be an easier installation. If going straight up, ensure the chimney can pass through the floor(s), ceiling, and roof unobstructed. Do NOT cut any framing members, and be sure you are clear of any power lines or tree limbs! If you need them to, fireplace flues and chimneys can have up to 180 degrees of bends. E.g. Two bends at 90 degrees or four at 45 degrees. Once you know precisely where you will install your chimney, you can use a plumb bob to determine the exact location for the stove.

Using certified factory-built flue pipe and chimney products is your best bet. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions EXACTLY. You will need to maintain the proper clearances and become familiar with and use the various components available precisely as the manufacturer intends. Get your flue pipe connector pieces and chimney components from a reputable distributor specializing in fireplaces and wood stoves. They will be familiar with all the parts, help you choose what you need, and even give tips on installing them.

The 3-2-10 Rule

When planning the chimney installation, you will also need to know how high above the roof it will need to go. Here is where we use the 3-2-10 rule. This rule means the chimney’s shortest side needs to be at least 3 feet above the roof penetration, and its top must be 2 feet higher than any part of the building within 10 feet. If the chimney needs to be more than 5 feet above the roof penetration to meet the required height, you will also need to install roof braces.

WETT Inspection

Should you have any questions, the municipality’s building inspector or the distributor where you picked up your flue and chimney pieces will be good resources. You can also contact us. However, while we are WETT-certified inspectors, we are not installers. When you’re all done and you get it passed off by your municipality’s building inspector, your insurance company may also need a WETT inspection performed. Click here to learn more about and schedule your WETT inspection!