It's that time of year when home renovation projects are in full swing. Whether you're trying to warm up your house for what's left of winter, or planning ahead for next year, perhaps installing a wood-burning stove to warm your home more efficiently is on your wish list.
Thanks to Rick Vlahos, Executive Director of the National Fireplace Institute and Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Education Foundation, we have all the answers for you. Let's just say, the step-by-step journey just got a whole lot easier, so you know exactly what you should do to start, how to find a professional, and the amount you can expect to pay to get the job done.
1) Shop around to find the one you like.
"You are buying a piece of furniture. There is no answer to 'What is the best stove?' If you go to a Ford dealer and ask what he thinks about Chevy trucks, you can guess what he will say.
"The style and look of a stove that I like may be completely different than what you like. The safety and emissions testing new stoves have to go through are very intense. Any manufacturer that can meet the new standards probably makes a good stove, the rest is all about style."
2) Choose a dealer you'll be able to work with long-term.
"If you ever need service on a wood-burning stove, the manufacturer will refer you to the dealer that sold it. Due to liability issues, many dealers will only service stoves they sold. It’s not like a car that you can take to any dealer. People buy stoves from big box stores or over the Internet, and then they call us to try and find someone that will install or service it.
"There are times they have to call several installers before they will find one that will service or install a stove they didn’t sell. Beyond the liability issues, they may or may not know the idiosyncrasies of the stove you purchased, or they may or may not be able to get parts. Manufacturers will only sell parts and accessories to their authorized dealers."
TIP: Visit www.nficertified.org, click on Find A Pro, and enter your zip code for a list of National Fireplace Institute Certified installers in your area.
3) Pick where you want it located in your home.
"Most dealers will offer to come out to the house to help you decide the best place. Some do this service from free, other may charge for it, and others may charge up front and then take the cost of the inspection off the purchase price. Whatever they charge, it is worth it. Stove location in the home is critical to make sure it performs properly."
TIP: Ask your dealer to inspect your home for the best spot to put it, even if there's a fee.
4) Find a reliable and knowledgable installer.
"You are not paying for what the installer does. You’re paying for what he knows—the fact that he can walk in to any situation and know the right choices to make. That is the real value of a professional installer."
What Does the Cost Look Like?
As with any installation, prices and fees will vary, depending on your style and the type of home in which it's being installed. Thankfully, Rick was able to provide rough estimates for what you can expect to pay, based on common costs—you know, so you can budget accordingly.
This goes back to his note above that, regardless of the price, you can rest assured all wood-burning stoves have passed a series of intense safety and emissions tests. The price, therefore, typically comes down to style and personal preference.
Estimate: roughly $30 to $40 per foot
Since chimneys are priced by foot, it makes sense that one-story homes would be much less expensive than multiple story homes. Typically though, Rick points out, the average total ends up being between $500 and $800.
Estimate: roughly $500 to $1,000
While these are guestimates, you'll want to get a full package price before you begin because, Rick notes, "Some [pros] charge full price for the stove, and discount the pipe and the installation. Others will discount the stove, and charge full prices for the pipe and installation."
How Long Does Installation Take?
Usually, an installer can do one or two installations in a day, but the style of your home, the stove itself, and the number of installers working on the project will affect this timing.
Why Do I Need to Hire a Professional?
Rick's short answer: "We’re talking about building a fire in your living room!" For this reason alone, hiring a professional is non-negotiable. "While manufacturer clearances are very important the day you install the stove, they are even more important five to ten years down the road," he adds.
In that number of years, the temperature at which a combustible (i.e. wood, paper on drywall, fabric, et cetera) will ignite lowers. Yes, really! Rick says, for example, "Wood usually burns at 450 degrees...[but] after five to ten years it may burn at temperatures as low as 250 degrees." So, there's no wiggle room for error in determining distance, adding necessary floor protection, and ensuring proper ventilation.
"There are very few questions that have black-and-white answers when it comes to wood burning. There are many shades of gray that will make a difference," Rick concludes. In other words...don't take the chance.
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