The Search for a Wood Burning Stove

I have always had the philosophy that you will constantly be coming across new and innovative products in the field of Interior Design as it is a constantly evolving subject.


I have worked for a number of companies and come across a wide cross section of clients since I began studying and working in interior design around 12 years ago but it didn't come as a surprise to me when recently I discovered a subject that I should know about but I don't! Wood burning stoves! Ask me about fireplaces and I could talk for ages but in all the jobs that I have done or been a part of I have never installed a stove. There is one aspect to this quandary that I am pleased about - the client I must have a stove installed for is Myself. So I am in fact my own guinea pig!

When we designed our home we designed it with an open fireplace in mind. I have always loved the smell of an open fire, the sound of logs crackling and to sit and stare romantically into the flames. I have never actually lived in a house with an open fire as I grew up in South Africa where the only time you need a fire is when you are barbecuing and the house we rented before building didn't have a fireplace. So it was with great excitement I designed a raised hearth and large ope in the corner of our sitting room to house my open fire.

The subject of stoves was first introduced to me by my brother in law who was building a house in Adare, Co Limerick at roughly the same time that we were building ours. He was arguing with my sister in law about whether or not they should install a stove or a fireplace. Like me, my sister law favoured an open fire, whilst my brother in (ever the pragmatist) wanted a stove.

Alas the more that I read on the subject of stoves versus fireplaces the more convinced I became that it was more cost effective and energy efficient way to heat the house. Stoves are 70-80% efficient while an open fire is only 20-30% efficient. So it was with great regret that we shelved the idea of the open fireplace and decided to install a stove.

But all was not as simple as I thought! There is more to consider when installing a stove than just picking out one that is aesthetically pleasing. The room size must be the first consideration and whether or not you plan to heat radiators as well. If you want to heat radiators then you need a stove with a back boiler but this must be decided early on in the build as plumbing is concerned. The size of the room determines the amount of heat output you require from your stove - this is measured in Kilowatts (kw). Due to the size of our room (Approx 4mx5m) and the fact that we are not going with a back boiler, we require roughly 7kw of heat to heat this room. Different sales people have different opinions on what the best approach to this is. Some suggest that 7kw is too hot and that you should only get a 5-6kw stove while others reckon an 8kw stove is better because you don't have to pack it full to have it reach its capacity.

Then there is the decision of whether to go with an insert stove or free standing stove. By and large the free standing stoves are less expensive (inserts being nearly double the price - brand for brand). The enamel finished stoves are more expensive but in my opinion are the bee's knees. Stanley does a lovely range of free standing Oisin stoves in everything from cream enamel to brown enamel. A free standing stove will always be a slightly more traditional option though and it was with this in mind that we decided that we would go for a more contemporary insert stove. These (as with everything) can be bought cheaply or if you want a reputable make then you obviously pay more.

The fitting of the stove was something that I didn't account for when budgeting for this project. In my experience when you buy a fireplace the fitting is normally included in the price of the fireplace unless substantial building works are to be undertaken. This is not the case with stoves - you are pretty much left to your own devices. The fittings for the flue are not included in the price and this little 'bendy' piece you may need can cost as much as £130 alone. The shops will sometimes recommend a fitter but are not responsible for their work. You can then imagine my shock as the fitting prices varied from £100 to £500 from the various fitters that I contacted. The more expensive of the fitting prices were actually quotes received from a few shops in which I priced stoves. How could they charge me more to fit a stove that they were selling me than outside tradesmen?

After 3 weeks of intensive research and phone calls we have decided to purchase a stove from a relatively big supplier and to have them fit it for us. It is probably costing us about 10% more but the stove and fitting are both guaranteed. The moral of the story in this case was that shopping around has definitely paid off and stoves are not something anyone is including in their January Sales as everyone seems to be fitting stoves now instead of fireplaces. The general consensus is that a lot of people are ripping out open fireplaces and putting in stoves instead. This can be vouched for by the number of second hand fireplaces on the market but that is a story for another day!

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Written by: Ciarda Barrett

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