Can You Convert a Gas Fireplace to a Wood Burning Stove?
There’s something about wood burning stoves that can’t be replicated by any other type of heat source. The crackle of the wood, the lick of the flames. A wood burning stove offers a visceral experience. Well, if you’ve got a gas fireplace and would like to experience the benefits of a wood burning stove instead, there are ways to convert it.
Continue reading to find out how to convert a gas fireplace to a wood burning stove.
Can all types of gas fireplace be converted?
Unfortunately not. If you live in a new build home, it may not be possible to convert it to a wood burning stove. Why? Because many new build homes are not built with functioning chimneys (of the sort required for wood burning stoves).
If you live in a home without a conventional chimney then it’s likely your gas fireplace will either be flueless or will use a balanced flue system; neither of which will be suitable for a wood burning stove. If you’re still determined to install a wood burning stove, then you’ll need to do a complete fireplace replacement project and have a flue and chimney built.
But, what if you have a gas fireplace with a conventional flue?
You will be able to convert your gas fireplace to a wood burning stove, but you’ll need to make some alterations.
Check your local building regulations
If you’ve weighed up those options and decided that you want to go ahead with the project, then your next step is to check your local building regulations.
Do this before you start any work.
Since 2010, any work carried out to an existing chimney (or the creation of a new chimney) is subject to building control regulation. In addition to checking the building regulations before you start work, you will also have to have your project signed off upon its completion.
If you are unsure about the building regulations that apply to your home, you should contact your local authority.
In addition to checking your local building regulations, you should also check to see if you live in a smoke control area.
A smoke control area (also known as a smoke control zone) is an area declared by a local authority where it is illegal to emit smoke from your chimney, unless you are using a permitted fuel or appliance. Obviously, you’ll want to check this before you invest in a wood burning stove!
Have your chimney inspected
If you have an existing chimney, then you’ll need to have it inspected before you begin any work.
The chimney is perhaps the most important part of a wood burning stove. If you don’t get this stage right, then you’ll have many headaches to deal with further down the line.
When the chimney is inspected you (or the person doing the inspection) should ensure the following parts are all in good condition and working order:
- Brick and mortar.
- Flue liner (also known as a chimney liner).
In the process of making the inspection, the chimney inspector may also perform a coring ball test. This involves lowering a heavy ball from the top of the flue on a rope. This test not only highlights any obstructions, but is also used to determine the size of the existing flue. This will help you in selecting your new flue.
As well as inspecting your chimney, you should also have it cleaned and properly swept. Again, it’s worth putting the effort in at this stage to prevent issues later on.
Changing your flue
Can you keep the same flue you used for your gas fireplace? As we alluded to above, no.
Gas flues are not designed to withstand the high temperatures that are generated by wood burning stoves. Gas flues are normally made of a single skin and won’t be able to effectively channel the combustibles generated by your new wood burning stove.
You may be tempted to remove the old gas flue and simply let the fumes from your new wood burning stove be released straight into your new chimney. We’d strongly advise against this. This is because hot air does not rise well in cold chimney cavities. If this hot air cools down, it will then descend and can even accumulate in your living space.
Instead, it is wise to invest in a 316 grade flue liner which has been designed to handle the burning of seasoned wood.
You can find out more about flue liners in our ‘Complete Guide to Flue Liners For Your Stove’.
Removing the gas fireplace
Once you’ve determined what type of gas fireplace you’ve got, you’ll need to contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to disconnect the gas supply to your fireplace and cap off the connection. It’s important that the gas line is safely disconnected before you undertake any further work.
Ensure you have proper ventilation
Don’t underestimate how important ventilation is for a wood burning stove. Without adequate ventilation, your new wood burning stove will not function properly.
Think of it this way. Wood burning stoves require two fuels. Not just wood, but oxygen too.
Without sufficient oxygen feeding your stove, the fire will go out. Your stove draws in oxygen from the room it is sitting in, so figuring out the correct amount of ventilation is important.
You can ensure sufficient ventilation in a number of ways. Firstly, you will need to work out the heat output of your stove. This will normally be clearly listed within the specifications of the stove.
Then, depending on the heat output of your stove, you can figure out how much ventilation you will need. The amount of ventilation required is usually calculated as follows:
- If your wood burning stove has an output of 5kW or less, then you don’t need to think about ventilation considerations.
- If your wood burning stove has an output of more than 5kW, you will need 550mm2 of permanent ventilation for every additional kilowatt.
The reason you need to think carefully about ventilation is because since October 2010, new regulations have been in force which relate to the heat output of your stove and the air permeability of your home.
You can find out more about ventilation for wood burning stoves here.
If you’re not sure what size wood burning stove you’ll need, try Direct Stove's Stove Calculator.
Distance to combustibles
As well as thinking about ventilation, you should also think about where your new wood burning stove will fit in the fireplace and the distance to any nearby combustibles.
You must ensure you leave sufficient distance between the stove and things like wallpaper or plasterboard which can ignite if they get too hot. If you have a fireplace made of brick, stone or other non-combustible material then you don’t need to be as worried about the position of your stove.
However, you don’t want your stove to be too close to the fireplace as its performance may be impaired if there isn’t enough space to allow for the proper circulation of air.
Installing your wood burning stove
We would recommend that you use a HETAS-registered installer to fit your new stove. They will make sure that everything is correctly set-up, that your chimney is properly lined and everything is in safe working order. You should resist the temptation to install it yourself or use a non-registered installer, as an unapproved installation could cause injury or damage to your property.
An unapproved installation may also void your wood burning stove’s warranty.
Once your stove has been successfully installed, there’s one last detail to remember. You’ll need to complete a notice plate. As the name suggests, this is a small plate which contains details about your stove, hearth, chimney and flue. This should be fitted near your stove. It is also mandatory for you to buy a carbon monoxide meter and keep it near to your stove.
Living with a wood burning stove
Once your stove has been fitted, there are few things you’ll need to know about living with and maintaining a wood burning stove. Here are a few of our top cleaning tips:
- There are some essential bits of kits that you should try and keep in stock at home. These include old newspapers (to cover your floor), gloves, an ash shovel, a brush, a metal ash container and a spray bottle.
- Once you’ve got this kit, you should try and get into the habit of cleaning your stove on a fortnightly or monthly basis.
- Try to only burn dry wood in your stove. Don’t burn varnished or painted wood as it sometimes contains noxious chemicals. Oh, and try to avoid burning rubbish on it too!
You can find out more about how to clean and maintain your wood burning stove here.
If it’s time to convert your gas fireplace to a wood burning stove, then explore our huge range of stoves at Stoves Direct.
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