Your Guide to Woodburners

Are you sure your woodburner or solid fuel burning appliance, is installed and maintained properly?

These appliances must be carefully used to help reduce the chance of a fire. Review the information in your unit's instruction manual to help you determine if it is installed and maintained properly. If you are not sure, contact your local fire department, building official or a certified chimney sweep for additional information.

Your safety depends upon a properly installed, operated and maintained solid fuel burning system.

Your Guide to Woodburners & Solid Fuel Burning Appliances

Solid fuel burning appliances are enjoying widespread popularity. In addition to the savings in fuel costs, some have been installed for the “romantic feel” they add to a home. Although these units may save fuel and add charm, they have become the largest source of heating related fires in U.S. homes today.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), solid fuel burning appliances cause approximately 5-10% of all residential home fires. In addition, solid fuel burning appliances cause an average of over 300 deaths and 200 injuries per year. Some of the major causes of solid fuel burning appliance related fires are:
  • Inadequate clearances from the unit to combustibles, such as walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture.
  • Excessive creosote buildup in the chimney. Creosote is a black substance that resembles a tar-like liquid or small black flakes. Creosote burns easily.
  • An improperly installed or poorly maintained chimney.
  • Improper installation and maintenance of the appliance itself.
Heating with solid fuel requires that you become aware of these and other hazards and take whatever action is needed to correct them.

Planning for a Solid Fuel Appliance

Before buying, take time to do some planning. Contact your local fire department and/or building code officials to inquire about local ordinances on woodburning and other solid fuel burning appliances. Also, determine if a permit is necessary before you install such a unit.

If you live where a solid fuel burning appliance has already been installed, try to obtain the operating manual from the previous owner. If you cannot, try to locate the manufacturer’s information plate (label) mounted on the unit, ask a dealer that sells your unit for another copy, or contact the manufacturer.

When looking for appliances, look for one that is UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed or tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory; shows quality craftsmanship; has tight-fitting doors and a detailed operating manual.

If your appliance is listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory it should meet minimum industry-accepted safety standards. Check your unit to see if it is listed by one of these organizations. There is a difference between being tested and being listed. Testing simply means the unit was tested, “listed” means the unit was tested and passed using the appropriate national standards from Underwriters Laboratories. Examples of nationally recognized testing laboratories that test and list solid fuel burning appliances include:
  • Applied Research Labs (
  • Canadian Standards Association
  • (
  • Omni Environmental Services (
  • Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (
  • Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (
  • ITS Warnock Hersey International, Inc. (
Appliances made after October 1983 must have a label providing safety-related information. This label is required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and provides information about the placement and use of the unit.

More about Woodburners

Types of Woodburners
Placement of the Woodburner
Masonry Chimneys
Chimney Maintenance
Multiple Venting
Maintenance of Your Woodburner