How To Finish Area around Wood Stove — Good Questions Apartment Therapy

How To Finish Area around Wood Stove?

Good Questions

Q: I recently purchased a new home with my husband and we want to put in a wood-burning stove to heat the house. My husband wants to tile around the stove on the floor and the walls to protect the area since it’ll be running hot most of the winter. Any ideas (or sources) as to how to make this look good?


That’s not your actual hearth I hope?

First, check your local code, it dictates materials and minimum distances from your heat source. Follow it for your safety.

I think slate is a great choice around a hearth. I would keep it in a monochromatic palette of slate, but that’s a personal preference.

There are code requirements for how far beyond the stove your nonflammable material needs to go so make sure you make it big enough.

Hi. Is that the actual hearth area? Looks pretty small, but maybe the photo is deceptive.

As someone who heats with wood, lots of suggestions! Hope some are useful!

- if you haven’t bought your stove yet, look for the one with the most advanced catalytic converter available. It will be cheaper and much cleaner to operate and you will be less likely to run afoul of new anti-pollution regulations (Montreal, for example, has banned all new fireplaces and woodstoves)

- as others have noted, follow the stove installation directions about clearances and materials to the letter or your insurance may be nullified. Get certified installers to do the job and get a signed statement from them indicating that they have followed all applicable standards and regulations. Keep it in a safe place with your other valuable documents.

- a cement board surround is safer than drywall and more heat resistant.

- the hearth should be big enough to tidily stack a few logs and ideally should have even a small raised edge or be able to accommodate a fender to stop ash and wood chips from migrating out onto your floor or rug. You will want enough room to pull out the ash drawer under the stove without risking spilling it. The material should be durable enough not to split or chip if a log is dropped on it (I would never use slate for the hearth for this reason, but you could on the surround). It should also be smooth enough to be easily swept with a brush and washed. We’re about to replace ours with granite. I find brick perpetually dirty looking and prone to chipping.

- magazines often show artful displays of wood in niches on either side of a fireplace. Maybe only Canadian wood has bugs in it. we keep our wood outside under cover and bring in only enough for a few hours at a time.

How To Finish Area around Wood Stove — Good Questions Apartment Therapy

- consider safety for children in the design even if none live there, both for visitors and resale value.

- if you have wooden floors, plan to have a 100% wool area rug in front of the hearth to catch exploding sparks when the door is open, which is a common occurrence. After a lot of reading about this, I learned that surprisingly, a 100% wool rug is a good option for this purpose. IKEA sells these at a modest price. If it gets singed, easy to replace.

- get your chimney cleaned annually, ideally in the summer when the sweeps aren’t busy. Replace the gasket every couple of years or as needed to avoid leaking. If you have a furnace in your house, consider running the fan to help hot air to better circulate in the house. We also installed ‘through wall’ fans near the ceiling to help pull warm air out into the hall and other rooms.

Wood heating is wonderful. Good luck. It is work but we find it absolutely worth it!

My parents have a wood burning stove in their cabin and the insurance company insisted that they tile behind it, up to something like 4 feet. I think your husband is right in wanting to do this. The wall can get extremely hot and you want to be safe. It’s hard to tell from the picture but that looks like a pretty small area for the stove to be on (meaning it would be very close to the wall?). What about limestone tiles. They’re very attractive and look great with brick.

Try looking for pictures of houses with wood-burning stoves, back from when having a wood-burning stove was commonplace. Chances are, if it worked for them then, it’ll work for you now.

Check first with your municipal office about building codes and permits. My parents have installed wood stoves in two houses (different towns). Both required a building permit, preapproval of plans and, in the second case, an inspection by the fire marshal after installation.

You may find that the building code dictates the materials you can use.

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