Wood Burning Stoves – A Salutary Lesson!

John Sherwood, Pickering Office
 22 Jan 2019

My wife and I purchased our cottage from a Developer some years ago. Our sitting room benefits from an Inglenook fireplace with a wood burning stove. Wrongly, we assumed that at the time of our purchase, the installation of the stove had been carried out to all appropriate Building Control Standards and HETAS Certification.

Last autumn when we had our chimney swept I was told that the installation was grossly defective; “Was I aware that as the flue passed through the loft floor next to the ceiling joists that the timbers had scorched and that it was only a matter of time before our loft caught fire from what was clearly a bodged and dangerous installation?” In short, no I was not.

This was worrying.  I read up on the British Flue & Chimney Manufacturer’s Association Guidelines on the selection and installation of flues and chimneys for wood burning and multi fuel appliances in residential properties. ‘You need to get out more,’ I hear you say. Probably so, but our lives were at risk!


I called in a HETAS Engineer recommended to me to seek an appraisal and he found as follows:-

  • Any solid fuel appliance fitted since April 2005 requires a mandatory HETAS Certificate of Compliance or Building Control Certification – I had neither!
  • I was told the stove was too near our timber beam across the Inglenook and breached current regulations. It needed to be moved further back to avoid the beam scorching.
  • It is now compulsory in England and Wales to fit a Carbon Monoxide alarm, permanently installed and should include a self-test and audible alert! – No wonder I have been spending most evenings on the sofa in a semi-comatose state; probably from CO poisoning as opposed to over imbibing in Rumpole’s Chateau Pommeroy vin ordinaire!
  • Our existing chimney with single skin liner was unsound and must not be used. He would install a new stainless steel twin wall flue with no bends, proper stove pipe connectors, firestop plates and protective wire mesh in the loft and create a new outlet on the roof. Wow! By now I could really hear the till ring!
  • Apart from draughty doors, ventilation to our sitting room was non-existent and we had no satisfactory supply of air for combustion. This could be discreetly installed by way of a vent from outside through the wall to the back of a radiator. I immediately thought that this would create an icy draught from outside but in fact not!
  • The work was carried out over three days and the whole system re- commissioned. I was also taught how to light the stove correctly – which I had been doing wrong for nine years and also using the wrong vents. No wonder I was burning the best part of a complete forest during the winter!

So the moral of my story is that when buying a residential property with a wood burning or multi fuel stove, ALWAYS ask the seller to produce the HETAS Compliance Certificate or Building Control Certificate to you. If the seller cannot do so then require him at his expense to obtain a HETAS Engineer’s appraisal on the installation for you. Any remedial works required should be carried out before you proceed, again at the seller’s expense, or an allowance given to you for the estimated cost of the works to enable you to instruct your own HETAS Engineer.


For further information please contact your local conveyancing practitioner.

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