What are the regulations for wood burning stoves?

Suitable for heating a wide variety of different living spaces, wood burning stoves (also known as wood burners) are incredibly popular. Not only do they provide an efficient and carbon neutral form of heating, they also convey an enormous sense of wellbeing, a phenomenon which was explored by American scientist Professor Edward O Wilson in his 1984 publication of the biophilia hypothesis which suggested that human beings have deep intrinsic connections with the natural world, including fire.

One of the most efficient ways to heat a property, a wood burning stove or wood burner is capable of heating just a room or even an entire home, while helping to keep your energy bills low. Functional and aesthetically pleasing, a wood burning stove or wood burner also provides an attractive focal point in any living area.

Since 2015, Island Pellet Stoves Ltd has been installing its own pellet wood burning stoves anywhere in England or Wales and there are many regulations which affect our installations, some of these are explored below.

Wood burning stove regulations related to wood fuel

Under new regulations that came into force in May 2021, sales of bagged house coal and wet wood in units under two cubic meters became unlawful. And wet wood in bigger volumes must be sold with advice on how to dry it out before it’s burned.

Government regulations state: ‘Burning at home, particularly with traditional house coal or wet wood, is a major source of the pollutant PM2.5 – which has been identified by the World Health Organisation as the most serious air pollutant for human health.

‘People with log burners and open fires can still use them but will be required to buy cleaner alternative fuels – if they are not already – such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels which produce less smoke.

‘Both of these cleaner options are just as easy to source and more efficient to burn, making them more cost effective.

‘Burning dry wood also produces more heat and less soot than wet wood and can reduce emissions by up to 50%.’

Wood burning stove regulations related to pollution and emissions

Is the property within a Smoke Control Area ? If you are not sure, then consult the DEFRA website which has an interactive map (DEFRA is the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). If you do live within a Smoke Control Area then you must only install a stove which is a so-called “DEFRA exempt stove”. Such a stove has passed stringent emissions testing so it is recognised by DEFRA as being a clean burning stove.

  • Your Local Authority has the power to issue a fine of up to £1,000 if this Law is broken.

With a view to “future proofing” your investment in a wood burning stove or wood burner, then you should consider the cleanest burning stoves available by looking at those on the Cleaner Choice scheme operated by HETAS. This scheme is unique in that HETAS is a third party independent and impartial certification body that relies on first-hand review of test data from notified laboratories in checking that each stove meets, and in critical areas, exceeds some of the most stringent limits set by tested standards and test methods. To qualify for this scheme, then the stove must be at least 50% cleaner than the “DEFRA exempt” emissions limit. HETAS has an interactive selection tool on its website.

Wood burning stove regulations related to safety

All stove installations must comply with Part J of the Building Regulations 2010, which is the Law and which does vary somewhat between England, Scotland and Wales. The Building Regulations are a legal requirement that exists to ensure that your new wood burner installation is both safe and energy efficient. It is the responsibility of the installer to be able to demonstrate that the installation complies with the Law. The installer must be trained and competent, one way for them to demonstrate this is by being accredited by HETAS which is a specialist organisation that trains and registers installers and chimney sweeps. Otherwise, you will have to use a Building Control Officer from your Local Authority to inspect the works after installation.

The Building Regulations for England as they apply to wood burning stoves are shown in the Table below. There are seven requirements under the Law, these are referred to as J1 to J7, the same is true for Scotland and Wales.

Requirements J6 and J7 refer only to liquid fuels such as oil and LPG and so do not apply to wood burning stoves.

Part J – Combustion Appliances and Fuel Storage Systems – RequirementLimits on application
J1 ; Air supply ; Combustion appliances shall be so installed that there is an adequate supply of air to them for combustion, to prevent overheating and for the efficientRequirements J1 and J2 apply only to fixed combustion appliances (including incinerators).
J2 ; Discharge of products of combustion
Combustion appliances shall have adequate provision for the discharge of products of combustion to the outside air.
J3; Warning of release of carbon monoxide Where a fixed combustion appliance is provided, appropriate provision shall be made to detect and give warning of the
release of carbon monoxide.
Requirement J3 applies only to fixed combustion appliances located in dwellings.
J4; Protection of building
Combustion appliances and fluepipes shall be so installed, and fireplaces and chimneys shall be so constructed and installed, as to reduce to a reasonable level the risk of people suffering burns or the building catching fire in consequence of their use.
J5; Provision of information
Where a hearth, fireplace, flue or chimney is provided or extended, a durable notice containing information on the performance capabilities of the hearth, fireplace, flue or chimney shall be affixed in a suitable place in the building for the purpose of enabling combustion appliances to be safely installed.

As you can see, the Law is pretty succinct and straightforward to understand and some parts of it are prescriptive, viz;-

J3; Warning of release of carbon monoxide. This requires a carbon monoxide detector to be installed which is a Legal requirement.
 J5; Provision of information. This requires a durable notice plate to be installed, which is a Legal requirement.

Some parts of the Law are, however, non-prescriptive and use terms such as “adequate” and “reasonable” which are subject to interpretation.  To provide guidance on what is considered to be “adequate” and “reasonable” the Government has published an 89-page document called “Approved Document J” to guide installers on the practices which are deemed to be adequate and reasonable for complying with the Law in some of the more common building situations.

Many installers mistakenly state that Approved Document J (or ADJ as it is abbreviated to) is the Law and that its suggestions must be slavishly followed. This is plain wrong as the ADJ itself states, viz “ If guidance in an Approved Document is followed there will be a presumption of compliance with the requirement(s) covered by the guidance. However, this presumption can be overturned, so simply following guidance does not guarantee compliance. For example, if one particular case is unusual in some way, then ‘normal’ guidance may not be applicable. It is also important to note that there may well be other ways of achieving compliance with the requirements. There is therefore no obligation to adopt any particular solution contained in this Approved Document if you would prefer to meet the relevant requirement in some other way. However, persons intending to carry out building work should always check with their Building Control Body, either the local authority or an approved inspector, that their proposals comply with building regulations.”

Wood pellet stoves and balanced flues are still a bit “unusual” in the UK and are not covered by the guidance in the Approved Document J which was published in 2010.

It is therefore very important that you use an installer which is a specialist in this field and is experienced with wood burning pellet stoves and balanced flues and which can demonstrate competence with these products and the regulations which apply to them.

Further Information 

Island Pellet Stoves Ltd has been installing its own wood pellet stoves anywhere in England or Wales since 2015.

Our website has a range of resources and frequently asked questions to help you plan your project and to get the best from your wood burning stove or wood burner. Follow the link below for more information or give us a call on – 0330 111 4747