Finishing a basement is a great way to add living space in a home, but often basements aren’t served by the home’s central HVAC system, leaving them out in the cold come wintertime.
One way of adding heat to a finished basement is to install a wood burning stove. This powerful heating appliance can quickly warm up even larger rooms, making one ideal for a finished basement space.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to determine if a wood burning stove is right for your basement and what steps are required for installation. We’ll also cover costs as well as the safety precautions you should keep in mind when adding a wood-burning stove to the basement.
Can You Put a Wood Burning Stove in a Basement?
It is possible to install a wood burning stove in the basement; however, you may need to perform a few modifications to properly vent it, which might require a significant investment. It’s also vital to first check with local building and fire codes to determine if code restrictions may prevent you from putting a wood burning stove in the basement.
You also need to have realistic expectations for your wood-burning stove. Many homeowners install a wood-burning stove to provide a primary source of heat for the upper levels of the home. Unlike a standard HVAC system, which uses an air handler to distribute warm air heated by a furnace throughout the home, a woodburning stove cannot circulate the heat it creates through ductwork. This makes a wood burning stove a poor choice for whole-home heating.
Wood Stove in Basement Pros and Cons
Before investing in a wood burning stove, it’s a good idea to first weigh the pros and cons of installing one in the basement.
If your goal is to heat the home with a wood stove, placing it in the basement is a bad idea. Wood stoves are designed to heat the area around them and cannot adequately circulate air to heat living spaces on different floors.
A wood stove is also a poor choice for an unfinished basement. Unfinished basements are poorly insulated, causing much of the heat the stove creates to escape outside.
Finally, a wood stove should be monitored. Unless the basement is a finished living space, the stove will likely be left unattended for long periods, which may allow it to overheat without anyone noticing, creating a fire hazard.
There are benefits to installing a wood stove in the basement. They are a great option for heating a finished basement that may not be tied into your home’s central HVAC system.
Common Problems With Basement Wood Stove
Many people use wood stoves as a major source of heat in their homes. While these appliances work well for that purpose, only if they are located on the main floor. A wood stove in the basement simply isn’t positioned to distribute air into the main part of the house. While blowers help distribute heat from the stove on upper floors, they are of little help if the stove is located in the basement.
There’s also the issue of heat loss. The concrete that makes up the foundation walls is a poor insulator, causing much of the heat that the stove creates to seep outside.
Like a wood-burning fireplace, woodstove must have a chimney to vent a fireplace. That vent can consist of either a masonry fireplace or prefabricated metal. Both chimneys must extend above the roofline to fit the building code, which means they must extend from the basement to the roof. That can be a challenge, forcing you to either run a pipe up the outside of the house or through the floors and roof of your home’s interior. Both methods add a level of complexity and cost to the project that can be prohibitive.
Depending on how you plan to vent your wood stove, drafts could be an issue. Venting the stove with a pipe that runs up the exterior of the house can leave cold air inside the chimney that can push downward. As warm air rises and leaves home via the attic and small leaks in windows, cool air is sucked in to replace it from lower areas in the home. A chimney pipe in the basement can serve as a receptacle for this process, drawing cold air into your home.
Wood burning stoves require wood to burn. If the woodstove is in a basement that does not have an exit door of its own, that means you’ll need to haul that firewood through the house and down the basement steps, which can be a hassle. With this in mind, a wood pellet stove is a better option.
Wood Stove in Basement Venting
When planning to install a wood stove in the basement, it’s vital to consider how the exhaust fumes created by the burning wood will be vented. The first factor to consider is building codes. Most fire code restrictions require that wood stove piping or a chimney extend at least 3 feet above the roofline of a home.
This means you’ll need to plan a route for the piping to run from basement to roof. The easiest solution is to run the piping along the home’s exterior using a basement window as an egress for the piping. You can also run a pipe straight up from the stove through the floors and roof of the home.
When planning an outdoor installation, it’s crucial to consider the stack effect when planning which type to use. The stack effect is a reference to the air pressure inside the home. As warm air in the home rises to the upper floors and escapes through small spaces, such as ducts, cavities in recessed lighting, bathroom vents and attic vents, air is drawn in through dryer vents, chimneys, gaps around windows and another opening in the lower levels of the home to replace it.
The greater the temperature difference between the air inside the chimney and the outside air, the greater its stack effect, which helps to drive the air upward and out of the chimney. If the chimney is located on the interior of the house, the air inside the chimney is warmed by the house, preventing it from being sucked into the home.
However, if the chimney located on the home’s exterior becomes chilled, the stack effect will cause that cold air to be drawn into the home, creating a draft while also distributing fireplace odors into the home.
Another option is to run the pipe up through the house by cutting holes through each floor of the home into the attic and then through the roof. This method requires the pipe to be routed between the floor joists for each level (don’t cut the floor joists!). The pipe is secured to the joist with various brackets. Heat shields must also be installed to prevent the pipe from heating combustible materials in the home’s construction and furnishings that create a fire hazard.
The disadvantage of this method is that the pipe runs through rooms, which can be unsightly or encroach on the home’s living area.
How to Install a Wood Burning Stove in a Basement
Step 1: Position the stove
Once you’ve figured out how you plan to vent the wood-burning stove, you can begin with the installation. When choosing a location in the basement for the stove, make sure to position it at least 3 feet away from the nearest wall unless the wall is made of masonry.
Alternatively, you can install thick metal sheeting over a combustible wall, using 1-inch spaces to create a buffer between the metal and the wall.
If planning for an exterior chimney, position the stove such that the vent pipe can extend to a basement window or a hole in the foundation without impeding the living space.
If installing the stove indoors, consider how the pipe will extend through the above rooms to the roof. While you can redirect the pipe to avoid obstacles as it rises to the attic, the straighter the pipe, the easier it will be to install and the better it will vent.
Step 2: Install the Pipe
When installing the pipe for a wood burning stove, it’s crucial that you use pipe designed specifically for wood stoves. Stove pipes are double or triple-layered with multiple insulating layers, which keeps the exterior of the pipe cool. This design prevents them from heating up and igniting combustible material around them, such as wood framing or furnishings.
If installing the vent pipe outside, measure the distance between the stove and the window, then cut 3-foot long sections of pipe. Use elbows and the pipe section to run the pipe from the stove to the window.
For indoor installations, you’ll need to cut a hole in each level of the home until you reach the roof. Each hole should be 1/8 of an inch larger than the diameter of the pipe. Use a plumb bob and or laser level to line up each hole you cut so that the pipe runs straight up from the stove to the roof.
In some cases, you may need to use joints for any necessary changes in direction for the pipe.
Step 3: Prepare the Window (Outdoor installation)
If you’re planning on attaching the vent pipe to the outside of the house, you’ll need to prep the attic window to receive the pipe. Cut 20-gauge sheet metal to fit the window, then cut a hole in the sheet metal that’s 1/8-inch in diameter than the pipe.
Secure the metal sheet to the window opening, then run the pipe through it, using fireclay to create an airtight seal around the pipe and the metal sheet.
Keep in mind that if you’re planning to install the wood-burning stove in a living space, that living space must have at least one window that fits building code guidelines for basement egress windows.
If you don’t have a window to vent the pipe, you can cut a hole through the foundation. While this job is more difficult, it’s possible with a concrete drill bit and a concrete circular hole saw.
Step 4: Run the Pipe to the Roof
Attach a 90-degree elbow to the pipe outside the window, then run the pipe up the side of the house, securing it to the home’s exterior with hardware. Attach the pipe to the stove using screws designed for metal piping.
For indoor installation, use a support kit to carry the load of the pipe. Spanners should be added between the joists around the hole, creating additional support for the pipe.
Make sure to use a fire stop joist shield for each level that the pipe passes through. This shield will create the necessary buffer between the pipe and wood joists to prevent contact that could cause a fire.
When cutting the hole through the roof, it’s crucial to use the appropriate flashing and pipe stem collar to prevent leaks from forming between the opening and the pipe. This will prevent overheating the wall, which could cause a fire.
How Much Does It Cost to Install a Wood Stove in the Basement?
When you’re considering the cost of installing a wood stove in the basement, you need to keep in mind both the price of the wood stove as well as the cost of installing a ventilation system. The average cost to install a wood stove is $1,200 to $4,500.
This cost takes into account the broad range of wood stoves available, ranging from affordable models that cost around $400 to high-end models that can cost more than $3,000. Adding a pipe chimney ranges between $300 and $3,500, depending on the complexity of the job.
Can You Vent a Pellet Stove Through a Basement Window?
Yes, you can vent a pellet stove through a basement window but keep in mind that you’ll need to cover the window with sheet metal to create a panel that can adequately support the metal chimney pipe that will pass through it.
Chances are, if you’re installing a wood stove in your basement, it’s because you use your basement as a living space. All basements that function as living spaces must have an egress window that adheres to building code requirements.
You won’t be able to use a basement egress window to vent the stove as that would violate the building code requirements for basement egress windows.
What Is the Best Wood Stove for the Basement?
When choosing a wood stove, you have two types to choose from: catalytic and non-catalytic. Catalytic wood stoves burn more efficiently and produce fewer fumes. That’s because a catalytic wood stove, like the catalytic converter in your car, has a combustor that burns off smoke and byproducts.
This design also reduces heat loss. Some catalytic wood stoves have efficiency ratings that exceed 80 percent.
Non-catalytic stoves are more affordable but also less efficient. They also produce more fumes. Given that the basement is an enclosed space with less ventilation than an upper level of the home, it makes sense to go with a catalytic wood stove for basement use.
When making a selection, it’s also crucial to consider the size. Many wood stoves are designed to heat large spaces of up to 2,000 square feet or more, which is significantly larger than most basements. Consider the basement square footage you’re trying to heat with the stove when selecting your wood stove.
Can You Put a Wood Furnace in the Basement?
Similar to a standard gas or electric furnace, a wood-burning furnace uses ductwork, heat exchangers, and blowers to distribute heat throughout the home. The only difference is these furnaces are powered by wood versus electricity or gas.
This design makes a wood furnace ideal for basement installation. Many wood furnaces are designed to go in your basement. Keep in mind that ductwork must be run to the furnace to distribute warm air throughout a home.
You’ll also want to make sure that the blower that circulates the air is powerful enough to move warm air from the stove through the ductwork to the areas of the home you want to heat.
Are Wood Stoves Allowed in Basements?
While wood stoves are allowed in the basement in most parts of the country, that’s not to say they are universally accepted. It’s crucial that you check with the local building code as well as your Homeowners Association to determine if you’re allowed to put a wood stove in your home’s basement.
Keep in mind that while regulations may not explicitly prohibit a wood stove in the basement, regulations regarding ventilation and chimney space may make it impossible to do so.
While reviewing building codes and HOA rules seems like a hassle, it’s a lot cheaper and less time-consuming than having to remove a wood stove you weren’t authorized to install.
Should You Put a Wood Stove in My Basement?
Whether you should put a wood stove in your basement depends on a few factors. First and foremost, make sure local building codes and homeowners association guidelines allow you to put a wood stove in your basement.
Also, consider what you hope to get out of a wood stove. If you’re using it to heat the upper floors of your home, it doesn’t make sense to install the wood stove in a basement. Wood stoves designed to supplement home heat should be placed in the part of the home you want to be warmest, such as a living room or great room.
That said, putting a wood stove in the basement is a good idea if the basement is finished and you’re planning to use the stove to heat the living space. Keep the stove’s venting requirements in mind when planning your wood stove installation.