Alcove and Wood Stove question!

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New Member
Jun 16, 2021
Hi there! To preface, I am new here and know very little about wood fire stoves.

My husband and I are in the process of remodeling a 1920s farmhouse and are looking to add a wood fire stove in an alcove that looks like a fireplace (will not be real masonry fireplace but will be lined with firebrick). The problem I've run into is that I did not know about clearances and if building an alcove, my "fireplace" may look pretty tall. We are outside city limits so we don't necessarily need to follow code but when it comes to fire, i want to be as safe as possible! Our reason for building an alcove in the first place is because we have a baby and want don't want to wood fire stove to be out in the open. My question is, are there any wood fire stoves that have a low clearance minimum? Do we still need to follow the clearance requirements if we are using firebrick? I'm attaching a photo of the look we are going for.
25 Classical Fireplace Designs From British Homes.jpeg
Clearances are to a combustible. If Brick is in direct contact with combustible material you still have a combustible wall. It would have a reduced clearance from 36 inches without brick to 24 with solid brick in contact with combustible wall. So you would need a stove built for closer clearance than an unlisted stove that requires 36 inches with no heat shield. Only an approved heat shield with 1 inch airspace behind it, open at top and bottom for air circulation allows clearance reduction down to 12 inches.

Other issues in the photo are the mantel or shelf above the stove and wood trim looks closer than 36 inches, and you need floor protection in front extending 18 inches in front of door.

A yard stick cannot touch anything combustible on any angle from the stove giving you the required 36 inches to combustible in any direction from any stove surface.

Stoves without shields are made to radiate heat in all directions. Alcove installations do not circulate as well and can cause uneven heating of sides and rear since the front radiates forward and cools allowing the rear of the stove to stay much hotter. This uneven heating can warp and crack stoves designed to radiate evenly in all directions.

Before central heating, all children learned to stay away from hot stoves. You show them how hot by holding their hand up to it, and they will stay away. A curious one may touch it once. I heat with radiant stoves only and never had a major issue with burns having children near them.

For codes, refer to your statewide International Building Code 2006 adopted by your state. If not enforced locally, your insurance company should require it. The Mechanical Code from that International Family of Codes covers solid fuel appliance installation and venting regulations. Also refer to the NFPA 211 Standard which most of the International Code is adopted from. Abiding by that Standard will give you a safe installation.

One thing the International Code adds to the NFPA 211 Standard is all appliances are required to be UL Listed with tag affixed to stove.
Can you post a picture of two of the current location? The proposed idea is a tough one to solve. Lining with firebrick is not a solution. There is a big difference between putting a stove in a fireplace and faking it by creating the look (which is not an alcove). Pictures abound on the internet that tempts the eye. Some are from Europe and in all masonry structures and some others simply are not safe or legal. If we can get an idea of what you are starting out with we can possibly help.

Also, how large an area is a stove expected to heat, and what is the budget?
@coaly This is very helpful, thank you! And excuse my ignorance, but what is an "unlisted" stove? We can do a brick base that is flush with the floor as well so we can definitely go 18 inches in front. The photo is just overall inspiration and does not need to be exact. I kind of just wanted to get an idea if it was possible. I was looking at the Jotul 602 but it looks like the minimum floor to ceiling clearance is 96" so that won't work. I am open to the idea of not building an alcove and having a freestanding one. It does make me nervous with children but I do think they would learn quickly to stay away. If there was a stove with a small clearance, I would prefer that because I like the look of a fireplace more.

Again, thank you so much! This is great help.
@begreen Sure! It will go in our dining room, where the original stove once was, as you can see where the chimney was. We are closing up the door to the right of it so ignore that. We have yet to break into the wall and see the state of the pipe or chimney or whatever is behind there. Open to any ideas!
budget including the stove is around 5k.
This whole process would be much simpler if the idea of trying to create a false fireplace look was abandoned and the stove was placed on an attractive freestanding hearth. They make child gates to surround the stove for protection if that is the concern. In general, kids learn pretty quickly that the stove can be an owee, hot! Some stoves could be placed in the corner to the left which might make gating it off easier.

There are several complications with trying to make the fireplace look work here. First is that there will likely need to be a 90º elbow into the chimney. This will increase the depth of the false fireplace. Second is whether the old chimney is serviceable. Most likely it will need an insulated stainless liner. Third, the back wall is combustible. And fourth, the budget is low for this undertaking.

If the goal is to recreate the false fireplace look, the entire enclosure will need to be made non-combustible using metal studs and cement board. This includes the wall behind which needs to be reconstructed also using metal studs and cement board. Unless this is a DIY project, I suspect the budget may be in jeopardy. A good place to start is to have a professional chimney sweep drop a camera down the chimney to determine its current state and then go from there.

The stove choice will also affect the possibilities for the installation. Are you only considering an older used stove? Some modern stoves have closer clearances. Or, would a gas stove be a possibility?

If you decide to go with a freestanding stove. There are some that would look nice in that space. How large an area will the stove be heating?
Listing of a appliance means it is tested by a lab to UL testing standard. Before 1980 there were different areas of the country testing to different standards. Unlisted can be before the standardized testing started, home made or stoves missing a tag are “unlisted”. They had their own installation criteria in NFPA 211 for reduced clearances. Codes adopt standards and states or local jurisdictions adopt the codes. The International Codes added ALL appliances must be approved (Listed) so this prevents antiques, unlisted or untested stoves from being installed. Previously installed stoves can continue to be used, but insurance companies sometimes require UL listing as well.
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Alcoves are an extra cost an I think more aesthetic than functional. Raised hearths can provide that deliniation of space help direct traffic around the stove but can be toe stubbers. Baby’s will touch anything they can reach. It think our youngest’s first words were “hot hot”. It’s not only the baby’s. I’ve scraped several “incidents” off the stove and glass that were old enough to know better about.

I saw a really attractive metal fence around a stove in a house we where in. It was big enough that all the wood and stove tools were enclosed and gave enough room to open and load the stove. Great thing about the fence is if it’s thoughtfully installed you can easily remove it when you are past the baby stage with little evidence that it was ever there

Different stove have different clearances unless you are going with an old unlisted stove. If buying new pick the stove then build to clearances. Read the manuals as they should all have alcove ceiling clearances listed. By pretty tall I’m guessing at least 6-7 feet off the floor. Might be able to find a lower clearance stove.

As a reference point my stove and liner installed was 5600$. 3300$ for stove 1000$ for 15 foot insulated liner and another 1000$ for labor. It took a two person crew the better part of a day to do it. it was a super straight forward install into a masonry fireplace.

it’s not worth planning anything until you know the state and size of the chimney. If it’s to small or unusable you will then have many more “options” to consider.

Just my thoughts
it’s not worth planning anything until you know the state and size of the chimney. If it’s to small or unusable you will then have many more “options” to consider.

Advise winner right there;)

A additional 2 cents worth of opinion from my perspective. 2 of my own kids and 3 grandchildren have successfully navigated the freestanding stove or previous stove's in the location shown in my av. No burned hands. No melted toys. Possibly we have been just lucky? Dunno......
Here is more discussion on children around woodstoves: