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CAN I PUT A WOODBURNING STOVE IN MY CONSERVATORY?

In many ways, conservatories are the ideal destination for a wood burning stove – they’re typically too cold to use in winter, at just the time of year when you most want to be flooded with natural daylight or to be able to use the extra space in the evenings when the whole family is kept inside by the early darkness.

Conservatories also retain heat like a bikini in Siberia and cost a small fortune to keep warm with central heating. This makes them ideal candidates for discretionary heating that delivers immediate and powerful warmth, and nothing performs this role better than a wood-burning stove.

However, installing a stove in a conservatory is usually more complicated than doing so inside a house:

  • Most conservatories are some combination of plastic, wood, glass, Perspex or lightweight painted metal. They either melt or burn when exposed to excess heat.
  • Conservatory roofs are great for letting through light; not obviously so good for letting through flues.
  • Because of the typically low walls in a conservatory, as well as the flimsy roof structures, it can be hard to adequately support the flue, which needs, at a bare minimum, to be supported in two places (as well as where it meets the stove).
  • One of the perils of hyper-efficient modern stoves is that most of them have correspondingly high flue-draught requirements. What this means in practice is that the flue height has to exceed the minimum stipulations of Building Regulations in order to draw properly, which is not always obviously practicable on a conservatory.
  • A corollary of a low flue on a conservatory adjoining a conventional two-storey house is that it will terminate around the height of the upstairs windows. Quite apart from the possibility of turbulence at the top of the flue (creating backdrafts pushing smoke back down the flue) there is also danger that the flue gases will blow in your upstairs windows (or, worse still, your neighbours’).

Fortunately, there are some fixes for all these issues.

Conventional stoves, which tend to radiate similar amounts of heat from all four sides, can be shielded from the wall with heatshields, from eye-catching enamelled Vlaze panels, to inexpensive non-combustible board or cut stone, as in this dramatic Charnwood stove installation in a garden room:

stove with heat shield and bookshelves
Charnwood stove with heat shields

Alternatively, stoves that are commonly termed ‘convection stoves’ such as those from Swedish titan Contura can often back onto combustible materials just 100mm (4”) away, like this one…

Contura stove in oak framed building
Contura in oak-framed conservatory

When combined with insulated twinwall flue, this allows significant flexibility in positioning a stove in even the most combustible conservatory.

Even twinwall flue gets hot, so it’s important to be careful when it rises through the roof. Plastic roofs can be cut back to allow the requisite distance to combustibles. Proprietary flashings can be fitted on top and decorative trims on the inside. It is possible to cut holes in glass roofs too, but this is considerably more specialised.

twinwall flue penetrating conservatory roof
Conservatory flue

Alternatively, individual panels of the roof can be swapped out for non-combustible materials.

The issues with flue-support and height can be the most contentious, as the desired position is frequently at the far end of the conservatory so that one can sit anywhere in the room and face both the stove and the garden.

While this arrangement has obvious appeal, it also presents considerable drawbacks, for the reasons spelled out above. It is sometimes possible:

Stove in conservatory
Contura 850

However, the best place to position a stove is usually against, or near to, the outside wall of the house. This usually offers a solid wall off which to support the flue, and allows for continued support of the flue up to full roof height, which all but guarantees sufficient draught for the stove as well as transporting the excess flue gases to a safe height where they can disperse harmlessly in the air.

house with external flue and van and truck flatbed
Woodburner flue above conservatory roof

As with all stove installations, this kind of work should only be carried out by an installer with a suitable ‘competent person’ qualification (usually HETAS, but there are other equivalent schemes). The added complications of a conservatory installation make it even more important to use someone who is not only qualified but well-experienced.