Adding a wood stove or pellet stove to a home provides an additional heat source in the winter and creates a cozy, cabin-like ambiance for your living room. Installing a wood stove or a hearth insert typically costs an average of $3,000-$4,000, including the stovepipe and labor costs, according to the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association. David Johnson, owner of DNG Complete Home Improvement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, agrees that's an accurate price for installing a wood stove in a working fireplace. Freestanding stove installation costs vary, Johnson says, depending on the type of stove, its capacity, where it's installed, and the amount and type of work required to install it.
When considering installing a wood-burning stove, fire safety should be your top priority. The walls and floor need to be protected and in some cases a double wall or additional ductwork installed to vent the heat. Adding heat-resistant materials to the area around a free-standing wood-burning stove is an important cost to factor into the total project cost. Also be aware of the fees to have new construction inspected for code compliance and manufacturer's specifications.
For all these reasons, wood stove installation is generally not something you want to DIY. Here are the factors that affect the national average cost of wood stove installation.
Wood-burning stoves and wood-burning fireplaces range in price from as low as $100 up to approximately $3,200, depending on the capacity. A stove's capacity determines how much space it can heat, and prices also vary based on the manufacturer, stove material and fuel type. Special finishes on the stove like stainless steel may also affect the price.
One popular alternative to a true wood-burning stove is a gas fireplace, which simulates the look and feel of a wood-burning stove while burning natural gas instead of real wood. The national average cost of a gas fireplace is $2,000.
Wood stoves are generally made of either cast iron or steel. There is very little performance difference between the two, although cast iron holds heat a little better. The main differences between the two are cost and aesthetics.
Cast-iron stoves are molded and often feature graceful curves, along with different colors and an enamel finish. Steel stoves are welded together, are more plain-looking and are almost always black. While a cast-iron stove can hold heat longer, a steel wood stove tends to heat a room a little more quickly than cast iron. Cast-iron wood stoves typically cost 20 percent to 30 percent more on average than steel stoves.
The primary price difference between wood-burning stoves and those that burn pellets, which are made of sawdust or small wood chips, is the long-term cost of the fuel itself. Pellets, which cost more per ton and emit less particulate matter than wood, typically cost about $200 more per cold season on average than wood.
Whichever type of fuel you choose, remember that you'll also need to have the fireplace and chimney cleaned regularly to remove soot and debris and maintain the safety of the unit. Budget around $100-$200 annually for cleaning costs.
Catalytic versus noncatalytic stove
A catalytic stove traps smoke and other combustion byproducts in a coated combustion chamber (the combustor), where they ignite at a much lower temperature than normally required, which increases the stove's efficiency and reduces carbon emissions. A catalytic stove is usually considered a better choice as a primary heat source. However, the catalytic combustor requires regular cleaning and maintenance and may need to be replaced every five years at a cost of $100-$300 on average. Catalytic stoves cost about $500-$700 more on average than noncatalytic wood stoves, which are easier to use and require less maintenance. Noncatalytic stoves are often recommended as a supplemental heat source only.
Freestanding stove or fireplace insert
A freestanding wood stove usually costs more to install than a fireplace insert, primarily because they require installing a stovepipe and laying a heat-resistant base. Labor and materials for these tasks could add another $1,000-$2,000 on average to the total cost.
In addition to purchasing the insert itself, you must also consider the cost of installation; even if the stove costs just $500, the installation cost could be twice that. Installation steps often include assembling the stove and adding ventilation to the fireplace.
Most wood stoves require some assembly, and might even need to be customized to fit into your fireplace space. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars, on average, depending on the extent of the customization. As a general rule, adding stone, a hearth pad, ductwork, an insulated chimney or other energy-efficiency features could add to the overall installation cost but save you money on your energy bills over the long term.
The stove's ventilation must meet local regulations, which vary from town to town. The vent system's location in the home will likely impact how much it costs; a basic, simple installation may cost only a few hundred dollars, but adding a complex ventilation system may cost as much as $3,000.
Wood stove safety tips
A new wood-burning stove can add warmth and beauty to your home, but it must be installed and maintained according to smart fire safety standards. To mitigate potential risks, including burns, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, follow these precautions:
- Remember that the outer surfaces of the stove get very hot while a fire is burning. Keep children and pets far away. Anything flammable should be stored at least three feet away from the stove.
- Keep working carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in your home, especially outside each bedroom and near the stove.
- Have the chimney and stove inspected each year to check for buildup of any dangerous materials and wear and tear, especially in the connection between the stove and chimney.
- Regularly check for damage to the stove and chimney, including buckling, cracks or corroded metal.
- Burn only dry wood or wood pellets in the stove — never any garbage or household waste — and don't put in more firewood than the stove can handle. Make sure the fire stays within the recommended size for your particular stove.
- Clean the ashes out of the bottom of the stove regularly, making sure they don't interfere with air flow.
- The federal government has offered a biomass credit of up to $300 that may help cushion some of the upfront costs of installing a wood stove.
- Check with your local fire department, building code office, or homeowners association to confirm that you're allowed to install a new wood-burning stove. For example, California only allows homeowners to burn commercially made pellets in wood stoves to protect air quality.