There may be nothing quite as cozy as curling up in front of a fireplace or wood burning stove on a cold fall or winter night. Wood stoves can provide style, ambiance – and of course, heat – to your home. The US Fire Administration estimates that more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces or wood stoves as a primary heat source in their homes. However, the department also reports that 36 percent of residential home fires are triggered by heat sources. That fire risk is exactly why homeowners insurance companies have some strict guidelines – and sometimes even charge higher rates – for properties that contain wood stoves.
Homeowners insurance protects your home from accidents, natural disasters and liability issues (depending on the coverage provided in your policy). Homeowners insurance companies price their policies according to a number of factors, like the square footage of your home and its location. They also assess the risk of insuring your home and price the policy accordingly. Having a wood stove can be seen as a risk factor for homeowners insurance companies. Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces raise the risk of starting a fire that could damage the home. Not all insurance companies raise policy prices for homes containing wood stoves, so it’s a good idea to shop around with various carriers.
Your homeowners insurance company may require a specific certificate that reports that your stove was installed correctly. The company may also require proof that stove installers complied with all local building codes. Improper installation raises the risk of an in-home fire, and some homeowners insurance companies may refuse to cover a fire claim if they don't have proof on file of proper installation. Keep in mind that some homeowners insurance companies won’t raise your policy premium for a properly-installed stove.
Reducing Fire Risk
Obviously, reducing the risk of fire in your home is beneficial beyond your homeowners insurance rates. While your homeowners insurance company may not be around to make sure that you maintain your wood stove and practice good fire safety, these actions are imperative for the safety of your family.
If you have a wood stove in your home, you should be sure to have your chimney or stovepipe inspected and cleaned on a yearly basis. Make sure that you use a certified professional to perform your cleaning. You should also keep the area around your stove clean and free from debris or decorations. If your stove has glass doors attached, keep them open while the fire is burning, and closed when the fire is out. If you do not have glass doors, make sure you use a mesh metal screen.
Exterior and Interior
Be sure to extend vent pipes three feet above your roof. Stop sparks from spreading by installing mesh screen on the chimney and keep adjacent areas clear of debris. The US Fire Administration further advises the use of smoke alarms on every level of your home -- and reminds homeowners to change batteries yearly.
Kristen Radford Price began writing in 2005 for her campus newspaper. She has served as a feature writer for the life-and-style section of the "Daily Herald," a contributor to "Utah Valley Weekly," an editor for a small publishing house and now as director of communications for an Internet company. Radford has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.