The distance-to-combustibles bogeyman: some new self-defence moves: heat-shields and geocast beams.

Among the various requirements for fitting a wood burning stove, some of the most critical relate to distances to combustibles. These are crucial for safe stove use, as they bridge the gap between fire as provider of warmth and fire as destroyer of life and property!flames

Most stove manufacturers provide guidance on distance-to-combustibles for their appliances, which can vary widely. We’ve covered much of this ground elsewhere, and selecting the right stove for your needs can give you considerable latitude in positioning yours where you want it, whether it’s in a fireplace, backing onto a plasterboard wall or in a plastic-and-glass conservatory.

Here, we’ll just consider two frequent scenarios for which we can now offer improved solutions: installing a small stove backing onto a combustible wall, and fitting a beam above a stove.

Building Regs has previously specified that the installation of a suitable (this is important!) heat shield behind a stove allows you to cut the distance-to-combustibles specified by the manufacturer in half (measured from the heat shield, not from the wall). For a Clearview Pioneer, for example, this would translate to a gap of 225mm (+ heat shield) instead of 450mm, which is obviously a significant improvement, but still leaves your stove further from the wall than you might like. But new guidance from HETAS allows, for stoves rated 7kW or below, for the stove to be positioned just 95mm from the heat shield, which brings small stoves such as the Pioneer as close to the wall as you could achieve (without a heat shield) with most convection-style stoves such as the Contura 510.

In our showroom, we have a demonstration Clearview 400P with a gorgeous blue heat shield to show just how effective this solution is.stove with blue heat shield

Below are the diagrams from HETAS setting out the rules and requirements around this new guidance. Pay special attention to the flue requirements, as insulated twinwall flue is required above the level of the heatshield (unlike our Clearview example, which actually backs onto a non-combustible wall, where the single-wall flue extends above the heat shield).

diagram of heat shield for wood burning stove

diagram of heat shield for wood burning stove in corner


Our second super-weapon is the geocast beam. Typically, wooden beams super-imposed above fireplaces need to be at least 450mm clear of the top of the stove. Although this can vary according to stove, not many manufacturers provide distances to combustibles above the stove, so it is always necessary when in doubt to default to a safe distance (a notable exception is Chesney’s Salisbury 8/6, for which the tested safe clearance is 300mm).

Our Geocast beams, which look so realistic that most of our customers in the showroom cannot tell it from real oak ones, can safely and easily be mounted above a fireplace with only a 9” gap from the stove. For customers hoping to retrofit a beam to an existing fireplace, or whose lintels on a knock-out cannot be raised above the necessary height to allow a wooden beam, or who may prefer for aesthetic reasons not to have a pillar-box shape fireplace, geocast beams are an excellent alternative. Here is one of ours in ‘pale-oak’, spanning 54” across the fireplace over our Contura 51L.

Geocast beam above Contura 51L woodburner

They are also available in ‘dark oak’ and ‘rustic’ versions and in 36” and 48” lengths.

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