There’s something dreamy about being nestled in a cabin in the woods by a crackling fire. Certain design elements pair perfectly with a rustic cottage — a wood-burning stove, floor-to-ceiling windows, a cozy open-plan living space, and more.
Freestanding wood stoves are an interior design cheat code: They help homeowners create a cozy, inviting ambiance while also functioning as a heat source. Since they ideally need to be added at the construction stage for ease, here’s what you need to keep in mind about a wood-burning stove if you’re about to start building your new place or renovating a fixer-upper.
We’re going to talk about why the modern wood stove is the heart(h) of a home, why they’re a great heating system, and why going back to the basics may be the best idea for you.
What Is a Wood-Burning Stove and How Does It Work?
Wood-burning stoves function by creating a controlled space for wood to be burned so that it heats the area surrounding it. Modern wood stoves often aren’t actually used as a stove for cooking, but rather a type of heater for the room or the home.
Here’s how they work, step by step:
- Like in the olden days, you collect firewood and place it inside the stove’s firebox, then light it to provide the initial flame. The firebox has fireproof walls that enclose the wood and flames.
- Air vents on the stove control airflow to the firebox, letting the wood heat up in a controlled, efficient manner. Opening the vents lets the fire burn faster because there is an increase in airflow. Partially closing them makes the wood burn slower, and at a lower temperature. Closing them puts the fire out.
- Since the stove is shut, the gas produced by burning the wood stays inside longer, and the closed environment allows the fire to burn hotter in a process called secondary combustion or secondary burn.
- The metal body of the stove radiates heat out from the stove and into the surrounding area.
Modern wood stoves are a vast improvement over the clunky, resource-inhaling versions of the past and they’re a far more effective way to heat your home than a wood-burning fireplace.
They’re so popular that there are an estimated 10.1 million wood-burning stoves in American homes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even released new guidelines to regulate the industry.
Plenty of our cabin designs at DEN Outdoors come equipped with modern wood stoves. Our aim is to protect green space with minimal impact, and these types of stoves are the perfect appliance for an energy-efficient cabin.
Advantages of Choosing a Wood-Burning Stove
In a world of gas stoves, electric stoves, and induction cooktops, why go for a wood-burning stove in your home? Here are some reasons why this type of stove might be perfect for you:
- Energy-efficient and environmentally friendly: Wood-burning stoves generate more heat, need less fire maintenance than fireplaces, and create longer-lasting fires. Modern wood stoves function by burning firewood more slowly and effectively and by burning off the waste gasses released by the wood combustion, to create more heat — leading to fewer emissions.
- Aesthetic: Whether you choose a more traditional-looking stove or modern minimalist one, retailers offer a wide range of designs that can help beautify your space.
- Effective heat output: A wood-burning stove generates a greater amount of heat and radiates it further than a fireplace.
- More economical: Because of the way wood-burning stoves function, homeowners can create longer-burning and more efficient fires, meaning they use less firewood. Also, you’re not paying for electric heating, which is far more expensive.
- More control: The enclosed environment in stoves allows the air supply to the fire to be fully controlled by air vents, making heat supply more efficient — unlike open fireplaces where airflow through the fireplace and chimney can’t be controlled.
- Dependable: It’s not connected to electricity, so even if the power goes out, you can stay warm and toasty thanks to this timeless method of heating.
- Flexible: Wood-burning stoves can be compact and freestanding, so they can be placed anywhere, whether it’s just in a living room, or a bedroom, or in all the different home zones, and ultimately replace far costlier central heating.
Costs of a Wood-Burning Stove
Wood-burning stoves (just the pieces) can vary in cost, but here are some ranges:
- Basic wood-burning stove: $500-$1,000
- Non-catalytic converter wood-burning stove: Starts at $1,000
- Catalytic converter wood-burning stove: Between $1,500 to $2,500
In addition to buying the actual stove, bear in mind you will have installation charges. Wood-burning stove installation crosses over with the roofing work, drywall repair, flooring installation, and HVAC venting. You’ll also pay for labor costs.
Materials, Parts, Sizes, and Heat Sources of a Wood-Burning Stove
As you shop for your stove, here are the various parts, materials, and sizes you’ll need to know about.
Types of Stoves
There are two types of wood-burning stoves: catalytic and non-catalytic. Catalytic stoves are often better as the primary heat source for the home, because the burn is more stable and produces less emissions — you’ll go through less wood because the fire lasts longer.
Non-catalytic stoves still work wonderfully as a heat source, but they do burn a bit faster and more intensely. The flames are more visible on this type, so if you want to watch your burning fire as you cozy up, this is your best option.
You can also get your hands on a hybrid stove that has both catalytic and non-catalytic options.
Either way, make sure the stove is EPA-certified — it’s required by law in the U.S.
What Stoves Are Made Of
Whether you’re looking for a minimalist, high-efficiency wood-burning stove or a more traditional antique vibe, here are the materials that can be used to design a wood heater:
- Sheet iron: Sheet iron heats up and cools down quickly. This material can be used to design stoves with a smooth surface since it’s more malleable than traditional materials like cast iron.
- Cast iron: A more traditional choice, cast iron takes longer to heat up but it’s great at saving heat. Since it’s so sturdy, a cast iron wood stove won’t change its shape even under the most intense heat.
- Soapstone: While it gained popularity because of the way it looks, soapstone is a good choice because it gives you a longer heating period. Soapstone is a natural material that absorbs and holds onto the heat from the combustion chamber, so it can radiate heat into your space for longer.
If you’re getting a custom stove designed, here are the basic components you’ll come across:
- Firebox: This is where the wood is placed and where the actual combustion takes place, located at the bottom of a stove.
- Air supply box: This regulates the amount of oxygen coming into contact with fuel in the fuel box.
- Damper: This is a moveable plate to regulate gas flow in the stove.
- Flue collar: This connects your vent piping to your chimney, so that smoke can escape.
- Baffle: This refers to stainless steel, cast iron, or brick plates on top of the firebox that are used to slow down or change the direction of the gasses.
Naturally, the size of your space determines the size of the stove you should have at home. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Small stoves: These compact stoves are ideal for either smaller spaces like the tiny houses and ADUs from DEN Outdoors, or for heating up certain zones of a home.
- Medium stoves: These are perfect for smaller and medium sized houses, or cabins that are used as winter getaways.
- Large stoves: These can be used in larger houses in place of a wood burning fireplace. It’ll create a cozy ambience in a large, open-plan home.
So can you use anything other than firewood to heat up your wood-burning stove?
Ideally, you shouldn’t, because wood-burning stoves are explicitly designed to use seasoned firewood.
Hardwoods like oak, maple, birch, and ash give maximum heat if you live somewhere that’s icier than Arendelle in “Frozen,” whereas softwoods like fir and pine are perfect for when the weather is getting crisper (but not too cold) in the fall.
You could potentially use compressed organic matter like wood chips, sawdust, hemp, soy, or coffee grounds shaped to resemble a log. These are more clean-burning than wood, but their usage depends on the design of your heater. You need a “multi-fuel stove” to use different kinds of fuels.
A different type of modern wood stove is a pellet stove, which uses wood pellets to create heat.
Both multi-fuel stoves and pellet stoves are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than gas stoves or gas fireplaces, which may be more convenient, but are more expensive.
DEN Designs With Wood-Burning Stoves
We at DEN Outdoors specialize in cabin designs already equipped with energy-efficient wood-burning stoves and we can help you create a DIY dream weekend getaway spot with a custom stove.
Have a look at our cabin designs that already come equipped with wood-burning stoves:
For work: If all you’re looking for is a home office away from the chaos of regular life, DEN’s 100-square-foot Pod Mini is your best bet. It can be constructed as a standalone structure on your property, and comes equipped with a dedicated work space and wood-burning stove to keep you warm as you work.
For play: The Shed Tiny House, DEN’s zen-like 170-square-foot space with floor-to-ceiling windows, features a Murphy bed, a bathroom, a mini kitchen, and a wood or gas stove. Whether you need some extra space on your property for guests or want a cozy space in the great outdoors, you’ll find it in this cabin design.
For work and play: The Alpine 2.1 is a stunning 920-square-foot cabin that is perfectly suited to be nestled on acres of green land. The design features a guest and master bedroom and a living space with floor-to-ceiling windows. Of course, there’s space for a minimalist wood or gas stove. So whether you want to move to the great outdoors full-time or just enjoy weekends away, The Alpine 2.1 has got you covered.
Decorating Around a Wood-Burning Stove
Whether your aesthetic is traditional, rustic, French, or Scandinavian modern like DEN designs, here are some tips for decorating your interiors around your stove:
- Creating a cozy nook: Placing a freestanding stove in the corner of a room, will create a cozy nook around which you can design a little warm spot for reading by adding an armchair and floor lamp.
- Blend it into your kitchen: If you have a great room that combines a living space with a kitchen and dining area, nestle a wood-burning stove alongside your kitchen cabinets.
- Create a faux fireplace: A wood-burning stove or fireplace insert can be placed inside a pre-existing fireplace to give your space a more traditional vibe.
- Play with shapes: Wood-burning stoves come in rectangular, square, or cylindrical shapes to perk up your space.
Light a Fire and Cozy Up
Now that you’re all warmed up on what it takes to get a wood heater to work in your space, you can finally bring a modern wood stove home — or you can find a cabin that is designed for one already.
DEN's design packages contain the plans you need to get started on your journey to getting warm and toasty in your new home.