It's autumn, the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and wood-burning stoves. Those who have a stove are enjoying the opportunity to light them and the have-nots are envious of the cosy, mesmeric and soporific effect that only a real fire can bring.
The trend for woodburners and multi-fuel stoves is still going strong and sales look set to boom thanks to a long-range weather forecast from the Met Office that predicts a cold and icy winter. Design too is playing a part in popularising the stove as manufacturers continue to up their game when it comes to style.
There are some great contemporary designs and colours. Arada stoves are now available in seven different shades from soft grey and metallic red to chestnut brown and bright blue.
“There are designs to suit every kind of interior and the best stoves are more controllable and efficient. That has helped boost sales,” says Liam Clough, of Huddersfield-based Yorkshire Stoves and Fireplaces.
If you are contemplating buying a stove it pays to do your homework. The cowboys have jumped on the wood-burning bandwagon and the market is now flooded with stoves of questionable quality, many of them from China.
They look the part and with prices from £250 compared to £700 upwards for a quality brand, they are tempting, but says Liam Clough: “There are a lot of issues with them and a lot of people get caught out by them because of the price. In this industry you get what you pay for.
“The cheap imported stoves are very inefficient and expensive to run. You need double the amount fuel to get the same amount of heat as a good quality stove.
“The emissions are also high so they produce a lot more smoke leading to poor air quality and glass blacking up. As they are badly made they are likely to break down and they have short lifespans.”
He is looking forward to the day when they are banned and adds: “They are the bane of the industry but there is emissions legislation due in 2022 that should eliminate the cheap, inferior products as they will fail the new tests.”
If you are tempted by a cheap brand that you've never heard of then a quick internet search for reviews may throw up some useful information. A friend found a gorgeous looking brand new stove for sale in two online shops for just under £250. Fortunately she checked it out and found it had poor feedback. One review read: “Do not buy. The door fell off after a couple of months and badly burnt my hand.”
As a general rule, a good wood-burning stove including fitting will cost between £2,500 and £3,000. Homes without a chimney will need a flue system, which adds extra cost. Expect to pay between £3,000 and £4,000. Among the best British brands are Stovax, Chesneys, Mendip and Clock, along with Yorkshire's Town and Country Fires based in Pickering and Esse, which has its headquarters in Barnoldswick.
Scandinavian stoves are also a safe bet. Jotul, Rais, Morso, Hwam and Contura all have a good reputation and specialise in designs that are perfect for contemporary interiors.
Before you make a final decision, weigh up the pros and cons of having a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove that can also burn smokeless coal. They are more labour intensive than a gas or electric fire and if you live in a well-insulated home then they could even prove too hot.
Liam Clough says: “If you are organised they aren't a lot of extra work. You need to make sure you have a good supply of seasoned wood and somewhere to store it. You'll also need a log basket in the house.
“If you only use wood and have a good quality stove, you'll only have to clean the fire out once every three or four weeks because the ashes will burn to a very fine dust. That just leaves the chimney to be swept once a year.”
If you use the fire in autumn and winter on evenings and weekends, expect to use about four tons of wood at £80 per ton, which adds up to £360 a year.
“That's for an efficient stove. If you buy a cheap, inefficient one, it will cost you double. An open fire will cost triple because most of the heat goes up the chimney,” says Liam.
For those who don't want real flames, there are some great gas and electric imitations. Yeoman and Gazco have an excellent selection and the Optiflame stoves by Dimplex are also realistic.
If you decide that only a wood-burner will do then a copy of The Little Book of Building Fires by Yorkshire author Sally Coulthard is a must. Published by Anima and costing £10, it is a brilliantly informative guide and includes everything from where to find wood to banking up and making your fire fragrant...and safe.
There's a whole chapter on wood-burning stoves and lots of useful tips, including this: “Hardwoods are denser than softwoods so provide a longer burn. They also have less resin so aren't prone to cloging up your chimney. Best for burning: ash, oak and hornbeam.”