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International standards for wood stoves say that furniture should not be closer than 3 feet or 36 inches.
Many brands and models specify a higher distance than this minimum. One of the most popular models in the U.S. specifies four feet or 48 inches.
These distances are to protect combustible furniture from fire. However, you may also be wondering if a hot stove could damage wooden tables or leather sofas that are even a little further away.
This article shows you how to find the right distance for your furniture and run your own tests for overheating.
Standard Distance Between Furniture And Wood Stoves
Many countries, including the United States and Canada, use minimum distances set by the NFPA, or the National Fire Protection Association.
The NFPA set a minimum distance of 36 inches between the front of the stove and combustible materials. The guidelines are here (you need to register a free account).
Your furniture is combustible i.e. it can catch on fire. So, this means that your furniture must be at least three feet from the front of the stove.
However, individual manufacturers may recommend a longer distance. The most important message I can give you is that you should always check the manual for a specific model.
How To Check The Distance or “Clearance” For Your Model
Stove manufacturers refer to “clearance” when they give the specification for how close your furniture can be. This just means how much space must be clear (empty).
Unfortunately, the clearance or distance for furniture isn’t always highlighted in manuals. But you should be able to find it with the tips I give here.
As an example, let’s take a look at Blaze King’s popular Princess Stove. The Blaze King website has a page for manuals and brochures. Follow the links to the manual.
When you open the manual, don’t be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of specifications for dimensions and emissions.
The Blaze King manual has a chapter on clearances. But it doesn’t mention furniture! The only distances are how far the stove must be from the walls.
My tip is to search the document for “combustible” or “furniture” and jump to each occurrence. This picture shows what the manual says:
Note that it says 48 inches, not 36 inches.
How To Test If Your Furniture Is Too Close To The Stove
If you’re running a stove on high heat, you should test the layout of the furniture in your room. Don’t rely on paper standards.
There are several ways to do this.
Before I get into them, I advise that run your test after the stove has been burning for the typically longest period you would have it producing high heat. That is probably at the end of a four-hour evening in Winter.
The simplest is to place the back of your hand against the part of your sofa or table that is closest to the stove.
If it’s uncomfortably hot to touch, then this is a sign that you should move the piece of furniture further away.
A more definitive way is to use a thermometer. A cheap laser or infrared thermometer will do the trick. My opinion is that if you’ve just bought your stove, you should buy a thermometer and test periodically.
The next question is – how do you know if the furniture is too hot?
You can look up the combustion temperature for your furniture, but these are likely to be very high. Western governments impose standards for fire resistance to protect you.
However, there’s another factor to consider. Some types of furniture material will degrade faster than others when four feet away from prolonged high heat.
In other words, you are slowly damaging that expensive wooden cabinet you spent months saving up for. I’ll get into this in more depth in the next sections.
Advice For Wooden Furniture Near A Stove
Do you have a wood dining room table and chairs in the room with the stove? Or a tall fir wood display cabinet?
The table legs are most likely to be vulnerable.
A cabinet is often to the side of a wood stove against a wall. But the side of the cabinet presents a considerable surface area for absorbing heat.
As long as you keep your wooden furniture four to five feet away, you shouldn’t have a hazard issue. But there are other considerations.
The main concerns are the wood drying out, cracking, or splitting from prolonged exposure to heat.
What happens here is that the heat slowly bleaches the wood and draws out the natural moisture. As the wood dries out over a prolonged period, it can crack and split.
If the table or cabinet is very warm to touch when the stove has been burning, it’s probably worth moving them another foot away.
There are also several products you can apply to the wood surface to give it a protective barrier and slow down the drying-out process. Wax or linseed oil are typical products.
Some products are better for different types of wood. Be sure to do some research, particularly if you have an expensive antique in the room.
Advice For Leather Chairs And Sofas
Friends of mine have a living room with a gorgeous stove and a sleek black leather sofa. It was also quite expensive to put together!
They tell me that they run the stove continuously through the winter on a near-full load and the sofa still looks brand new. For the record, they have it positioned five feet from the stove.
However, there’s a bit of a catch-22 here. Because they were concerned about protecting the expensive sofa, they moved it further away than the recommended distance in their stove owner’s manual.
But this means that they run the stove a little hotter to keep nice and toasty when sitting on the sofa!
A bit of experimentation will help here. They could try moving the piece six inches closer and then testing the heat of the fabric periodically.
The problem to avoid is prolonged heat drying out the leather to a point that it cracks and peels.
What About The TV?
You may have seen examples of living rooms where a big flat screen TV is mounted above a wood stove.
Are you wondering whether you should follow suit or if its better to keep the screen to the side? We cover this in more depth in our article on how close your TV can be to your wood stove.
Plan Your Furniture Layout
If you haven’t purchased a stove yet, it’s a good idea to plan out how it will impact the furniture layout in the room.
If this is a new house build or you’ve bought an unfurnished house, you can use cardboard to mark out the dimensions of your future furniture!
Start from the premise that you will be sacrificing space to have the benefit of a stove.
The online owner’s manual for your preferred stove has the dimensions i.e. width, height, and depth.
Remember, your stove must have clearance from the back wall as well. Using the dimensions from the manual, you can mark out where the front of the stove will be.
Your furniture should be at least three feet from that position. With some stoves, you may need more space than that.
At this point, the closest piece of furniture may need to be six feet from the wall. Depending on the room, this pre-planning may make you rethink your purchase or your positioning of the stove.