Most wood stoves require a protective hearth pad, but even if yours doesn't, you still might want to consider an added layer of protection. Stove boards shield combustible floors and walls from the intense heat of the stove or any escaping sparks. They come in several configurations so you can have the right protection in whatever installation you choose.
They also come in many colors and styles so you don't have to sacrifice style for safety. If anything, the stove boards add to the aesthetic of the stove and make it look more grounded and complete.
The downside with so many options is that it's hard to know where to start. We'll cover what's available, how to choose the right set up, and how to install the stove boards. Consider this article a crash course in stove boards and hearth protection.
Why Should You Consider a Stove Board?
Yes, we know, "Better safe than sorry." But this is especially true with wood stoves or other hearth appliances. If you skimp on the proper protection, you genuinely risk losing everything. Most house fires are preventable and it's absolutely necessary to install the right stove pad or board as the first line of defense against sparks and embers.
But even without sparks, stove boards are needed to protect nearby surfaces from heat damage. At the risk of stating the obvious, wood stoves get very hot (that's kind of the point). Non-heat-resistant surfaces like sheetrock, wood floors, or carpet could warp, melt, or discolor due to the high heat.
It's just not worth the risk of damage. Plus, stove boards can add a lovely decorative touch!
What is a Stove Board or Hearth Pad?
Stove boards (i.e. hearth pads, heat shields, or hearth extensions) are made from non-combustible material like concrete, metal, tile, or ceramic glass. They are different from traditional floor rugs or hearth rugs that you might see in front of a fire. Unlike a rug, these panels are rigid, fireproof, and designed to go underneath the stove or mount on the nearby walls.
Osburn tempered glass floor protector
If you are installing the stove on a combustible surface like a wood floor, you'll likely need a stove board underneath to protect the floor. The wallboards are only necessary if the walls are within a certain distance of the stove. However, wall protection allows you to install the stove closer to the wall or corner, freeing up more usable space in the room.
Materials: What is Stove Board Made Of?
A wood stove hearth or a stove board is made from a variety of fire-resistant materials. Options include things like concrete, slate, glass, limestone, or resin. Wallplates can also come in many materials including sheet metal. The different materials allow you to customize the look of your stove, but the main point is to find something flame and heat resistant.
In general, the materials used for factory-built hearth pads are 12mm thick. If your stove generates temperatures higher than 212 °F, your pad must be significantly thicker.
Incorporating air spaces beneath the hearth pad or using fire-rated insulating products helps to keep the overall thickness of the hearth pad down. Specially rated hearth pads (ones that are tested to not exceed 100 degrees above the room temperature) can be used with high-temperature stoves even at a standard thickness of 12mm. But, it's important to check the R-value of the material.
What is R-Value?
When looking for stove boards, one number you might come across is something called "R-value." R-value is a measure of a material's thermal resistance. In other words, how easily does the material allow heat to pass through it? The higher the R-value, the higher the degree of insulation material the stove board has.
R-value is dependent on the type of material and thickness of the material. For example, 1 inch of granite has an R-value of 0.05, but if you stack two slabs together so that you have 2 inches, then the combined R-value would be 0.1. A standard bricklayer (4 inches) has an R-value of 0.8.
Many prefabricated hearth boards use products such as mineral board or vermiculite panels as an insulating core. These materials typically have an approximate R-value of 1.00 per 1/2 inch of material, making them ideal for use in a hearth pad. They also have a density similar to drywall, making the panels easy to cut and secure in a homemade hearth pad.
The measure of thermal resistance is important because it helps you know how much protection the stove board will provide against the heat from the stove. In the example above, both the granite and the brick would protect from flying sparks since both are highly fire-resistant. But, the R-value gives a way of comparing how well they insulate the wall or floor from heat.
Air also acts as insulation and has an R-value of about 1.00 for a 1/2 to 4-inch gap of space. This is one reason why some wall plates or hearth boards are mounted with an air gap between the board and the wall. The air adds extra insulation from the heat.
Type 1 Versus Type 2 Hearth Pads
Remember, fire-resistant is not the same as heat-resistant. Fire-resistant material won't burst into flames when an ember lands on it. Heat-resistant material protects the wall or floor it covers from getting too hot. Type 1 offers fire protection, whereas Type 2 offers both fire and heat protection.
In other words, Type 1 hearth pads will protect your floor from falling embers or sparks. It won't ignite or scorch the floor. However, Type 1 pads do not offer as much heat protection and the floor beneath the pad could still get very hot. Depending on the type of stove you own and the frequency of use, Type 1 may not be enough protection.
Type 2 keeps embers and sparks from causing damage, but it also provides thermal protection. These "ThermaShield" pads help block heat transmitted to the floor underneath the hearth pad. It provides the greatest protection out of all hearth pads on the market.
Type 2 pads are tested to meet UL1618 standards. These safety standards cover hearth pads and extensions as well as wall shields.
R-CO stove board
Wall heat shields (often made of sheet metal) are designed to protect combustible wall surfaces from the heat of stoves. Because they are usually installed behind the stove, these shields are also known as rear shields. The United States and Canada have laws specifying the use of heat shields if the stove is installed within a certain distance to a combustible wall. Metal shields are often mounted 1 inch from the wall so that the air gap adds extra thermal protection.
Check that you follow all the national and local building codes when installing your stove and heat protection.
How To Get The Right Size Hearth Pad
Not surprisingly, the size of the hearth pad you will need depends on the size of your stove and how hot it gets. Here is a list of common clearance requirements, but keep in mind that it is important to read the manufacturer's instructions for your specific appliance.
Code for solid-fuel, standalone appliances require at least 16 inches of a pad in front of the stove door and 8 inches on either side.
If the appliance was not tested to a UL listing, clearance from the stove loading door to the edge of floor protection increases to a minimum of 18 inches.
Always follow the requirements dictated by the manufacturer or the stove. Manufacturers will often specify varying clearance requirements for floors and walls based on the type of venting used.
As a general rule of thumb, the hearth pad dimensions for a free-standing stove with no listed clearances over a combustible floor should be 36 inches in all directions from the edge of the stove. Unlisted stoves with a stove body that sits 2 inches or closer to the floor must only be installed on a non-combustible floor.
Which Hearth Pad Should I Use Under a Wood Burning Stove?
Wood burning stoves warrant an extra measure of protection because there is less control over how hot the fire gets. (There is also the consideration of flying sparks or embers.) You should use a stove board that is UL Certified for Safety. This means it was laboratory tested under various conditions to meet safety standards for wood-burning stoves.
Vent-free cast-iron gas stove
The decision to use Type 1 or Type 2 rated pads depends on how much heat protection you need. Type 2 offers the best protection and is the recommended (and sometimes required) option for hearth pads.
Type 1 material might be a good option for wall shields in a situation where the wall is far enough from the stove that you do not need heat protection, but you still want something to shield from sparks. You can use spacer kits with wall shields to create an air gap that adds better insulation.
How to Install Fiberboard or Heat Shield
Start by reading up on the clearance and heat protection requirements for your particular stove. If your stove is an older model, you should be able to follow the general guidelines for a standard wood burning stove. Wall shields come in several different materials including sheet metal and fiberglass board. Here are some basic tips for installation.
Installing a stove board
The heat shields usually mount to wall studs, so measure and mark your wall studs so you know where to place the screws. If you plan to cut the backer board yourself, wear eye protection and a full respirator since the fiberglass or ceramic will damage your lungs. You'll also want to wear gloves when handling the fiberboard.
Metal shields often mount an inch or two away from the wall to create an air gap. The airflow travels from the floor upwards, so make sure you don't block the air gap with a long horizontal mounting piece. Instead, mount any long spacing pieces vertically, or make sure there is enough of a gap for the air to easily keep flowing behind the shield from bottom to top.
Important Safety and Maintenance Reminders:
Number one, read the owner's manual carefully. (You knew that was coming.)
Plan out your installation. Select a safe location with the proper distance from combustibles.
Don't store kindling or wood within the specified clearance areas.
Keep other flammable items like blankets, curtains, rugs, cleaning rags, and other fabrics far enough away from the stove.
Don't burn paper.
Don't overfire the unit. Overfiring could melt your heat shields and hearth pads and damage the stove.
Use seasoned wood to cut down on the amount of smoke and creosote produced.
Don't leave the fire unattended.
To clean the hearth surface, wait until it is cool. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for what type of cleaning products to use on the hearth material.
Leading Brands and Manufacturers
Are you ready to stock up on what you need to install protection for your stove? Here are a handful of companies and brands we trust to bring you durable and high-quality hearth protection. There is no need to compromise safety or style.
HY-C Company has been a staple in the hearth industry since 1947, manufacturing 85% of its products in the United States. The company prides itself on protecting homes and families with its diverse line of products, such as stove boards, wood storage racks, chimney covers, and fireplace screens. With a mission and vision focused on delivering quality, sustainable products, you can be assured that their products are made to last.
American Panel is a product line owned by Hestia, Inc. They make all their hearth pads entirely out of non-combustible material. (Even though regulations allow for some of the substrates to be made with combustible material.) In 2014, their Modular Hearth Protection System won the Vesta award for innovation in the hearth industry.
R-CO is a family-owned and operated business in western New York. Their insulating, non-combustible stove shields are covered with steel and coated to look like brick, stone, or tile. The coating has a three-dimensional quality for added realism.
Osburn is a partner company of SBI and together they create a selection of well-made hearth protection pads. They even offer a selection of tempered glass hearth pads for a simple, understated look.
Hearth pads and shields usually ship via small parcel post. If the stove board is shipped along with a stove, both the stove and the stove board may ship via LTL freight. Don't sign off on delivery until you verify that all of the pieces are there and nothing is damaged. Notify the manufacturer immediately to report any defects.
Osburn wood burning stove over tempered glass floor protector
Wood stoves are meant to be enjoyed as part of your home. And unless your home is a concrete bunker, you'll likely need some hearth or wall protection. There are many sizes and models to ensure your floors and walls are safe from sparks and heat damage. The beautiful style options make it easy to complement your stove and home decor.
If you have any questions about hearth protection or installation, please contact one of our NFI Certified Technicians. We'd love to help you out by answering your questions.
Is a stove board required if the stove is in the basement with unfinished walls?
A stove board is only not required when installed on a concrete floor with no combustible material underneath. This area will need to span the minimum floor protection dimensions listed in the installation manual for any particular model wood stove.
Submitted by:Tyler M. - NFI Master Hearth Professional on September 18, 2020
What is the difference between a double cut and single cut?
Single cut stove boards are meant for placement in a corner with the one corner facing into the living area cut like this product. Double cut boards are intended for placement in non-corner applications where the two corners facing into the living area would be cut like this panel.
Yes, you can indeed use an appropriately-rated stove board on your carpet for a wood stove. Please check the manufacturer information of your stove to see what the R-value requirements are for an appropriate stove board. This information can be found in your owner's manual.
Submitted by:Tyler M. - Fireplace Specialist on November 8, 2012