Install a wood burner and save £££'s
Many thousands of people fit their own wood burning stoves in the UK: some employ a Hetas fitter (usually to do the whole job or the non-building-work part of the job). Others self install using Building Control (part of your local council). Very many choose to do it themselves without involving any authority at all.
The installation of wood burning and multifuel stoves (or any solid fuel appliance) is work that is “controlled” under the Building Regulations, as is the relining or installation of flues and chimneys associated with such heat producing appliances. Did you know that fitting a new loo is also “controlled”? This means that it is necessary for a householder, should she not wish to break Building Regulations, to submit an application to Building Control before starting such work (or in the case of a stove – employ a registered engineer to complete and certify the job as part of a self certification scheme). One can also use a private Building Inspector (never found one who will do small jobs though).
Note: You do not require a HETAS fitter’s certificate AND Building Control inspection/private inspection.
Note: I get feed back from you guys and one thing I hear sometimes is that Building Control Officers sometimes tell you to not bother them and to get a Hetas engineer to sign off your work (some even say that you MUST HAVE a Hetas person sign it off before they do). These inspectors are plain wrong. A Hetas engineer is NOT ALLOWED to sign off work he has not done himself. This is possibly an inspector “fobbing you off” because he does not certify stoves very often and is stressed because he will have to review the rules and he’s a bit busy. Be under no doubt – you are allowed to self install a solid fuel stove and your local Building Control must assist by providing the service they are paid to offer. You do have to pay (£120 in North Wales but more in other areas).
Although qualifications are not mandatory, any person fitting a solid fuel stove must be competent to do so i.e. familiar with the correct procedures and associated regulatory requirements. I highlight the text on purpose – knowledge gained from this manual will assist you in showing yourself competent when talking to Building Control (you are not proving yourself a master, or guru – just competent.
“I believe that my install will be safe. What happens if I do not get the work certified by Hetas or Building Regulations?” 1. When you come to sell your property you may be asked, by the purchaser’s solicitor, for evidence of compliance with Building Regulations and you will not have this. You will then have to apply for retrospective Building Control (a standard process), or uncouple the stove and state to the house buyer that it is not fitted and will require installation. 2. Should your installation cause damage to property or person then you will likely find yourself in trouble.
“Will a Hetas fitter sign off my install?” In all likelihood no, as they are prohibited from doing this by Hetas. A Hetas fitter must be there when a liner is installed, must be there to make the connections between stove and flue and must be there to test and commission the install. In the case of a fireplace recess installers will happily fit a liner and stove after you have done all the building work (e.g. enlarged fireplace/fitted lintel’sorted hearth etc.).
Applying to Building Control is an easy process. Find the website of your local Building Control (a council department) and look for something along the lines of a downloadable form: “building notice and full plans application”. You will be filling in the “building notice” section and not the full plans.
You will fill in the form and provide the fee. The fee is dependent on the value of the task and the form will say something like “jobs under £2,000 in value – fee £120″. In Conwy, North Wales I have always paid approx. £120 but the average is probably £120-£200. Some councils are miserable and charge more (worst I have ever seen is £350). Bear in mind that on a full chimney-liner-type-install costing “£2,000 plus stove” you will likely be saving £1500 to £1650 if you do it yourself (free liner with any stove on this site means materials cost can be as low as £350) so although it stings a little to pay Building Control it is still very well worth it.
What happens next? Somebody from Building Control will contact you (you may have to contact them to prompt them) and will arrange to visit you PRIOR to the job starting. At this visit you will tell them what you plan to do (e.g. “I am going to slide a liner down my chimney and fit model “X” stove as well as a closure plate and an air vent and then I will smoke test the installation”).
They will likely ask a couple of questions/provide advice then leave. Before leaving they will likely say that they want to check things over at a certain stage (e.g. when liner is in but before stove fitted). They might say they’ll see you at the end of the work or request you take stage photos. Each Building Control or individual officer will be different but all should assist you in finding the relevant building regulations.
Before I was Hetas-registered I put my stoves through Building Control and in all cases they came prior to start and then again at the end of the job. They were always fair and helpful.
Building Control are not there to “try to catch you out”. They are there to assist with building regulations for wood burning stoves if required and check the job is to regulations. The process sounds a little long winded but in practice it is likely to be fine. Some officers are knowledgeable, some are, shall we say, less so.
Ensure that you put your notice in at least ten days before you wish to start work and do not be afraid to call them to find out what to do or to arrange a site visit.
At the end of the process you will receive paperwork that states your stove install is legal. This is often an important document when it comes to selling your property or for insurance purposes.
Tip: Be confident. With the information from this site you are fully prepared. As the popular phrase goes “it’s not rocket science”.
By Julian Patrick