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A Guide to Log Burning Stoves in Holiday Cottages

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Warming feet near fireplace

The appeal

An open fire or wood burning stove in your holiday cottage can be one of its biggest selling points and one of the most requested features by holiday let guests, especially during the colder months. After all, who doesn’t dream of sitting in front of a cosy log fire on a chilly evening while on holiday.

Installing a wood burner will give your holiday cottage year-round appeal and boost your low-season bookings. They can also be an efficient way to heat your holiday home and reduce energy bills.

The risks

However, compared to other heat sources wood burning stoves and open fires come with additional maintenance requirements and risks, especially if your holiday home is listed or thatched. There are approximately 3,000 chimney fires in England each year.

A lot of the time it’s not the wood burner that’s the problem, it’s the guests. There is an obvious risk that guests and small children could burn themselves. Guests who have zero experience operating open fires and log burners can create fire risks. We have dealt with claims where guests have stacked up fires and then departed to the local pub, upon returning they found an imminent house fire caused by smouldering stray embers on the carpet.

There are also accounts of guests emptying what they thought were cold embers into plastic bins, only for the hot ashes to smoulder and melt the bin. Ash can smoulder for days and this is a significant fire risk. Luckily the property wasn’t burnt to the ground.

Chimney fires

There are approximately 3,000 chimney fires in England each year. Whilst the consequences of chimney fires can be extremely expensive, disruptive and even fatal, regular sweeping to avoid the catastrophic consequences a fire can have on your holiday cottage.

Any full or partial blockage to your chimney or flue presents a risk of both fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. These blockages can be caused by a variety of reasons, from birds nesting to the ongoing buildup of soot.

It is recommended that your stove is serviced annually, and the chimney is swept quarterly if burning wood or coal, or just once a year if burning smokeless fuel. The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps (www.guildofmasterchimneysweeps.co.uk) and The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (www.nacs.org.uk) have a network of members throughout the country.

Log burner safety tips to protect guests and your holiday cottage 

As a holiday let landlord you have an obligation to mitigate risks and keep your guests safe. Here are some ways to reduce log burner and open fire risks in your holiday let.

  • Install interlinked smoke alarms in hallways, corridors, staircases, lounges, dining rooms and bedrooms. A heat alarm should be installed in kitchens.
  • A carbon monoxide alarm should be placed in the same room as the wood burner/open fire.
  • Test alarms regularly to ensure that they are functioning correctly.
  • Provide a fire guard or screen to reduce the risk of fires caused by sparks and prevent children from falling against or touching a hot stove or wood burner.
  • A rug in front of the wood burner can be a less expensive option than replacing carpet due to scorch marks from sparks or embers.
  • Provide a basket or log holder to store logs, fire tools and a stove glove.
  • Don’t assume guests will know how to light and operate a wood burner correctly. Give detailed step-by-step instructions:
    -How to light the fire correctly
    -Not to use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin to light the fire
    -Not to burn paper or rubbish
    -Not to overload the fire with fuel
    -Which kinds of fuel should be used, and warnings against using resinous or unseasoned logs
    -To ensure the fire is completely extinguished before they go to bed or go out
    -Never stack logs against or near the stove as they can combust
    -To dispose of ashes in an outside metal bin marked for disposal of cool ash and cinders only
  • Create an “emergency action plan in the event of fire” section in your guest book. Include instructions for action to take in the event of a fire, emergency phone numbers, and how to exit the property quickly and safely.
  • Read our holiday cottage fire risk assessment guide.

What to supply guests

As you should only use seasoned logs and to avoid guests burning random rubbish and gunking up the flue, you should provide logs, kindling, firelighters and factor the cost into your rental rate. Provide a basket of logs near the log burner and have a well-stocked wood store. Also, lay the fire ready for your guests’ arrival.

Guests love the idea of a woodburner but for most, it’s a novelty factor. Once they realise they don’t actually need the log burner for heat they don’t use it much.

If you have a wood burning stove tell your holiday home insurer

If you have a wood burning stove or open fire it’s essential that your holiday cottage is protected for fire damage, you are covered in the event a guest or employee injures themselves, and for loss of rental income following a fire.

Log burners and open fires increase the risk of a house fire, therefor you must inform your insurer if you have one or are considering installing one, so you have the correct cover for you, your property and guests.

Often certain endorsements apply to the policy. For example; wood burning stoves should be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, all chimneys to solid fuel stoves, boilers and open fires must be kept in a good state of repair and be professionally cleaned once a year before October.

To ensure your insurance isn’t invalidated you must comply with any endorsements applied to your policy. If in doubt, always check with your insurer.

Alternatives to an open fire or log burner

There are several less risky, lower maintenance alternatives to an open fire or log burner that add the same kind of appeal. Gas can warm up a room within minutes and the temperature can be controlled at the turn of a button, unlike real fires that rely on the guests judging how much fuel to add.

There are some nice-looking electric fires, but whether they will ‘fit in’ depends very much on the style of décor and property type. Some sleek and contemporary designs can look amazing in very modern properties. The cost of running an electric or gas fire can be quite high, so if bills are an issue then it’s worth comparing the annual running costs of each model before you buy, including the cost of installation and maintenance.

One Comment

  • Leanne Hemingway |

    Excellent advice. A comprehensive guide to safety, all of which we adhere too. All of our holiday cottage woodburners have box guards to prevent toddlers falling and burning themselves. All are swept annually, have carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms. In addition our owners conduct a fire risk assessment on an annual basis.

    Your advice on fuel types to burn is spot on, we encourage owners to provide logs that will reduce the risk of a chimney fire.

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