Burning Charcoal Fireplace

Should you get a Fireplace or Wood Burning Stove for your Cabin?

Planning on or already moving into a cabin and wondering if you should use a Fireplace or a wood burning stove? I’ll be explaining the benefits and disadvantages to both sources of heat.

Cabins lack the insulation which normal homes provide, because of their often-basic wooden structure. Because of this, when it’s cold outside, the inside of your cabin will be extremely cold and when outside is warm, it will feel like you’re in an oven inside your cabin. The lack of plumbing means that gas heating systems are not an option.

Without wasting any time, I’ll tell you straight away that I much prefer a wood burning stove over any form of fireplace. That being said, a fireplace is not a bad alternative and it may even be a better option under certain circumstances. Rest assured, I’ll be covering all of that in this post.

Heat Loss out the Wall and Chimney

When using a fireplace, the room doesn’t retain all the heat being produced by the fire. A lot of the heat is used to heat the surfaces surrounding the fireplace, therefore this heat is lost and wasted. Heat which could be used to warm up your cabin is being used to heat the wall around the chimney and the exterior behind it, mainly because the fireplace is on an exterior wall of the cabin. This means that a fireplace is not very efficient compared to a wood burning stove.

Thought the fireplace lost a lot of heat to the surrounding walls? Well it loses even more heat up the chimney itself. Fireplaces are well known for losing their heat through the chimney. This is because warm air rises, and therefore the heat from the fireplace will go up the chimney and straight out of the home.

Wood burning stoves lack a chimney and therefore the heat cannot leave the home through a massive hole. Instead, the stove heats up and expels the heat throughout the room.

A wood burning stove doesn’t lose as much of its heat as it is not in a wall. Also, because there is no chimney above the wood burning stove, the heat doesn’t escape from the home. This results in a wood burning stove providing a cabin with more heat than a fireplace would. This means that it is a lot more efficient than the fireplace.

Noise

This is similar to the last section however I’ve got another point which I’d like to add regarding to the heat transfer to the room and the noise in which both heat sources create.

There’s nothing like the crackling which an authentic fireplace produces, which makes you feel like you’re on a camping trip, roasting marshmallows. However, for a fireplace to effectively expel its heat around the cabin, you’ll require a fireplace fan. Something like this. These are fans which blow the warm air into your cabin, instead of out of your chimney. Not only is this an added cost but these fans create noise which can overwhelm the crackling sound which the fire produces. This may not be important for you, but it is for someone like myself.

A wood burning stove does not require a fireplace fan as it expels the heat around the room on its own. Therefore, it’s less noisy, the only sound you’ll hear is the authentic sound of fire crackling and popping.

Experience

Experience is a big part of staying in a cabin. You want to make it feel like a second home, and unfortunately wood burning stoves don’t give me the “At home” feel. Neither do they give me the “camping” feel. During the Christmas seasons when you want to sit around the fireplace with your family, you can’t do this with a wood burning stove. Neither can you hand your Christmas stocking and decorations on the stove, like you can with a fireplace.

The experience is something that not many will care about, so this point may or may not apply to you however it’s something which I thought I’d touch on briefly.

Space

Cabins are often a lot smaller than a typical home, therefore making the most out of your limited space is something which you’ll want to pay attention to. Every inch of space is important, and you should make every inch count. Large, bulky furniture can take up a lot of space unnecessarily.  A wood burning stove is a very bulky object which can take up a lot of space. These are not only an eye-sore but a waste of space.

In comparison, a fireplace makes a lot more efficient use of space than a wood burning stove. This is because a fireplace sits in an exterior wall, out of the way. Therefore, no space is being taken up by it, it’s almost like having a painting on a wall.

You can try your best to shove a wood burning stove into a corner of a room, however It’ll always take up a lot of space which could be used to store other things.

If you do decide to purchase a wood burning stove, it is possible to also place a wood burning stove into a wall like you do with a fireplace. A recess in a wall needs to be created which can then fit a wood burning stove. This would be extra work, which you’d probably have to do yourself unless you decide to invest in having professionals do the work. However, it would then be just as good as a fireplace, space wise. If you’re interested in placing your wood burning stove into your fireplace or wall, check out this guide by the DIYDoctor.

Installation

Next, I’ll be mentioning the installation of both heat sources.  As you probably already know, a fireplace is a lot harder to install than a wood burning stove. Installing a fireplace is also a lot more difficult than it seems. It’s not as simple as creating a recess in a wall and shoving some wood inside. Installing a fireplace is a job for a professional. You can’t just watch a couple Youtube videos and do it yourself perfectly. You’d have to calculate a bunch of dimensions, and install chimney linings, caps, dampers, purchase the required brick and stone, and much more. It’s really a tough job and can take several days to complete.

Whereas, a wood burning stove is significantly easier to install than a fireplace. It’s still not easy to install, however there is a lot more you can do. If you do pay a professional to set-up your wood burning stove, it will be a lot cheaper.

Maintenance

Maintenance is an important factor which you should take into consideration when deciding which heat source, you’re going to purchase. Both a fireplace and a wood burning stove should be require regular maintenance. Both will deteriorate, and become increasingly ineffective over time, and potentially dangerous without being checked for cracks and other defects.

Fixing a fireplace can be expensive as tasks like replacing flue lining can cost thousands. This is due to how challenging it can be to get to the lining. Overall, maintaining a fireplace can be expensive when they require fixing. In comparison, a wood burning stove is a lot more inexpensive as their stovepipe is very exposed – allowing for easy access and repair.

I have a guide in which I explain how to maintain your cabins fireplace.

In conclusion, a wood burning stove is easier to maintain than a fireplace.

Conclusion

Both heat sources have their own advantages and disadvantages. I’ve gone through them in detail however I’ll quickly summaries my comparisons:

  • Fireplaces do not retain their heat as well as a wood burning stove. heat is lost and wasted because the fireplace is on an exterior wall of the cabin. Fireplaces lose even more heat up the chimney itself. Meaning, fireplace is not very efficient in terms of heat compared to a wood burning stove. A wood burning stove doesn’t lose as much of its heat as it is not in a wall.
  • Because heat naturally attempts to leave your home through the chimney, for a fireplace to effectively expel its heat around the cabin, you’ll require a fireplace fan A wood burning stove does not require a fireplace fan as it expels the heat around the room on its own. Therefore, it’s less noisy – allowing you to enjoy the satisfying crackling of the fire.
  • A wood burning stove is a very large object which takes up a massive amount of space. They get in the way if not pushed in a corner, and take up space. In comparison, a fireplace takes up a lot less space. This is because a fireplace sits in an exterior wall.
  • A fireplace is more difficult to install than a wood burning stove. Installing a fireplace is a professional job and can be very expensive. A wood burning stove is easier to install and cheaper to have professionally done.

Fireplaces are better for an authentic camping experience and space. Whereas a wood burning stove is better for heat efficiency, maintenance and installation.

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