A wood-burning stove provides an effective heat source for a home, cabin, or even a tent. It also creates a rustic feel and a warm, cozy ambience.
Wood-burning stoves are made from steel, cast iron, or soapstone and consist of a firebox with a chimney. They can produce up to 70,000 BTUs or more of heat, enough to warm a small home. Some are also designed to double as actual stoves for cooking. Wood-burning stoves come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including stand-alone models, wall or hearth inserts, and portable stoves. This guide discusses what factors you should consider when shopping for these old-school heating appliances and reviews some of the best wood stove options on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Pleasant Hearth EPA Certified Wood Burning Stove
- BEST INSERT: Ashley Hearth AW1820E Wood Stove Insert
- UPGRADE PICK: Woodstock Soapstone Progress Hybrid Wood Stove
- BEST COMPACT: Ashley Hearth Products Firewood and Fire Logs Stove
- BEST OUTDOOR: Guide Gear Outdoor Wood Stove
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wood Stove
Understanding the two types of wood stoves, the materials used to make them, and their heating capacity are all vital when shopping for one of these appliances. Ahead, learn more about these and other important attributes of the best wood stoves.
Types of Wood Stoves
Wood stoves are available in two types: catalytic and noncatalytic. Catalytic wood stoves differ from noncatalytic in that they produce fewer exhaust fumes and burn more efficiently. In addition to burning wood, catalytic wood stoves also have a combustor that burns smoke and byproducts. This design allows the stove to burn cleaner with a slower burn rate, conserving fuel. Efficiency ratings for a catalytic wood stove range between 63 and 84 percent, making them ideal options for use as a primary source of heat.
Noncatalytic stoves are cheaper but not as efficient. They are better suited for use as a supplemental heater.
Most wood stoves are made from one of three materials: cast iron, plate steel, or soapstone. Cast iron, the most commonly used material, heats up quickly and retains warmth longer than other materials. However, it does crack more easily and is more expensive than other materials.
Plate steel, also a common material used in wood stoves, is durable and retains heat well, though not as well as cast iron. Soapstone is the high-end material for wood stoves. It retains heat better than cast iron, burns cleaner than other materials, and can burn for 24 hours or longer on a single load. Most wood stoves consist of either soapstone or plate steel with a cast- iron door.
A wood stove’s heating capacity determines how large of a space the wood stove can keep warm when it’s running with a full load of wood. The heating area for most stoves ranges from around 1,200 square feet for a small stove to as much as 2,200 square feet (or more) for a large model.
Keep in mind that, unlike a home’s central heating, which distributes heat through ductwork, a wood stove emanates heat from the fire, so the heat isn’t evenly distributed. The farther someone is from the wood stove, the cooler the temperature will be.
The heat output of a wood stove is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). Wood stoves range in BTU output from around 50,000 to 80,000 BTUs. The more BTUs, the greater the size of the space the wood stove can heat. A large 70,000-BTU wood stove can warm up to 2,200 square feet. While BTU level is a great indication of how powerful the stove is, not all manufacturers provide BTU information for their stoves.
A wood stove’s burn time is the amount of time one load of wood lasts before the stove requires reloading. Each stove’s burn time is determined by how much wood it can hold as well as the heat output of the stove, which can be regulated using the stove’s damper. The type of wood being used also affects burn time. Hardwoods burn more efficiently than softwood, which is less dense and therefore burns more quickly and at lower temperatures.
Wood-burning stoves produce toxic emissions; they create carbon monoxide, which can be deadly if not properly vented outside. Wood stoves are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which performs safety tests on wood stoves to make sure they’re safe for consumer use. The emission limit for wood stoves is 2 grams to 2.5 grams per hour, depending on the type of wood. Catalytic stoves produce well under the EPA’s maximum, with emissions of around 0.5 gram per hour. Never buy a wood stove that is not certified by the EPA.
Weight and Size
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when shopping for a wood stove is where it will go in the living space. Most freestanding wood stoves take up a significant chunk of real estate since they measure about 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep and require a buffer around them for safety. Portable models are much smaller—about 20 inches high and 10 inches deep and less than 40 pounds—allowing them to fit in the trunk of a car for a camping trip.
Keep in mind that the size of the stove also affects the size of wood they can burn. A standard freestanding or insert wood stove can hold logs up to 18 inches long, whereas portable models can typically handle logs that measure about 8 inches long.
Additional Features and Accessories
In addition to providing a source of heat, wood stoves also create an ambience that’s similar to a wood-burning fireplace. Most wood stoves have glass windows that allow people sitting around the stove to watch the burning logs.
Some wood stoves also serve as a cooking stove, with flat tops that will support a frying pan or pot. Stoves with cooking functions are typically designed for outdoor use and camping trips.
Our Top Picks
The list below takes into account the above considerations to feature the best wood-burning stove models on the market. It includes stand-alone models and indoor wood-burning fireplace stove inserts, as well as portable wood stoves for outdoor use.
With its classic appearance and high heat output, this wood-burning stove from Pleasant Hearth is a worthy choice for warming one’s home. It consists of a plated body with a brick-lined firebox. Chrome handles add a distinctive look, while a solid cast-iron door with a large ceramic window provides a full view of the flames.
This wood-burning stove is also outfitted with an air-wash system that keeps the glass window clean automatically. With its 65,000 BTUs, it can heat up to 1,800 square feet. A blower with multiple speed settings helps distribute warm air around the room, and the large ash drawer makes cleanup easy.
- Type: Freestanding
- Heat Output: 65,000 BTUs
- Dimensions: 27 by 28 by 31 inches
- Classic look
- Large window for viewing flames
- Air-wash window-cleaning system
- Ample heat output
- Not as much heating power as other models
Get the Pleasant Hearth wood stove at The Home Depot.
A compact size and high BTU output make this Ashley Hearth model one of the best wood stove inserts on the market. With its 69,000-BTU output, it’s capable of heating up to 1,800 square feet. It’s made from 5-millimeter-thick plate steel with firebrick lining on the interior. The 16.5-inch-by-9-inch door is made from cast iron and comes with a ceramic glass window, which provides a wide view of the flames.
The stove is large enough to burn logs up to 18 inches long and has a 75 percent efficiency rating. A blower on the bottom of the insert helps circulate warm air through the room. The entire heater measures 20.2 inches long by 27.2 inches wide by 22.4 inches high and has a spring-loaded automatic adjuster that makes it easier to install into a wall.
- Type: Wall insert
- Heat Output: 69,000 BTUs
- Dimensions: 20.2 by 27.2 by 22.4 inches
- Heavy plate-steel and cast-iron construction
- Integrated blower circulates warm air
- Automatic adjuster for easy installation
- Doesn’t retain heat as well as cast-iron models
Get the Ashley Hearth wood stove at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Walmart.
While this stove from Woodstock Soapstone costs twice as much as or more than other wood stoves, its ability to burn cleanly while producing an exceptional amount of heat makes it one of the top-performing models available. As a catalytic stove, it produces low emissions of just 0.63 grams per hour while delivering up to 47,000 BTUs of heat—enough to warm homes of 2,200 square feet or larger.
This high-efficiency wood stove is designed to burn for 14 hours or more on a single load of wood. Its white-and-black marbled soapstone exterior and vintage cast-iron molded frame also provide visual appeal, with four other color options to choose from. The large front window provides an excellent view of the flames, which are enclosed by a 7-gauge-thick welded firebox.
- Type: Stand-alone
- Heat Output: 47,000 BTUs
- Dimensions: 33.5 by 30.5 by 25 inches
- Produces very low emissions
- Burns for 14 hours or more
- Produces enough heat to warm larger homes
Get the Woodstock wood stove at Woodstove.
Averaging 3 feet long and 3 feet tall, most wood stoves require a big chunk of space. This model from Ashley Hearth, however, comes in at just under 2 feet wide and 21 inches deep—a much smaller footprint, making it ideal for heating tinier rooms and homes. Despite its compact size, it still puts out enough heat to warm a 1,200-square-foot room.
The stove consists of plated-steel construction with a cast-iron door that features a large glass window to provide a nice view of the burning logs. Despite its small size, the door is wide enough to handle logs up to 18 inches long. A brushed-nickel handle on the loading door and ash drawers add an elegant look to this rustic wood stove.
- Type: Freestanding
- Heat Output: 68,000 BTUs
- Dimensions: 32 by 22.5 by 21 inches
- Smaller size takes up less space in a room
- Large window on the door
- Polished-nickel handles
Get the Ashley Hearth wood stove at Walmart, The Home Depot, and Lowe’s.
With its durable galvanized construction, this wood stove from Guide Gear is a great backyard option for providing a cozy hearth to gather around on a chilly day. It consists of galvanized steel with a high-temperature finish. A cast-iron hinged door opens to the firebox, which features vent holes on the front to control temperature.
Its box design with a large flat top allows it to function as an actual stove that’s capable of bringing water to a boil or cooking bacon and eggs. The tall smokestack on the back directs smoke away from the stove. It can also go on the road, thanks to its detachable legs and compact size—just 20 inches long by 11 inches wide by 13 inches high. It weighs a manageable 42 pounds.
- Type: Stand-alone
- Heat Output: 47,000 BTUs
- Dimensions: 20 by 11 by 13 inches
- Compact size for portability
- Can cook on top of it
- Durable construction
- Small firebox must be loaded more often
Get the Guide Gear wood stove on Amazon.
For its classic look, sturdy build quality, and ability to heat up to 1,800 square feet, the Pleasant Hearth Wood Burning Stove is one of the top wood stoves on the market. Those in search of a stove that produces low emissions while providing heat for a larger home should consider the Woodstock Soapstone Progress Hybrid Wood Stove.
How We Chose the Best Wood Stoves
We considered numerous criteria when narrowing the field of wood stoves to these top selections. A wood stove’s ability to produce heat is key, so we only considered models that could provide heat for 1,200 square feet of space or more, with the exception of the portable and camping categories.
Since the visible flames are a large part of a wood stove’s appeal, we mainly selected models that provide a good view of the firebox with large windows on the doors. Build quality is crucial, so we only chose models with higher-gauge steel construction and forged-iron doors, with the exception of our upgrade pick, which uses soapstone.
For anyone still wondering where to put their new wood stove or what type of wood to burn in it, read on for answers to these and other common questions.
Q: Where should I place my wood stove?
The best place for a wood stove is as close to the center of the area requiring heat as possible. This allows the stove to radiate warmth in all directions, better heating the space.
Q: What type of wood is the best for a wood stove?
Hardwoods—which include oak, maple, ash, and birch—are the best-burning woods. They will burn longer and hotter than softwoods like pine and also contain the least amount of pitch and sap inside of them.
Q: How do I clean my wood stove?
Use a brush to sweep up any debris or ash that was not collected by the fireplace’s ash pan. Next, use a wire brush to clean off any buildup inside the flue pipe. Wipe off the exterior of the wood stove with a dry cloth. Be sure to avoid using liquids, which can leave streaks.
Q: How long does a wood stove last?
The average wood stove should last between 10 and 20 years, depending on usage and care.
Q: Is it OK to leave a wood fireplace on overnight?
It is safe to leave a wood fireplace on overnight, as long as you follow a few precautions. Allow the wood to burn for a few hours before going to bed. Before turning in for the night, add ash to the burning logs to dampen the flames and slow the burning process. Next, close the stove air vents to reduce the size of the fire, ensuring it will be safe even when burning through the night.
Q: Can I get carbon monoxide poisoning from a wood-burning stove?
Yes. If the indoor wood-burning stove is not properly vented to the outside of the home, it can cause exhaust fumes to collect inside the home, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning. If a wood-burning stove is installed properly, vented to the outside of the home, and EPA certified, it is safe to use.