Overview of Different Designs of Wood Burning Stoves

Wood burning stoves have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 18th Century. Nowadays, as well as being able to select from countless designs, you can choose from the different output and functional options that are available.


Wood burning stoves broadly consist of three main types, which are:

Box wood stoves – These are based on the original design of wood burning stoves, which were rectangular or square shaped with the fire situated inside the metal box. These stoves are cheap when compared to other types of wood burners, but because they are not airtight, they are less efficient.

Air tight wood burning stoves – With an airtight wood burning stove, the unit is completely sealed, which makes it more efficient. The air flow to the stove can be controlled either manually or automatically so that the amount of fuel used and the heat provided can be adjusted accordingly. This also means that an even temperature can be maintained if required.

They are constructed from metal and have a combustion chamber fitted with vents that can be opened or shut. They also have a flue, which can be designed so that it is angled, enabling the smoke to escape through a side wall.

Pellet wood burning stoves – These wood burning stoves use wood pellets, which are kept in a storage area next to the stove. They are very efficient and also kind to the environment. This is because wood pellets only give off a small amount of ash during the combustion process. However, their environmental efficiency can be influenced by the quality of the pellets used, which will also affect overall performance.

Although this type of wood burning stove is associated with wood pellets, many of them will also burn alternative fuels such as wood chips, grain, corn, or waste paper condensed to form pellets. With some stoves it is essential that the alternative fuels are combined with wood pellets when placed inside the stove.

Pellet wood burners have the advantage of being thermostatically controlled. They can be programmed and easily switched on and off. Furthermore, they do not have to be loaded very often with pellets, with some lasting as long as three days before reloading is required.


There are many designs to choose from, but most are based on three main shapes. These are: a box shape, a cylinder or a pot belly stove. The first wood burners were box shaped, but other patterns later emerged. Cylinder shaped wood burning stoves can look particularly stylish and many contain a curved window giving a view of the flickering flames.

Pot belly stoves are round, but as the name suggests, they have a bulge in the centre, which resembles the pot belly of an overweight man. In the past they were used to heat large areas, such as school rooms, and have a flat top where pans or kettles could be placed to heat food or water.


There is currently a large range of outputs available to suit different room sizes. To get an approximate idea of the output in kilowatts that you will require from your wood burning stove, firstly measure the room where it will be situated, in metres. Then multiply the height of the room by the width followed by the depth. Take that figure and divide it by 14. The figure that you end up with is roughly the kilowatts that you require. This is based on a required temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit and assumes that the outdoor temperature is 0 degrees. Requirements will also depend on whether the room is open plan and how many doors and windows it has.

Catalytic or Non-catalytic

Catalytic Stoves – These wood burning stoves have catalytic converters, which burn waste fumes. This reduces the fire hazard experienced with earlier wood burners when creosote would form inside the stove pipe. This would then burn at a certain temperature and give off dangerously high levels of heat. A catalytic converter is placed in the pathway of the smoke and it becomes effective once it reaches a specific temperature.

However, there are some disadvantages with catalytic converters. They sometimes have to be adjusted and they also need to be maintained. Most catalytic converters last between two and five years before they have to be replaced.

Non-catalytic Stoves – Modern designs of non-catalytic stoves also burn waste fumes but they achieve this in a different way by using secondary combustion together with a longer smoke path. This method is built into the design of the stove rather than through the addition of a separate catalytic converter. These designs were developed over a long period of time and the result is that they are effective and simple to use.

Apart from the above considerations, wood burning stoves are now sold in a wide range of adapted shapes, sizes, colours and styles and they can be either freestanding or fitted into a wall. With so many sophisticated and elegant designs currently on the market it is easy to find a wood burning stove to suit any room and any type of décor.