Solid fuel heater modifications need a building consent

Posted: 27 July 2017

It’s a good time of year to think about solid fuel heaters (eg wood burners or pellet fires) and ensure these appliances are installed and maintained in a safe manner – with the appropriate consents.

There are safety concerns associated with any appliance that contains fire. Building owners planning to install, replace or modify a solid fuel heater are required to obtain a building consent from their building consent authority under section 40 of the Building Act 2004.

There are a few exemptions to this. Schedule 1 of the Building Act permits building work that involves general repair, maintenance and replacement (if comparable materials are used) to be carried out without a building consent. For example, this might include replacing the flue, firebricks, seals or glass. Schedule 1 does not include moving the appliance or modifying the appliance (such as installing a new part or device, or altering the make-up of the appliance) to make it burn hotter or more efficiently – this work will require a building consent.

Modifying an existing solid fuel heater has the potential to affect the building’s compliance with the Building Code, and in the worst case make the heater dangerous. For example, the modified appliance could increase the temperature of adjacent combustible wall surfaces, which are required by the Building Code to not exceed 90 degrees.

All building work must comply with the Building Code, regardless of whether it needs a building consent.

Councils sometimes have additional planning restrictions in place about the type of fireplace that can be installed, and how it must be operated. The aim is to reduce negative effects on the occupants’ health or to prevent nuisance to neighbours. Your council will be able to advise you about any requirements.

New wood burners must also comply with the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Authorised wood burners on the Ministry for the Environment website has information on how you can find out if an appliance is an approved model.

A few things to remember:

  • Get a building consent before installing or modifying a solid fuel heater.
  • If you are in doubt about whether building consent is required, check with your building consent authority. It is unlawful to carry out certain building work except in accordance with a building consent.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for these appliances carefully – including any requirements for maintenance (such as cleaning the flue). Deviations from these recommendations may void any warranty as well as affect the performance and safety of the appliance and the building. It could also put your insurance coverage at risk.

Applying for building consent has further information.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: