December 19, 2014 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find an affordable method to build a copper (or copper effect) heat reflector for behind a stove?

I'm very slowly working my way round to installing a woodburning stove. It needs to have a heatproof board behind it. I've read about people adding copper sheet (which I probably can't afford) or "Copper finished Aluminium" (which maybe I can?) behind the stove to reflect heat into the room.

Where can I find copper sheet, copper effect aluminium, general copperyness that I can put behind a fire? It will need to be probably a metre high and a metre wide and be installed on top of a carbon silicate panel. The walls to either side are tongue and groove pine.
I'm open to other suggestions for a nice finish behind a stove.
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
As for other options, corrugated steel may give you a nice effect.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:57 AM on December 19, 2014

Where are you? I would just google copper sheet and see what you find, or look for local sheet metal fabricators to find someone to cut you a sheet the right size.
posted by mareli at 6:11 AM on December 19, 2014

I'm in the US so the sources I'd go to probably aren't much help, but at McMaster-Carr a 3-foot by 4-foot sheet of copper 1/32" thick is $227, which doesn't seem devastatingly expensive.

Such a backing sounds attractive, but I don't think it would have any effect on the heating efficiency of your stove, though it might feel warmer to people sitting in front of it. Heat that's not reflected is just going to rise towards the ceiling and circulate by convection; it won't disappear.
posted by jon1270 at 6:22 AM on December 19, 2014

Home Depot and Lowes sell a product that I believe is aluminum and one of the finishes is copper. It is soldnin squares of about 18 inches and is embossed with a relief pattern, much like antique ceilings. Indon't know the cost, but believe it could beat pure sheet copper.
posted by txmon at 6:22 AM on December 19, 2014

When I have to buy sheets of copper for my job, I use a company called Farmers Copper. I typically buy it by a sheet that's 48x96 inches. I see that you're in the UK, so I would start by looking for a metal supplier such as this one.

I tend to cut copper with our water jet. It can be a little too malleable for our turret punch, depending on the thickness. Search for a machine shop in your area, and if they're like us, you can send them a drawing of what you want, they'll send you back a quote, and you can take it from there.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:27 AM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some clarification.
Yes, I am in the UK.

Yes also I am concerned with aesthetics over efficiency. It's mainly a looking' pretty issue.

I have searched for aluminium effect copper or various copper finish sheets, but not had a great deal of luck. If you know of anywhere I could look, or terms that I might not know to help google (especially for copperlooking stuff) that would be useful.

Oh also, what kind of thickness would you think I'd need? I don't want to accidentally buy a roll of copper foil? (Unless that would work? Maybe....)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:39 AM on December 19, 2014

I would go with something around 18GA (0.040" or about 1mm) thick. Thicker would be nicer, but more expensive.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:43 AM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, a wood burning stove is going to heat the room in two different ways: via convection (heating the air directly next to it, which will then circulate around the room) and via radiation (the hot stove radiates thermal energy directly to whatever surfaces it can "see"). The copper sheeting will reflect the radiative energy back in to the room so that that wall behind it doesn't absorb it, but does nothing for the convective heat.

If you're looking for alternatives to copper, any material with a similar emissivity will work. Most polished metals will work similarly to (polished) copper - aluminum, stainless steel, and brass all have similar emissivities. Your cheapest, best alternative to copper would actually be aluminum foil.

The problem with metals is that once they start oxidizing they're going to lose their heat reflecting properties fairly quickly. If you chose metal, it will have to stay polished in order to be effective at bouncing heat back into the room. You might be able to find aluminum-doped paints that you could apply to the wall, but two more options that would require less maintenance would be red clay tile or granite, both of which have similar emissivities to unpolished metals.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:00 AM on December 19, 2014

What about decorative ceiling panels? (I have no personal experience or affiliation with that company, but they do say they ship to the UK.)
posted by usonian at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Copper is really good at transferring heat. You should check to make sure this is safe. It's inefficient in a big way. The fire will darken the copper and affect any coating on it. Here's a US supplier with copper sheet. Not crazy expensive. You could probably get cheaper sheet metal and cover it with a thin gauge of sheet copper.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2014

I recently bought a roll of copper slug tape from a gardening store for $10 to add a copper edge to a table I was redoing. It's just a very thin copper strip with adhesive on one side (usually used to make a barrier around gardens that slugs won't cross). Not quite what you're looking for, but if you want to just add small copper design elements it would be a very easy and affordable way to do so.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:58 AM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I thought that the metal heat reflector wasn't to radiate the was a spark/fire barrier that enables you to have the woodburning stove closer to the wall than code would otherwise allow.
posted by ian1977 at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2014

question for physics people: would (non-flammable) white paint do a better job at reflecting infrared than metal?
posted by thug unicorn at 2:46 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently bought a roll of copper slug tape from a gardening store for $10 to add a copper edge to a table I was redoing. It's just a very thin copper strip with adhesive on one side...

Such an adhesive is unlikely to survive the heat of being close to a wood stove.
posted by jon1270 at 7:07 PM on December 19, 2014

White paint (any paint color, really) is fairly absorptive and would not help reflect heat back into the room.

And to answer the question about thickness - radiation is essentially a surface phenomena, so even a material as thin as foil will have a positive effect. Just look at the lunar lander!
posted by backseatpilot at 7:35 PM on December 19, 2014

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