There is a general consensus on a number of basic facts:
– Hardwoods are generally better for burning in wood burning stoves than softwoods. These are from slow-growing deciduous trees so the logs tend to be denser than the faster growing softwoods from evergreen trees. A hardwood log is therefore heavier than the same sized softwood log and provides much more heat output – up to 50%. This means having to fill the stove up less often, and potentially operating it at a higher temperature.
– Only use dried, fully seasoned chopped wood logs. This means the log has a moisture content of less than about 20%. Wood which is well seasoned will feel much lighter than an unseasoned log, and they will usually makes a distinctive ‘crack’ rather than a dull ‘thud’ when knocked together. Seasoning typically involves 12-24 months of outdoor storage of the split wood to reduce the moisture content to around 20%.
– Wet and/or unseasoned wood should not be used. It will produce a lot of smoke, and cause a rapid build up of soot and creosote in the flue or chimney, which can then cause a chimney fire. It is also very inefficient as much of the generated heat is used to drive out the moisture.
But which wood is best? If you are offered wood from different tree species, which should you choose? This is not just a recent problem as back through the ages, people have used wood as a fuel for cooking, heating and industrial processes.
And so there are number of memory rhymes passed from generation to generation to remind people about the burning merits of the different woods found in the english countryside. There is one version below and you’ll find some more wood poems here, almost all highlight ash as the best wood to burn.
Beechwood fires are bright and clear If the logs are kept a year Chestnut only good they say If for long it’s laid away Make a fire of elder tree Death within your house will be But ash new or ash old Is fit for a Queen with a crown of gold
Birch and Fir logs burn too fast Blaze up bright and do not last It is by the Irish said Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread Elmwood burns like churchyard mould Even the very flames are cold But ash green or ash brown Is fit for a Queen with a golden crown
Poplar gives a bitter smoke Fills your eyes and makes you choke Apple wood will scent your room With an incense-like perfume Oaken logs, if dry and old Keep away the winters cold But ash wet or ash dry A king shall warm his slippers by.
Many regular domestic and commercial users of open fires, such as hotels and pubs, are finding it is much more cost effective to light their log and coal fires using an electric firelighter such as the Grenadier Firelighter. This dramatically reduces down the time taken to lay and light a fire, and the cost of a regular supply of dry kindling.