The importance of using seasoned wood
Don’t burn water – This is one of the most fundamental things to get right when you’re burning wood. It might be surprising, but green wood can be upto 80% water. That means for every 1kg of green wood you add to the fire, you’re effectively adding around 800ml of water. So it is therefore vital that you ensure that your fuel has been dried properly. Here are some simple ways you can do this :
Find green wood and dry it yourself – This is probably the cheapest option, especially if you have your own source of wood and the space to dry your logs properly. However, bear in mind that it will take a while to season. Seasoning is the process of removing the moisture from wood. This can be best achieved by stacking undercover in a way which allows the air to circulate the wood and carry the moisture away as it evaporates. You need to allow at least a year, ideally two for this process.
Find a good supplier. The best way of finding a good log supplier is to go through an accreditation scheme. This is an audit of whether the wood really is as dry as the supplier claims. If you are paying by weight, you could be paying in part, for water. If you are unsure you can buy a moisture meter to check for yourself. (See below)
Buy kiln dried logs or briquettes. There can be sustainability issues with this sort of purchase, as energy has been added to dry the fuel before it reaches you, though some (but not all) suppliers use wood-fired kilns. Although a more expensive route than most it is the simplest way of fuelling a stove.
Buy a moisture meter. Anything over 20% moisture content is classed as ‘wet’ or ‘green’ wood. Burning wet or green wood will not only lead to an inefficient, low heat output from your stove, but can also cause creosote/tar build up in the chimney and the blackening of the door glass. For peace of mind you can buy amoisture meter which will tell you how much moisture is in your logs.
To test the moisture content of your fuel, take a freshly split log and firmly press all prongs of the metre into the freshly chopped face. Your reading will indicate to a reasonable degree of accuray the moisture content of your wood.
Which wood is the best to burn in a woodburner?
|Common Name||Botanical Name||Comments||Grade|
|Alder||Alnus||A low quality firewood||Grade: 1|
|Apple||Malus||Needs to be seasoned well. Burns well with a pleasant smell and without sparking/spitting.||Grade: 3|
|Ash||Fraxinus||Considered to be one of the best woods for firewood. It has a low water content (approx. 50%) and can be split very easily with an axe. It can be burned green but like all wood is best when seasoned. Burns at a steady rate and not too fast.||Grade: 4|
|Beech||Fagus||Beech has a high water content (approx. 90%) so only burns well when seasoned well. Not as good as Oak.||Grade: 3|
|Birch||Betula||Birch is an excellent firewood and will burn unseasoned. However, it does burn very fast so is best mixed with slower burning wood such as Elm or Oak.||Grade: 3-4|
|Cedar||Cedrus||A good firewood which burns well with a pleasant smell. Gives off a good, lasting heat. Doesn’t spit too much and small pieces can be burned unseasoned||Grade: 2|
|Cherry||Prunus||Needs to be seasoned well. Burns well with a pleasant smell and without spitting.||Grade: 2-3|
|Elm||Ulmus||A good firewood but due to its high water content of approximately 140% (more water than wood!) it must be seasoned very well. It may need assistance from another faster burning wood such as Birch to keep it burning well. However it gives off a good, lasting heat and burns very slowly. Dutch Elm Disease is producing a constant & plentiful supply of small dead hedgerow Elm trees of a small diameter. Larger pieces of wood will prove difficult to split.||Grade: 2-3|
|Eucalyptus||Eucalyptus||Allow to season well since the wood is very wet (sappy) when fresh. Can be difficult to split due to stringy wood fibre. Best method is to slice into rings and allow to season during the summer, the rings will start to split themselves. Burns fast with a pleasant smell and without spitting.||Grade: 2-3|
|Hawthorn||Crataegus||Good firewood. Burns well||Grade: 3-4|
|Hazel||Corylus||Excellent firewood. Allow to season. Burns fast but without spitting||Grade: 4|
|Holly||Ilex||Can be burnt green. A good firewood||Grade: 3|
|Hornbeam||Carpinus||Good firewood. Burns well||Grade: 3|
|Horse Chestnut||Aesculus||A low quality firewood||Grade: 2|
|Larch||Larix||Needs to be seasoned well. Spits excessively while it burns and forms an oily soot within chimney’s.||Grade: 1|
|Lime||Tilia||A low quality firewood||Grade: 2|
|Oak||Quercus||One of the best firewood’s. When seasoned well, it gives off a good, lasting heat. Burns reasonably slowly.||Grade: 4|
|Pear||Pyrus||Needs to be seasoned well. Burns well with a pleasant smell and without spitting.||Grade: 3|
|Pine||Pinus||Needs to be seasoned well. Spits while it burns and forms an oily soot within chimney’s.||Grade: 1|
|Plane||Platanus||A usable firewood||Grade: 3|
|Poplar||Populus||Considered a poorer firewood (see comments below)||Grade: 1|
|Rowan||Sorbus aucuparia||Good firewood. Burns well||Grade: 3|
|Spruce||Picea||A low quality firewood||Grade: 2|
|Sweet Chestnut||Castanea||Burns when seasoned but spits continuously and excessively. Not for use on an open fire and make sure wood-burning stoves have a good door catch||Grade: 1-2|
|Sycamore (Maples)||Acer pseudoplatanus||Good firewood. Burns well||Grade: 3|
|Walnut||Juglans||A low quality firewood||Grade: 2|
|Wellingtonia||Sequoiadendron||Poor for use as a firewood.||Grade: 1|
|Willow||Salix||Willow has a high water content so only burns well when seasoned well||Grade: 2|
|Yew||Taxus||A usable firewood||Grade: 2-3|