You’ve browsed the brochures, surfed the net, and finally chosen the wood burning stove for you. Your charming new log burner is now nestled in your living room, waiting patiently to be lit. But wait … do you know how to identify good firewood? Choosing good quality firewood is now more important than ever, as more and more people choose to install wood burning stoves, and the spotlight once again falls on the emissions produced from wood burners. Burning the best quality wood ensures a clean burn with maximum heat output. Here we’ve rounded up our top tips on how to identify good firewood, as well as some advice on how to season wood correctly …
Wet wood is bad wood
Ultimately, it all comes down to moisture content. For optimal burning, firewood should be dried, or seasoned, until its moisture content is less than 20%. To identify well-seasoned wood, you just need to look at the ends of the logs. If they are splitting and dark in colour like the log on the right, they are dry.
A wet log on the left, a seasoned log on the right.
Dry wood is also much lighter in weight than wet wood, and makes a distinct hollow sound when two pieces are hit together. You can also use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of your wood – find out how with our dedicated how-to video.
Burning wet wood can result in poor quality combustion and increased smoke, as energy is used to burn the excess water contained in the logs. Also, your stove won’t burn the tars and creosote in the smoke produced by the fire, which can cause a dangerous build up in your flue pipes and chimney. Burning unseasoned wood can also contribute to pollution, with high levels of particulate emissions.
Storing logs for the ultimate seasoning
Wood can take up to three years to season naturally. If you’re seasoning your logs yourself rather than buying wood that’s ready to burn, here are some helpful hints to keep in mind:
· Wood should be sawn into log sized pieces and split to speed up the drying process.
· The wind is great at drying your logs out, so, if you can be sure there aren’t any rainstorms in the weather forecast, allow your logs to dry in the open air.
· Using wooden pallets for storage will ensure that your logs are kept off the ground, whilst still allowing for plenty of circulation from underneath.
· Ventilation is key, so when you’re stacking your firewood, remember to leave gaps between the logs and to stack each layer in the opposite direction of the layer underneath.
· Always leave a 5-10cm gap between your logs and any walls. Failing to leave a gap can result in wet logs and even termites.
· Never cover your logs completely, as you will stop air circulation and allow moisture to damage your supply. It’s best to leave the sides uncovered for maximum aeration.
Not all woods burn the same
Another thing to remember is that different types of wood burn at different rates. Hardwoods like oak, ash and beech burn slowly and create longer fires. Softwoods such as pine and spruce aren’t as dense, so produce shorter, more intense fires.
Never burn painted or treated wood, construction timber, manufactured board products or pallet wood.
We hope you’ll be able to use these simple tips when you come to choose your firewood. It really is essential to burn dry, untreated wood – not only to keep your stove healthy, but to help protect the environment from harsh pollutants.