How to choose the best firewood for your wood burning stove?

The quick answer would be dry wood. However , here are some ideas which should help you to select, process and store your firewood. For further information see our wood burning stove information pages.

Ash, for instance, is customarily treated as the best firewood, a claim which largely rests on its low moisture content, which means it needs comparatively little seasoning. Nonetheless holding out for a provider of ash when you live in an area densely wooded with oak and beech isn’t reasonable.

You should consider what type of wood is locally available. Wood isn’t a fuel that’s sensible to transport over long distances. In Scandinavia you would burn plenty of birch and soft-wood. In densely-wooded France you are spoiled for choice. Britain, though sparsely wooded, has traditionally been blessed with plantings in many areas, of ash, elm, beech and oak, all fantastic firewoods, though elsewhere commercial issues have led on to large characterless areas of conifers. The truth is that, when thoroughly dried, all of them are good, warming fuel, and if harvested sensibly and sustainably, make good economic sense for you, the local economy and the planet.

Additionally , you should decide of you are prepared and able to process and manage your own wood supply. Self-sufficiency is very cost-effective and very satisfying, but it’s not for everyone. It is time consuming, messy and laborious as well as requiring the use of a selection of potentially lethal cutting instruments. If you want to do this you must begin to know your wood types. Really hard kinds like eucalyptus become difficult to split shortly after felling. Holly, a good burner, is densely knotted and difficult to process. Alder splits easily, while birch is splendidly simple to chop and split. The equation between work and reward quickly becomes apparent for different woods, and you will make your decisions accordingly.

Is cost the most important factor? If so , and if you’re prepared to scrounge woodworking off-cuts, pallets, old floorboards and other untreated waste wood, you can heat your home for nothing or at least very cost-effectively. The more of the work you are prepared to do yourself, the less expensive it will be to run your stove.

Chopping down, cutting to size, splitting, seasoning, stacking all add some value to the end product and the more of them that you outsource to your provider, the more you are going to be forced to pay.

Have you got the room to store plenty of wood? Ideally, you’ll want to store about two years ‘ worth of firewood at home to make certain that, even after a cold winter, you’ll always have some seasoned wood available for your stove, as well as allowing adequate seasoning time for your stubbornly slow-drying kinds like oak and conifers. If, you have limited storage space, then it is smart to plump for woods which will dry out reasonably speedily like ash, birch or beech, and usually for denser woods which will give a bigger calorific return on volume.

Are you too busy to pass some time chopping and stacking wood? There are some good suppliers around who will deliver large quantities of high quality kiln-dried firewood. Many of them also provide a stacking service, and if you only use your stove now and then, this should not cost too much. But it isn’t inexpensive.

It is great to have a mix of woods. Fast burning woods (softwoods and thinly-cut wood which will generally burn more quickly) will heat a space up faster and are handy for getting a fire going or reviving it. Heavier logs and hardwoods will burn slower, yielding greater heat and giving you longer stoking intervals. Fires are easiest to keep going with a mixture of different woods.

Heavy use of conifers can leave some unpleasant residues on the inside of your flue, so monitoring the health of your chimney and getting it regularly swept is important, but this shouldn’t put you off using them. Burn them dry and burn them hot!

The New Forest Woodburning Centre in Hampshire, UK has a wide range of wood burning stoves and is staffed with experts who can help you select, install, maintain and enjoy your stove.

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