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4 key questions about firewood for your wood burning stove

January 2021
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Which is better - hardwood or softwood?

Wood burners are a wonderful home appliance that bring added warmth and cosiness into the heart of your home. In practical terms, using a log burner will reduce your consumption of fossil fuels which means lower heating bills – something we are all striving for. In terms of simple pleasures, it’s hard to beat the feeling of a real fire, especially on a cold winter’s day.

At Sussex Fireplace Gallery, we know a thing or two about wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Visit our large showrooms in Brighton and Polegate where you will find many fully operational displays from many suppliers, and speak to our friendly, knowledgeable team who will be happy to share their expertise.

If you are thinking of getting a wood burning stove, or you have one but don’t use it, it may be worthwhile brushing up on a few basics when it comes to burning firewood, starting with these four questions.

Both hardwood and softwood can be burnt in your wood burning stove, but they each have very different properties. Softwood, such as pine, burns quickly. This type of wood is ideal for use as kindling. Once your fire is established, though, you should add hardwood logs.

Hardwood, such as oak or ash, has a denser structure than softwood, which gives logs a high heat output and longer burn time. Softwoods contain more resin and it’s the moisture released when the wood is put on the fire that makes the logs spit.

Which is the best choice of firewood

Firewood logs can be cut from all kinds of trees, but they don’t all burn in the same way. Before you order a quantity of logs, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the different types of logs, and choose from these 6 recommended types of firewood for your wood burning stove:

Ash: widely considered to be the best logs for wood burners

Oak: traditional choice and everyone’s favourite

Beech: similar properties to ash

Birch: burns with a lovely aroma

Apple: smaller flame with nice smell, same for other fruit wood (cherry, pear, plum)

Pine: fast burning softwood, perfect for kindling

Should your firewood logs be seasoned?

Yes, most definitely. Each type of living wood has a moisture content that is too high for burning. Beech, for instance, has a moisture content of 90% and ash has 50%, but each type of tree is different.

Once chopped into logs, firewood has to dry out or ‘season’ until the moisture content has sufficiently reduced. It will take at least 6months (2-3 years is ideal) for the logs to season to below 20% moisture, which is when they will be ready for use in a wood burner. The longer your logs are seasoned, the drier they are, and the hotter they will burn.

How to tell if your logs are ready for burning? Knock two logs together and if you hear a nice ‘thwack’, they should be dry enough. Conversely, logs that crackle and spit in the fire are not seasoned enough.

Do logs need to be 'kiln dried'?

The problem with naturally seasoned hardwood is that, because of environmental variations, you can never ben 100% sure that the logs are ready for burning, even after 2 years’ seasoning.

Kiln drying takes the guesswork away, by using a drying process in a controlled environment that reliably produces logs with approx.15% moisture content. Kiln dried logs are cleaner, meaning less residue build-up in your flue and less mess in your home. They light more easily, burn with a very high heat output and leave hardly any ash. Kiln dried logs may costa bit more but given the fact that less wood is needed to produce the same heat output in your burner, they are actually better value for money.

Wood burning stoves have becoming increasingly popular over the past years, so if you are thinking of joining the growing number of real fire lovers, we’re here to help. Get in touch with Sussex Fireplace Galleries today to arrange for an appointment in our show room or book a free, no-obligation site visit.

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