Sunday, August 14

A Complete Guide to Buying Firewood for Your Log Burner

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Can’t you just burn any old wood in your log burner? We’d strongly advise against it. For a whole host of reasons that we’ll explain shortly, it’s really important that you buy the correct firewood for your log burner. Keep reading and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about buying the right firewood for your stove.

Why buying the right firewood for your log burner is so important

As we’ve alluded to above, it’s really important that you buy the right type of firewood to burn in your log burner. 

Whilst it may be tempting to use scrap wood or wood you find lying around in the forest, there are a range of safety, legal and economic reasons why you should resist this temptation.

Woolly Mammoth 5 Wood Burning/Multifuel Stove (EcoDesign Ready)

Woolly Mammoth 5 Wood Burning/Multifuel Stove (EcoDesign Ready)

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Improved stove performance

This is arguably the main reason why you want to buy proper firewood for use with your stove.

In order for firewood to burn cleanly, efficiently and with minimal smoke, it needs to be properly dried and seasoned.

Properly seasoned wood will burn well, giving off plenty of heat, only a small amount of smoke, and last a long time.

In other words, properly seasoned wood will get the most out of your stove’s performance capabilities. 

Fire safety

There’s another important reason why you should be burning properly seasoned wood – fire safety.

If you’re regularly burning improperly seasoned wood, your chimney will begin to build up deposits of creosote. If enough creosote accumulates in your chimney this can not only reduce the ‘draw’ of the chimney (affecting stove performance), but it can lead to chimney fires which are extremely dangerous. 

Reduced chimney maintenance

Related to the above point, burning poorly seasoned (or completely unseasoned) firewood will require you to have your chimney inspected and swept more often. 

This is because of the likelihood that your chimney will be accumulating creosote. 

So, the ‘saving’ you may make from burning unseasoned wood, will ultimately be offset by higher chimney maintenance costs.

To put it another way, burn properly seasoned firewood and you won’t have as much chimney maintenance to carry out.

Legislation

As of February 2021, the sale of wet firewood has been banned by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs). 

This means that if you’re buying firewood from commercial outlets, it should be properly seasoned. If a retailer is still selling wet firewood, then they’ll be in breach of the law. 

So there’s also a legal incentive to ensure that you are burning correctly seasoned firewood on your log burner. 

As you can see, there are a whole host of benefits to burning properly seasoned firewood. But you may be wondering, what exactly is properly seasoned firewood? We explain below.

What is the difference between seasoned firewood and wet wood? 

When doing your research you’re likely to come across two terms; seasoned firewood and wet wood.

These terms refer to wood in two different states of preparation.

What is the difference between seasoned firewood and wet wood?

Wet wood (also known as green wood), is wood which is usually freshly harvested and has not been prepared in any way. If you hack down a tree or collect some freshly felled wood in a forest it’ll be wet wood. 

Because it hasn’t been prepared in any form, it has a high moisture content (hence the name). So, attempting to use wet wood in your log burner will result in a poorly burning fire and lots of smoke and particulate matter.

Seasoned firewood on the other hand, is prepared in two ways:

  • Air-dried firewood – this is firewood which has been left to ‘dry out’ in a well-ventilated space for at least two years.
  • Kiln dried firewood – this is firewood which has been dried in a kiln.

In either case, properly seasoned firewood should have a moisture content of 20% or less.

Which type of seasoned firewood you should buy is largely determined by cost. Because of the added level of input required, kiln dried firewood tends to be more expensive than air-dried firewood.

As we mentioned earlier, if you’re not sure how to go about buying properly seasoned firewood, purchase it from a legitimate retailer. They have a legal obligation to sell you properly seasoned firewood.

A note on Ready to Burn firewoods

When introducing the legislation in February 2021, DEFRA implemented something called the ‘Ready to Burn’ mark as a way of making it easier for consumers to identify seasoned wood.

You can view the Ready to Burn mark, and find out more about it here.

What are the different types of firewood? 

In addition to checking that you are buying seasoned firewood, it’s good to know what species of wood that you’re buying.

This is because each species of wood has individual characteristics, duration of burn, aromas and more. 

Woods are divided into two categories; hardwoods and softwoods. 

Examples of hardwoods

  • Oak.
  • Ash.
  • Maple.
  • Birch
  • Apple.
  • Cherry.
  • Sycamore.

What are the different types of firewood?

Examples of softwoods:

  • Fir.
  • Pine.
  • Spruce.
  • Aspen.
  • Butternut.
  • Willow.
  • Cedar

Those aren’t exhaustive lists of hard and soft woods, but they are the most common types you’ll see used as firewood. 

Is hardwood or softwood better for a log burner? 

It’s widely accepted that hardwoods make the best type of firewood for log burners. 

Hardwoods are far denser than softwoods, meaning they’ll burn for a long time. 

To put this into context, a hardwood log of exactly the same size as a softwood log will take longer to burn, normally burn hotter, and produce less smoke than a softwood log.

If you just want a straightforward firewood that burns for a long time, then select a hardwood such as oak. But, if you want to mix things up a bit e.g. introduce an aroma into your home, then you should burn woods such as cherry which give off beautiful sweet aromas.

Ultimately, the decision is down to you! Why not experiment and see which firewoods suit you best? 

Note – hardwoods are generally more expensive than softwoods. However, they tend to burn much longer than softwoods, so opting for softwoods can often prove to be a false economy.

Woods you should not use in your log burner

Once you start looking into the prices of firewoods you may be tempted to obtain wood from sources other than approved retailers. 

Whilst there’s nothing to stop you from doing this, you should take careful note of the woods you are using. In fact, there are some you should outright avoid:

  • Pressure-treated lumber.
  • Cross-laminated timber.
  • Engineered timber such as MDF, particleboard and plywood.
  • Hardboard or other paper-related sheets.
  • Driftwood.

Many of these woods have been treated with, or contain, harmful chemicals which will be given off when burnt. Likewise, driftwood contains large amounts of salt which can corrode the firebox of your log burner.

How much firewood do you need for a log burner? 

This is a common question we receive here at Direct Stoves, but as you can imagine, it’s very difficult to answer!

How much firewood do you need for a log burner?

It’s an obvious point, but the exact amount of firewood you need will be determined by how often you will be using your stove.

As a rough estimate however, if you are using a standard 5kW log burner and will be using it during evenings and weekends from October to April, you’re likely to require 3 to 4m³ of logs per year.

Note – when we say 3 to 4m³ of logs we are referring to a loose fill volume of logs (many firewood merchants will deliver their firewood in large ‘builders bags’).

Bear in mind that the above is very much an estimation. The exact amount of wood you require can be determined by all sorts of factors such as the type of wood, the size of the pieces of wood you feed into your log burner, how hot you run your log burner and much much more. 

Our advice is always to err on the side of caution and buy more firewood than you think you’ll need.

How is firewood sold? 

If you’re new to the world of wood-burning stoves, you may be wondering in what forms firewood is sold. 

It’s a perfectly sensible question!

Firewood is sold in a number of different forms (or packages):

  • As cords.
  • As tonne bags (also referred to as ‘builders bags’).
  • Retail bags.

We’ve explained what each of these things mean in more detail below.

What is a cord of firewood? 

If you’re going to be buying your firewood in bulk (and it’s generally much cheaper to do this), then most firewood merchants will sell their firewood as ‘cords’.

A cord of firewood is generally defined as being a stack of wood that is 8ft long, 4ft deep and 4ft high – or about 128 cubic feet.

You may also be presented with the option of buying a ‘face cord’ (also known as a fireplace cord or rick).

A face cord is essentially one-third of a cord. This refers to a single stack of firewood measuring 4ft high by 4ft long.

Note – the exact dimensions of a cord of firewood can vary between different firewood merchants.

What is a tonne bag of firewood? 

A tonne bag (or builders bag) is a type of bag which was traditionally designed by builders merchants to hold a cubic metre of gravel – which weighs a tonne when fully filled. 

These bags are also used by wood merchants, but as you’d expect, when filled with firewood they weigh considerably less than a tonne. 

Tonne bags will typically hold around 0.7m³ of firewood, which will normally weigh just under a tonne.

When buying a tonne bag of firewood it’s important that you check with the merchant how the firewood is stacked in the tonne bag. Logs which are loose loaded (i.e. simply tipped or chucked into a bag), will take up more space than logs which are neatly stacked into the bag.

In other words, you’ll ideally want your tonne bag of firewood to be filled in a way which maximises the number of logs you’ll get.

In what ways is firewood sold?

What is a retail bag of firewood? 

If you’re ever been to a petrol station or supermarket in the winter you’ve probably spotted what are called ‘retail bags’ of firewood on the forecourt or by the entrance. 

Whilst retail bags are incredibly convenient; you can just pop out and pick one up if you’re running short of firewood, you do pay for that convenience.

Retail bags are generally the most expensive way of obtaining firewood; so, if you’re intending to use your log burner on a regular basis we’d highly-recommend getting to know a local firewood merchant and buying your firewood in cords or tonne bags.

A note on weight versus volume of firewood

Depending on which retailer or merchant you approach, they may be selling their firewood by either weight or volume.

As we mentioned above, if they are selling their firewood by volume, then it’s really important that you check whether their firewood is stacked or loose. If it’s loose, then you could potentially get a lot less firewood than you expect.

You may think the solution is to simply buy your firewood by weight – but this can also be misleading. Remember, when wood is first cut, 60% of its weight will be moisture. As the wood dries out over time, it will become lighter. 

So, it’s really important that you check with the retailer that the wood has been properly seasoned (i.e. air-dried or kiln-dried) to ensure you end up with an amount of firewood that represents genuinely good value for your money.

Where to buy firewood for a log burner? 

Are you wondering how you go about actually buying firewood for your log burner? Then don’t worry, WoodSure, the company which run’s DEFRA’s Ready to Burn mark has a handy portal here

Simply pop in your postcode and the type of firewood you’re looking for and it will tell you where your local supplier is.

Can you collect firewood from woods and forests? 

One of the most attractive things about owning a log burner is the potential to collect firewood for free from your local woods or forest. After all, who doesn’t like the idea of free heating?!

Can you collect firewood from woods or forests?

But, what’s the reality? Can you really collect firewood from your local woods or forest? 

The answer is – it depends.

Let’s begin with a basic principle; everything within a wood or forest, including fallen logs and branches, is the property of the landowner. 

So, if you take wood from a forest without the permission of the owner, you’ll be breaking the law.

On the other hand, if you are able to contact the owner and get them to agree, then you’ll be able to legally collect firewood for your log burner. 

How to tell when firewood is ready to burn

No matter where you obtain your firewood from, you should always check that it’s sufficiently seasoned and ready to burn before you chuck it in your log burner. 

Sure, retailers have an obligation to ensure that the firewood they sell is sufficiently seasoned, but it’s always worth doing your own checks.

How to tell when firewood is ready to burn

Here are the checks you should make to ensure your firewood is ready to burn:

  • Check the colour of the firewood – well seasoned firewood is a dull grey colour. If you spot any lighter, greener tones, then it’s likely the wood’s moisture content is still too high.
  • Feel the weight of the wood – a significant proportion of fresh wood is moisture, which makes it heavy. Sufficiently seasoned firewood will therefore be lighter. So, don’t be shy about picking up your firewood and checking that it’s sufficiently ‘light’.
  • If there’s bark, it should be loose – if your firewood still has some bark on it, the bark should be loose. This is an indication that the wood has dried out enough to burn.
  • Look for cracks – cracks in firewood are a good sign that it’s ready to burn. However, be sure to carry out the other checks above, as some wet woods will show cracks.
  • Knock on wood – give your firewood a knock with your knuckles. If it’s properly dried out, it will have a hollow sound to it.
  • Smell the wood – fresh wood has a sap-based aroma. Sufficiently dried wood should be free of this smell.

Carry out these checks whenever you purchase a new supply of firewood and you can be sure you’re always burning properly seasoned wood in your log burner. 

What the moisture content of firewood should be

With all this talk of wet wood versus seasoned wood, you may be wondering what the moisture content of firewood should be. 

Well, here in the UK, retailers now have an obligation to ensure that any firewood they sell has a moisture content of 20% or less. 

This is mainly because properly dried firewood gives off less smoke and particulate matter.

Why you should use a moisture meter for firewood

Firewood moisture meter

Wood Moisture Meter

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Here at Direct Stoves we strongly recommend that you invest in a wood moisture meter. These are handy little devices which feature two prongs and an LED screen.

Simply pick up a piece of firewood, stick the two prongs into the wood, and the LED screen will show you the moisture content of the wood. 

Using a wood moisture meter is the quickest and easiest way of checking the firewood is ready to burn.

Don’t forget to use good quality kindling!

When shopping for firewood for the first couple of times many people overlook the fact that they also need to buy kindling. 

Why you need quality kindling for your log burner

What is kindling? 

Kindling refers to the small twigs or sticks that are placed at the base of fire to start it burning. Kindling should be very dry and brittle and will be very easy to set alight.

Why good kindling is important

Kindling plays a fundamental role in creating a well-functioning, long-lasting, hot fire. 

The kindling you use will affect how the main logs in your stove burn, so it’s important that you buy good quality stuff. 

Whatever you do, don’t invest in high-quality logs and then try and use something like an old newspaper as a form of cheap kindling!

If you want to obtain high-quality kindling, we’d recommend buying kindling made from wood such as poplar, which is then cut to lengths of around six inches.

Guide – if you’re not sure how to properly light your log burner, read our complete guide here.

How to properly store wood for a log burner

Once you’ve ordered your first batch of firewood it’s important that you store it properly. After all, you don’t want to get half-way through the winter and find that your supply of firewood has been spoiled. 

How to properly store firewood for a log burner

Ideally, you’ll be able to invest in a proper log shed in your garden. A log shed consists of an open-sided shelter with a platform or elevated floor that is above ground level. This platform/elevated floor is used to stack your firewood and prevents it from soaking up water from the ground. 

The open sides of the shelter ensure that the wood is sufficiently aerated to ‘dry out’, whilst the roof protects it from torrential rain. 

If you’re not able to invest in a log shed, then you should at least try to find somewhere to store your firewood off the ground and which is well ventilated.

Log burner firewood checklist

We realise that there’s an enormous amount of information to absorb when it comes to buying the right firewood for your log burner. 

To make things a bit easier for you, we’ve created an ‘at a glance’ firewood shopping checklist:

  • Check that the firewood is ‘Ready to Burn’ and properly seasoned.
  • Are the logs being sold by weight or volume? 
  • Is the firewood hardwood or softwood? Or a mixture of the two? 
  • Is the firewood split? Or will you have to cut the logs? 
  • How will the logs be delivered? E.g. If the retailer uses a large truck for deliveries, will it be able to access your property? 
  • How much will the firewood cost? 

The home of all things log burner

Whether you’re looking for a brand new stove, or you need accessories or parts such as stove glass, chimney liners, stove pipes or more, explore the Direct Stoves website today. We’ve got everything you need to make your log burner ownership as smooth as possible.

Shop log burners at Direct Stoves today

For more stove, log burner and firewood advice, explore the Direct Stoves blog

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