So you’ve made the decision to have a wood burning stove installed in your home, and let’s face it, nothing says ‘home’ quite like a real fire. The cosiness of a wood burning stove cannot be denied, but once you have chosen which stove is right for your home, you have another decision to make – which wood to use.
If you are of the opinion that wood is wood, you are far from alone, but when it comes to burning, each wood (and there are a myriad to choose from) has its own properties; from scent, burn time, amount of smoke, and even how much crackle it produces.
How Can You Tell if Wood is Seasoned?
There are a few things to look for when you are searching for seasoned wood. If the logs make a dull thudding sound when knocked together, as opposed to the much clearer ‘clacking’ of well-seasoned wood, then it is probably not as dry as it needs to be.
Another way to tell is if the bark comes away easily from the outside of the log. If the wood is dry the bark will be easily removable – unseasoned wood will not yield it quite so easily.
If you think there can’t be that much difference between dry and wet wood, you would be wrong. A well-seasoned wood will produce approximately 50% more heat than its damper counterpart.
So, with that said let’s look at which woods are best, and why.
What Types of Wood Can I Use and Which Should I Avoid?
Ash is considered to be one of the best woods to burn. It creates a nice steady flame and produces a good heat output. Theoretically, it can be burnt when it is still green, but its performance will be compromised and this is not generally recommended.
Another two very good woods for use in a stove are Hawthorn and Yew. They both burn slowly and produce a lovely, steady warmth.
If you are looking for a wood with a good heat output combined with minimal smoke, then Thorn is an excellent choice.
If spitting and sparking are a concern, Apple might be a good option, although it does result in smaller flames. To offset that, it does burn slowly and steadily, so while it is not at the top of the list, it is not far below the best.
When Cherry is well-seasoned, it is a great wood for stoves. Cherry is a slow burner and produces a steady heat.
The mighty Oak, as a dense wood, is extremely slow burning and produces a small flame. However, it needs to be seasoned for at least two years in order for it to give its maximum performance.
Maple, Hornbeam, Pear, and Plum are all excellent alternatives for using in a wood stove, although Pear, in particular, needs to be very dry. However, they are all very good burners.
For anyone considering using Elm, it is worth noting that the way it burns can be unpredictable, depending on its moisture content. To counteract this as much as possible, Elm should be seasoned for at least two years. In addition, it can also be a slow starter, so it might be necessary, if using Elm, to start your fire off with a better burner, such as Ash.
So now we have looked at the best woods to use in your stove, let’s ‘branch’ out into the lesser-used woods, and why they’re not the best choice for your burner.
Holly, while producing a reasonably good flame, also burns quickly and is not a very good source of heat. For best results use wood which has been dried for a minimum of 12 months.
A wood which is probably best avoided if at all possible is Willow. Even when well-seasoned it struggles to burn, so it’s really just not suitable for a wood burning stove.
Linda Firth from consumer website, LoveMyVouchers.co.uk, added, “We have tried several different types of wood in our stove, but Willow was definitely one of the worst burners. We cut several large branches of our Willow tree and stored them in our woodshed for months to dry them out. The wood never really fully dried and struggled to burn. I much prefer to use Yew now.”
Laburnum should also be avoided at all costs! Not only does it not burn well, but it produces a huge amount of smoke.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire might conjure up images of cosy winter nights, but Chestnut wood is more likely to have you shivering when it’s cold outside! Although it won’t choke you with smoke like Laburnum, it is a very poor burner, with small flames and minimal heat production.
A word of warning should be given about Eucalyptus, Larch, and Firs (including Pine). Although some of them can produce a good heat output, these woods can all cause a build-up of sap in the flue, which, if left unchecked, can cause a fire. The risk can be reduced by ensuring the woods are well seasoned, but this is probably one of those times when it is best to err on the side of caution, especially when there are so many other great woods available.
Reputable kiln dried logs supplier, Certainly Wood, have put together a useful compare the market guide showing the origin, species, average log length, and internal and external moisture content of their products compared to those of other suppliers.
Using an inferior wood in your stove is like using sunflower oil in a Ferrari – you just ‘wooden’ do it! Choose your wood wisely and you’ll be rewarded with warmth, comfort, and great value for money for many years to come.