Most wood burns well, especially if properly seasoned, which means that the logs must be kept dry and well ventilated for at least 3 months to 2 years to ensure the moisture is expelled from the wood. A moisture content of less than 25% is desirable, and there are meters which can be purchased which measure moisture content. Alternatively you can do it the old fashioned way by knocking two logs together. You will hear a satisfying ‘clunk’ if the wood is seasoned, or a dull thud if not. Examine the cut ends, seasoned wood has cracks. Green wood is also much heavier than seasoned wood.
Guide to the Best Logs to Burn
Some trees make better logs than others. Broadleaved trees are more dense than softwoods such as pines and provide better heat. Ash, oak, beech, birch, sycamore, hornbeam all make excellent burning logs. Conifers such as pine, throw sparks but can be used if very dry in a closed wood burning stove.
So what is the best wood to burn. Apple is slow burning, with reasonable heat but not much of a flame. It smells good too. Ash as it’s name implies is the best burning wood, which provides terrific heat, and can even be burnt when a little green. Beech is excellent if well seasoned, second only to ash. Birch burns fast and bright. Elm burns slowly and can be smoky. Hawthorn burns slowly and provides plenty of heat. Holly provides a decent heat if it is well seasoned. Larch is OK but is crackly with snaps and spits. Laurel has a dazzling flame. Oak is excellent if well seasoned, because it burns slowly with lots of heat, however the smoke can be thick if the wood is not well aged. Pine burns brightly, but sizzles and pops. Poplar is best not burnt, because of it’s high moisture content, as a result it burns slowly without a lot of heat. Willow however is excellent.
The following old poem makes the case for ash.
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
If for logs ’tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.
Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
But Ash green or Ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold
But Ash wet or Ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by
Effect on the the Environment
Firewood is environmentally friendly because when using it there is no ‘fossil’ carbon dioxide being added to the environment. It also minimises the effects on climate change as it is an alternative to using gas, oil or coal.
Firewood is also renewable, and can be recreated, so it will provide a ready source of energy for generations to come.