A Simple Guide For Choosing Wood For Your Log Burner

As it’s getting gradually colder at this time, we are starting to think and want to light the log burner more regularly.  As we are still relatively new to log burning, we had to look into the types and varieties of wood are the best to use, so we thought we’d share what we found.

Types of wood

  • Unseasoned logs – you do not want to really go down this route for burning straight away at least.  They contain around 60-90% moisture levels and will produce a lot of smoke, which is not what you want and will give you less heat output
  • Seasoned – contains around 40% moisture so will smoke far less and produce more heat.  As a result, they tend to be more expensive.

The moisture in seasoned logs can vary a lot for a variety of reasons, so in an ideal, and if you have the storage space, you would store them for another 6 months (or as long as you can), keeping good airflow between them.

  • Kiln dried – contains around 20% moisture, so smoke is not really an issue and produces even more heat.  Again, this tends to come at a premium.
  • Briquettes – compressed recycled wood and paper.  With around 10% moisture they burn really well, but once again, this means they are often even more expensive.  We have a briquette making press, but it makes a lot of mess and you have to wait a long for them to be ready, so we’ve not used our much yet

There are ways to check if wood is well seasoned or not.  The low-tech option is to hit two pieces together and you a get “clack” hollow sound rather than a dull thud from dried out wood.  You can invest in a moisture meter, but are said to be not particularly accurate.

We are looking to create a space in the garden soon where we can store (and season so more) a larger volume of logs for the log burner.  This way we can buy more at a lower price and let them season over time as they store.

With all these different types of wood you can pick, you’ll have to weigh up the price against the heat efficiency that the logs provide.

Varieties of wood

Hardwoods are better than softwoods for the simple fact that as they are harder, they burn slower, meaning less refilling, less wood needed.

Here some good varieties of hardwoods to use.

Apple – produces a lovely scent, reasonable heat and burns slowly.  Does not produce a great flame when burning.

Ash – said to be the best for burning.  Strong heat output with a steady flame.  Widely available (in the UK), so the costs should be reasonable.  Ash does not have a high water content, so will season quicker than other varieties.

Beech – burns similarly to Ash, but as it has a higher water content, it takes longer to season.

Birch – good heat output and flames, but burns quickly

Cherry – once again, this provides a great scent. Slow burning wood (takes a while to get going) with good heat output.

Oak – also said to be one of the best woods for burning, but it takes a very long time to season (2 years at least). Produces a good but small flame with a very slow burn, so great heat output.

There are many varieties of wood you can use, for a more extensive list, please click on the link below.

Which Wood Burns Best – Flaming Fires

To get the fire started

  • Kindling – smaller pieces of dry wood to be used with Tinder (most people use newspaper, but dry grass and leaves could also be used) to first catch before the larger logs are used.  We tend to build a pyramid of kindling with tinder at the base to let a lot of air flow in and around first to let it catch. Once established with maybe some slightly larger pieces of kindling introduced, we add the logs (preferably the smaller sized ones first).
  • Always leaving the vents open (how ever many you have on your particular model) on your burner to create a good draw (air coming into the unit).  Once a good burn is established, adjust the vents to moderate the airflow to control the intensity of the fire.

For another way to light the perfect log burning fire, please click on the link below.

Will a log burner save you money?

Now, there are many arguments for and against whether they save money or not.  Some say that it can can save up to 10% on your bills, others say that the outlay of the stove means it will take a long while to pay for itself.  With energy bills ever rising it would be nice to think that it could at least help in some way (even though the price of logs will keep rising), but until we get a larger volume of logs to buy (at a cheaper rate), store them to use throughout the year, figure out the most efficient wood and way to burn them, we will not know.  For now we are just enjoying the log burner being a great focal point in our living room that heats this and other rooms creating a cosy atmosphere and letting us turn down the heating a little bit.

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