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Damp firewood in January?

It is normally around this time of year that we get lots of calls from people who say they have just bought a load of logs locally from their supplier that is terribly damp and just won’t burn “He said it had been ‘down’ for two years” came the response.
So, what’s the problem? Why are so many loads of firewood so variable? Well, there is certainly more to firewood than meets the eye and it’s not quite as simple as one might think, but many suppliers are just not able to meet even the basic fundamentals of drying firewood. Firstly, not many people have ever seen where their wood is coming from. How about popping round to your local supplier and seeing how he prepares the firewood. We don’t do this for other fuels such as oil and gas - of course not, but we know that we are getting a consistent product which has been manufactured. We also soon know about it, if the fuel is dirty, gets water in it or we use the wrong type!

Wood is generally used for secondary heating in our homes in wood burning stoves, but isn’t it time we gained a little better understanding of the fuel we use and the importance of it being consistently dry and providing maximum heat with a clean burn every single time?
So, popping round to your local supplier, what are you likely to see? Well you are likely to be going out of town, perhaps onto a local estate, so a nice drive into the country, but it will probably be difficult to find, and highly unlikely for there to be a big sign promoting the name of your supplier. On arrival, depending on the time of year, you may see lots of wood stacked up outside some old buildings and a tractor with saw and splitter mounted on the back. Perhaps an old pickup or Landrover used for deliveries. No doubt there will be lots of small piles of sawdust around too!

If you are visiting in the summer, there will most probably be large stacks of what is known as cord wood which is 2-3m lengths of round timber. These will be stacked up and ‘seasoning’ (starting to dry), but it is not until the wood is cut into logs and split that the drying process really starts to work properly. Now let’s fast forward to a visit in January. The yard will probably be very muddy and pretty empty of cord wood stocks, but perhaps the odd stack of logs which will hopefully be under cover, but if there has been a period of cold weather and high demand, stocks will be completely depleted. How many people are now ordering their second or third load of logs?

Here’s the delivery and oh, what a surprise the logs are soaking wet. The tree was most likely cut down fairly recently and then cut and split into logs and delivered to your door – wonderful!  And now you have a load of wet logs that will be no use for another year at least and you are tight on space!

It is only the larger suppliers that are likely to have any form of barn storage to produce what are often referred to now as ‘Barn dried’ logs, but these still need a long time to dry, particularly if the wood is oak or beech. If the airflow is not sufficient, then these logs can easily go mouldy.
The process of kiln drying if done properly, ensures the right quality every time, but even kiln drying logs is not easy. Never assume that ‘kiln dried’ is a quality guarantee – far from it. It’s the backing of HETAS Quality Assured Fuel that should give the comfort that you are buying ‘ready to burn’ logs every time, so look out for the logo.

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