Firewood quality is now more important than ever as more and more people install wood burning stoves and the message about quality spreads. But what is, best quality firewood and how do you get the best firewood burn quality.
Quite simply it’s all about moisture content. The drier the wood the better it burns. Freshly cut wood will contain about 60-70% moisture content depending on species but to achieve the best firewood burn quality, the wood must be dried to below 25% moisture content, but it’s almost a case of the drier the better. This ensures a clean burn with maximum heat output.
It takes a long time to season wood naturally – up to three years. Be careful when buying your logs and make sure you get a full understanding of the quality you are buying. Many suppliers will claim the wood has been ‘down’ for two years and therefore dry. That does not mean it’s dry. It is not about the time the tree has been cut down, but more about how the wood is stored. It must be sawn into log size, split and stored under cover for meaningful seasoning to take place. The best thing to do is check the moisture on delivery with a moisture meter.
Hardwood Firewood versus Softwood Firewood
Many people say you should not burn softwood as it smokes, tends to spit, burns too quickly and can tar up the chimney. Once again if you buy kiln dried logs or have the best way to season firewood in a dry and airy store and can dry to a moisture content below 25%, then you will not have any of the above problems. These only arise when the wood is not sufficiently dry.
Softwood (Spruce, Pine, Larch, Douglas Fir etc) will have the same energy content per kilogram as hardwoods (Oak, Ash, Beech, Alder, Birch etc), however being far less dense, you will need up to twice as many logs (or volume) to achieve the same heat output.
We only use British hardwood logs as we presently regard them as providing the best value for money.
Firewood Quality Chart
The following firewood chart shows the typical species that we use for our British hardwood firewood, although we have added at the end a photo of Softwood Pine just to show the difference visually. The aim of this poster is to help you identify the most common types of firewood that you may have had delivered. It will help you to better understand different species and the different way they each burn. Although all hardwoods, they will burn with slightly different characteristics.
- Oak Firewood
- Is very dense and takes a long time to dry to the core, but makes a great firewood with a long burn and good heat output. At times, this wood will require a little more draft/air from the stove setting to maintain a good burn, however once a good base is established, then the burn time will be very long.
- Ash Firewood
- Many people say this is the ‘king of firewoods’ and claim it can be burnt wet. Yes, it can dry quite quickly but still don’t burn it green. The fundamentals of firewood burn quality still apply and the moisture content must be below 25%. Ash wood gives a nice bright flame and burns very nicely albeit slightly faster than oak
- Beech Firewood
- Like oak, this is a very dense species and needs a lot of drying, but once dry burns with a nice bright yellow flame and for a long time. It also has a smooth bark so nice to handle.
- Alder Firewood
- Can be quite a dense wood and characteristically has quite a distinctive orangey flesh colour. Once dry it can actually be quite light in weight and will therefore burn quite quickly. Alder is more commonly from Eastern Europe. It is highly unlikely for you to be able to buy 100% alder sourced from the UK.
- Birch Firewood
- One of the most attractive of logs due to its silvery, flakey bark. Burns with a nice bright flame, but will burn quite quickly. As with Alder any supply of 100% Birch will almost certainly be from Eastern Europe and not British.