How to choose and buy good quality firewood

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firewood

Choosing the best firewood for yourself can seem like a daunting task. There are different firewood categories, tree varieties and also ways to buy firewood. You can even buy it online now too. Whether you’re looking for wood to burn in a fireplace, wood stove or backyard fire pit, it always helps to do as much research as you can as a means to ensure you are buying the best possible fuel for you to burn. It is key also that you take your time too. For example, don’t just buy bags of logs on the cheap from a discount store. If you can, buy then from a year-round log dealer.

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 kiln dried. See if you can get them to prove this. Buying firewood in bulk is cheaper than buying in smaller quantities, so if you have a large, easily accessible log store, this may be your best option.

Moist content will go a long way

When burning firewood, it’s vital that you only burn hardwood with a moisture content less than 20%. Burning wet wood is bad for the environment and bad for your appliance due to the levels of smoke, ash and pollutants that it emits. Wet wood can be bought cheaply, but it will need to be seasoned or kiln-dried before it can be burned.

If you want to season the wood yourself, ensure that you have space and time to season it for 1 – 2 years before you need to use it. It should be stored in a covered or dry place, away from the walls and floor, and have sufficient ventilation to allow air to get to the logs, and any moisture to evaporate For wood that you can burn immediately, you will need to buy properly seasoned or kiln-dried hardwood logs. The debate between seasoned and kiln-dried logs can get quite heated with strong opinions on either side! We think kiln-dried wood is better than seasoned as it’s a more controlled process meaning more consistent quality.

The weight of the logs can be a confusing area

In general, firewood companies tend to sell by volume rather than weight, for good reason. When wood is first cut, it can hold up to 60% moisture content which carries a lot of weight! It needs to lose a lot of this water and get to below 20% moisture content, before it’s ready to be used as firewood, either through the process of seasoning or kiln-drying Generally, the drier the wood, the less it weighs so beware comparing the price of wet or un-properly seasoned wood with kiln-dried wood, because it’s a false economy.

Buying your logs in bulk can actually be hard

Buying firewood in bulk is cheaper than buying in smaller quantities, so if you have a large, easily accessible log store, this may be your best option. If not, you’ll need enough space to store them somewhere dry, with good ventilation where they won’t get rained on. There’s no point paying for good quality wood, only to leave it out in the rain and have it absorb moisture before you can get round to using it! The other consideration around buying in bulk is the work needed to unload it from the pallet or crate into the log store and then taking it from the log store into the house when you want to use it. Some customers prefer to buy manageable quantities that they have the space for and can easily get to when they need it.

There are different firewoods you are able to use

When choosing your firewood, we would recommend opting for a hardwood as they are generally denser than softwoods and will produce more heat and burn longer. However, softwoods do light quicker and can be cheaper, but they are more resinous than hardwoods, meaning they are more likely to build up tar deposits in your flue.

Common hardwood species include beech and oak. Common softwood species include cedar and pine. Kiln dried logs are a good option as these guarantee a low moisture content. ‘Ready to burn’ logs should have less than 20 per cent moisture levels for optimum heat output and efficiency, and with kiln dried logs you can be sure you’re purchasing a consistently dried log that will provide the best source of heat. Naturally seasoned logs are generally less expensive but be sure to test the moisture content before burning. They will need to have been seasoned for at least one year, preferably two.

Why it is good to buy seasoned firewood – if you can

Seasoned wood increases the efficiency of combustion, which means more heat is generated from each log. Burning dry wood on your stove will warm the room up faster and you’ll also find you need less logs – particularly if you are using an eco high efficiency type of woodburner. In contrast, burning green or wet wood takes much longer to produce usable heat. This is because much of the heat is lost burning off the excess water contained within the logs. Wet wood will result in poor quality combustion, increased smoke and the production of tars and creosotes that will block your chimney and blacken the glass of your wood burning stove.

Other key points you must take on board

Firewood should be left to dry for a minimum of 12-18 months before being used. To dry wet logs, split logs into smaller pieces and leave logs into a suitable wood store to accelerate drying process. Make sure the top of wood store is covered to keep moisture out. Keep sides open to promote air flow and speed up the drying process. Do not store your wood against a house as this slows down drying and may cause pest problems. Check your product instructions for the optimum size of wood you should be using. To identify well-seasoned wood, check the ends of the logs. If they are dark in colour and cracked, they are dry.

Dry seasoned wood is lighter in weight than wet wood and makes a hollow sound when hitting two pieces together. If there is any green colour visible or bark is hard to peel, the log is not yet dry. It is recommended to purchase a wood moisture meter, to help you see when your wood is ready. Take a selection of logs from your seasoned wood pile and split them. Do so, so that you can take moisture readings from inside the log as well as the outside. If the moisture content is 20% or below, the wood is seasoned and ready top burn.

There are many different types of wood

There are many different types of wood that all burn differently and have various qualities. For example, softwoods like cedar and pine create shorter burning, more intense flames. Whilst hardwood such as oak and cherry beech burn slower longer and are more effective for colder evenings. Never burn construction timber, painted, impregnated / treated wood, manufactured board products or pallet wood. These can release harmful fumes and may also damage your appliance.

Overall

It’s not entirely uncommon for people to assume that you simply cut down a tree and chop the wood into small piles. The reality couldn’t be more different. The wood needs to be seasoned (stored until the water content is reduced to below 20%.) Always ask the log supplier if the wood has been seasoned. Why? Depending on the season, the water content can be anywhere from 35-60% when first cut down. So for a warm consistent burn it needs to be seasoned for at least six months. All of this is going to be able to make a vast difference as to how well the wood will be able to heat the room up after all.

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