We often get asked the question, “which is the best wood to burn”, the easiest way to answer this question is always use well seasoned (dry) wood, the main reason for this is that when wood is first chopped the water content can be up to 50%, this means it won’t burn well in your stove, in fact most of the energy produced will go into drying the wood instead of heating your room. You are also likely to blacken up your stove window and cause tarring and creosote build up within your chimney or liner, this could result in a lack of heat from the stove, a room full of smoke or worst case a chimney fire.
When the wood is seasoned the moisture will escape, remember that the drier the wood the cleaner the burn. A good rule of thumb would be to get THIS years wood for NEXT year.
When the water content in wood is typically below 20% then it’s ready to burn, you can use a moisture detector to test the levels in your wood before you throw it into your stove.
So now you have your seasoned wood and are ready to go it’s good to know a little about some of the different wood types, each type of wood has different characteristics, some woods may burn for a long time and produce little heat, while others may have a shorter burn time but produce a good aroma, and some my give off lots of smoke and spit embers.
The following list will help to give you an idea of some of the different characteristics of a small sample of what is available.
Alder – Gives a poor heat output and does not last very long.
Apple – Has a steady slow burn when the wood is dry, good heat output with small visible flame with a pleasant odour.
Ash – Excellent burning wood, gives great heat and flame output and also burns when green. Best heat output gained when the wood is dry.
Beech – Good heat output but only fair when the wood is green. The wood is prone to shoot embers whilst burning.
Birch – The heat is good but the wood burns quickly, however a pleasant odour is produced.
Cedar – Produces little flames but great heat and a wonderful odour. Provides a splendid noise when burned.
Cherry – A slow burning wood that produces good heat and a pleasant odour.
Chestnut – Produces small flames and nominal heat, This wood is also prone to shooting embers.
Douglas Fir – Poor. Little flame or heat.
Elder – Generates a lot of smoke and burns very quickly, coupled with not much heat.
Elm – Commonly offered for sale. To burn well it needs to be kept for two years. Even when dry it is liable to smoke.
Eucalyptus – Good dense hardwood, should be properly seasoned before use, but will produce good heat.
Hazel – Good.
Holly – Good, will burn when green, but best when kept a season to dry out fully.
Hornbeam – Comparable in many aspects to Beech.
Laburnum – Totally poisonous tree, acrid smoke, taints food and best avoided altogether.
Larch – Crackly, scented, and fairly good for heat.
Laurel – Has brilliant flame.
Lime – Poor. Burns with dull flame.
Maple – Good.
Oak – Oak does not produce a very good flame and the smoke is acrid, but dry old oak is excellent for heat, burning slowly and steadily until whole log collapses into ash.
Pear – Provides good heat combined with an extremely pleasant scent.
Pine – Burns with a splendid flame, but is liable to spit.
Plane – Burns pleasantly, but is naturally given to throw sparks if very dry.
Plum – Good heat and aromatic.
Poplar – Not recommended.
Rhododendron – The thick old stems, being very tough, burn well.
Robinia (Acacia) – Burns slowly, with good heat, but is unfortunately accompanied by an acrid smoke.
Spruce – Burns at a extremely fast rate and creates many sparks.
Sycamore – Burns with a good flame, with moderate heat. Useless green.
Thorn – Quite one of the best woods. Burns slowly, produces great heat with very little smoke.
Walnut – Good, and so is the scent. A very aromatic wood.
Willow – Poor. In a dry condition burns slowly, with little flame. Liable to spark.
Yew – Last in the list but by no means least. Has a slow burn with great heat and also has a pleasant scent.