When it comes to burning things, you’d think it’d be simple. Find fuel, burn fuel, enjoy warmth. However, if you burn any old wood that you come across, you may find yourself faced with a spitting, slow burning fire that provides little heat and chokes you with acrid smoke.
If you get it right, you can have a clean burning fire that puts out plenty of heat and gives off a pleasant aroma. So it is time to dig out your botany book and start inspecting your firewood! Oh, you can’t find your botany book? Don’t tell me, you used it for kindling a long time ago…
Never mind, here is a list that will give you an idea of some of the different characteristics of a small sample of what is available. Wood labelled in RED should be avoided, ORANGE is sufficient but not perfect and GREEN is the best:
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 it the wood burns quickly; however a pleasant odour is produced. Birch is reasonably priced.
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 an extremely fast rate and with 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.
When buying firewood please remember that first and foremost, it must be properly seasoned. The best way to get seasoned wood is to buy this years’ wood for next year! Unseasoned firewood can cause a number of costly problems.
Unseasoned wood has the fresh clean look of new lumber and has that same fresh look on the inside when it’s split. Though seasoned wood is darker on the outside, its bone white on the inside. You should be looking for grey, or darkened, brittle wood that has a lot of cracks in the inner rings. Alternatively, you can buy your seasoned wood in bulk from us and rest assured that it is the best quality.
To check how well seasoned your wood is, we recommend you buy a moisture meter and check out this video for some interesting tips:
What’s your favourite wood to burn? Let us know in the comments below!