How to Choose the Best Firewood for Your Stove or Fireplace

It’s incredibly important to make sure you are using the right type of wood for your stove or fireplace, and whilst it may be tempting to use any wood you find there are a range of safety and legal reasons why you should stick to using the recommended wood. As stove and fireplace installation experts, Incendium has shared information regarding the best firewood to use, as well as what wood you should definitely stay away from. 

What is the best firewood for your wood stove or fireplace?

We recommend using firewood such as maple, oak, ash, birch and most fruit trees to ensure you have a longer burn and a hotter fire. Typically these woods have the least pitch and sap and are overall cleaner to handle. However, before selecting firewood it is important to understand the difference between hardwood and softwood.

Hardwoods – dense woods, that release the most heat – have the highest BTU (British Thermal Units) content. Hardwoods burn the slowest and produce the most intense fires.
Popular hardwoods include:

  • White oak
  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Red oak
  • Hard maple
  • Beech
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Dogwood
  • Apple
  • Almond

However, softwood logs are a great choice to use as starter wood for a fire. They are quick to ignite, burn cleanly and leave behind fewer embers. These softwood embers do go cold quite quickly so hardwood options may be a better choice for a lingering smoulder.
Popular softwood options include:

  • Douglas fir
  • White spruce
  • Yellow pine
  • Cedar trees

What firewood gives off the most heat?

To get the most out of your fireplace, the basic rule to follow is the higher the heat value of the fuel source, the more efficiently it will warm your home. Every fuel has a heat value – measured in BTUs, and for wood, this can vary due to the density and dryness of the wood as well as the overall efficiency of the fireplace itself. 

Woods such as sugar maple, ash, red oak, beech, birch, hickory, pecan and apple (all hardwoods) have the highest heat values. However, a typical homeowner is not likely to notice any major differences between using beechwood or sugar maple. 

How do I know which firewood is best?

The right firewood to burn – whether it’s hardwood or softwood – must be seasoned. Seasoned firewood means it is low in moisture, and the process of drying out typically takes about six months to a year depending on the type of wood.

What moisture content should wood be?

Firewood retailers in the UK have an obligation to ensure that any firewood they sell has a moisture content of 20% or less. Correctly dried firewood produces less smoke and particulate matter. 

HETAS Ready to Burn legislation came into force in England on 1st May 2021. This law bans the sale of the most polluting fuels used in homes: wet wood and house coal. Wood sold in volumes of up to 2m^3 will need to be Ready to Burn certified as having a moisture content of less than 20%.

The best kindling to use 

Kindling – referring to the small twigs or sticks placed at the base of the fire to start burning – should be very dry and brittle, making it easy to set alight. Good kindling is important, playing a key role in your long-lasting and hot fire. 

The quality of the kindling you use will make a difference in how your main firewood burns, so it’s incredibly important to buy high-quality kindling. If you’ve bought high-quality logs, you don’t want to ruin your chances of a warm fire by skimping out on your kindling by trying to use something like an old newspaper. 

High-quality kindling is often made from wood such as poplar, cut to lengths of around six inches.

What not to do with a wood burner

Most importantly, do not burn rubbish, painted or preserved wood in your stove as this can cause damage as well as excessive smoke – and is illegal. 

Secondly, you need to remember to keep your stove air controls open and don’t close them too quickly before the chimney and stove have properly warmed up, as it can stifle the fire and cause smoke & tar build-up. 

What wood should I not burn in a wood burner?

Please do not attempt to use greenwood in your wood burner, as it has too much moisture to be used as firewood. Unseasoned, moist wood produces an excessive amount of smoke, and creates more creosote in the chimney.

Creosote is a flammable and corrosive substance which builds up on the walls of your fireplace and chimney, forming when unburnt wood particles, fly ash and other volatile gases combine as they leave the chimney. Over time, these creosote build-ups can become a danger as they can potentially result in a chimney fire.

Can I burn pallets on a wood burner?

Don’t be tempted to burn scrap wood (i.e. old fence panels, pallets, etc.) in your wood burner or fireplace as these are likely to have been treated with wood preserver when made, and release harmful fumes when burnt in any kind of volume. Similarly, pallets may have been used for a variety of uses and exposed to any kind of chemicals while in use.

Other things you shouldn’t use in your fireplace

As above, you should never burn greenwood, fence panels, pallets, etc. in your fireplace. Other things you shouldn’t be burning include cardboard in all forms (including but not limited to pizza, cereal, and shipping boxes) as these are often treated with wax, plastic, ink, paint and other materials which could release toxic fumes when burned. 

Choose Your Fireplace or Stove with Incendium

Incendium Stoves and Fireplaces supply and install stoves, fireplaces and fireplace products including the supply of firewood logs and fuel. For more information on our stove and fireplace installation, accessories or aftercare services please get in touch with us.

Published On: 11/05/2023Categories: Blog

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