Which wood burns best?
With the weather becoming decidedly cooler this month many of us are looking to stoke the fireplace or wood burner to keep warm. We have a lot of spare wood lying around the garden having felled a birch tree over the summer, but is it any good for burning in our fireplace?
The answer to this depends on two main factors, the moisture in the wood and the density of the wood.
Drying out the wood (seasoning) well before burning means that there is less water in it to be boiled away before the wood will start to burn effectively. Wood with a high moisture content will create a lot of smoke and can leave a tar-like substance behind (either in your wood burner or up the chimney). The best time to cut wood is in the late Winter or early Spring, after which the logs should be stored off the ground in a well-ventilated area. They will dry out over the Summer and Autumn months (during which they should be covered), ready for burning in the Winter. It is a good idea to bring some logs inside a couple of days before you burn them to enable further drying out.
The density of the wood will impact the rate of burn and so denser hardwoods (such as apple, oak, beech, birch, cherry, hickory and sycamore) and will burn for longer than softwoods (evergreen trees such as Douglas fir, pine, willow and spruce). Hardwoods are more difficult to light, but once burning, they will provide a longer-lasting heat, form nice coals, require less topping-up and produce fewer sparks than the softwood. Hardwood will also take up less space in terms of storage, than the equivalent weight of softwood.
Apple - it burns well and produces very little sparking, making it great for open fires and wood burners alike. Also produces nice coals and a wonderful aroma
Birch - a good burner giving out moderate heat and leaving some nice coals
Ash - the best of the bunch. It burns well (whether dry or still slightly green due to its low moisture content) and leaves very little residue in the burner or chimney
Cherry - well seasoned cherry wood burns well, giving off good heat and a great aroma
Eucalyptus - burns very quickly and the sap can leave deposits in the burner that are difficult to remove
Holly - burns well but gives off relatively little heat compared to other types of wood
Laburnum - despite having "burn" in its name, it actually burns poorly and produces a lot of smoke. Best avoided
Plum - burns well and gives off a good amount of heat
Pine - easy to light but burns quickly and gives off relatively little heat
Thorn - this is a good one. It burns well and produces little smoke.
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