Hot Topic: What’s the Best Wood for Burning?
These are exciting times for firewood. Why? Because given the dynamic modern range of burners, chimineas, stoves and ovens, the requirement for quality logs and wood, especially from British sustainable woodland, is trending like never before. Burners in particular are becoming part of modern décor, and this means getting the right material in order to produce a comfortable, safe and rewarding burn everyone can enjoy. There are of course several other uses apart from providing domestic warmth, and this prompts the question: what’s the best wood for burning? Here’s a valuable guide.
First off, let’s take a look at the distinction between a fire created to bring short-term benefits, and those burns needed for longevity, perhaps during the winter months.
In truth, there are varying degrees of warmth. For example, you may be looking to create long-lasting heat on those long winter evenings. If this is the case, oak or beech hardwoods are best for longevity of burn, providing heat efficiency and being kind to both the environment and your burner. Hawthorn also offers a steady burn and produces strong heat, but it’s thorny and needs to be handled carefully.
A Burst of Heat
If you need to warm things up quickly, softwood is just the job as it’s easy to ignite – these woods include pine and spruce. Used correctly they’ll soon produce a bright warming fire with a good flame, but they won’t last as long as hardwoods. It’s also true to say that ash as a hardwood is excellent for producing heat speedily.
An Important Distinction
Hardwoods are generally denser but not as sticky as softwoods, meaning they generally won’t create tar deposits in your flue.
Of course, you’ll want to get your fire going in the shortest possible time and without too much fuss. For this, you’ll need a special ingredient…
The Kindness of Kindling
Quality kindling is made up of small sticks arranged in such a way to help ignite your kiln-dried logs. Its job is simply to get the fire going until the logs themselves take over. Softwoods like pine and fir are kind on both your burner and your environment. Cedar is another popular choice, though it does crackle and spit a little. These options all smell nice too. It goes without saying that kindling needs to be dry, which is why you should buy it from a reputable supplier. There are other forms of kindling you can use, but wood is much safer.
Best Choice for your Wood Burning Stove?
We’ve already established that to get the best out of your wood it must be dry, and kiln-dried logs are ideal as they have most of the moisture taken out. It also helps if the wood is seasoned. Beyond that, there’s a wide array of woods to choose from, each with a different property:
- Ash is considered the best wood for burning
- Beech produces a consistent flame and lots of heat
- Birch is similar to the first two but doesn’t last as long
- Oak carries a smaller flame but burns for a long time
- Hawthorn has a steady flame without creating a lot of smoke
- Apple emanates a very pleasing aroma
It’s best to carry out your own research to see which species might offer you the burn required for regular use. The same applies if you’re the owner of a pizza oven, large or small.
For Pleasing Pizzas
There’s no ifs or buts here – the wood must be as dry as possible with less than 25% moisture content, as you need to reach the desired temperature as quickly as possible. Hardwood is essential with smaller logs the order of the day, to help with consistency. Three of those woods recommended above, oak, ash and beech, are perfect for any pizza oven. But if you want a little variety in order to help the food taste even better, you could try apple or cherry wood. They create a similar burn with the added bonus of a wonderful aroma everyone can enjoy during the process – this, in turn, can actually help add to the flavour of the pizza.
Creating a Charismatic Campfire
Kiln-dried logs are perfect for campfires, although unseasoned wood broken into small sticks can also work well. Wood gathered from fallen trees or branches is good, as the wood may have started to season, giving you a head start. Wood from hedgerows or local woodland should be fine, but never deliberately break off branches from trees or bushes. Try and avoid horse chestnut as this will spit when burnt. And to stay completely safe, don’t burn anything except wood. It’s a wonderful feeling enjoying a fire in the great outdoors and staying safe will ensure you get the most from the experience.
Best Wood For Burning – Frequently Asked Questions:
- Is there a firewood you should never burn? The answer is yes, as you should stay clear of painted or treated wood. Why? Because older wood especially could be treated with arsenic and when burnt this will be released into the air. Likewise, painted woods have chemicals in them. Also try and avoid pallet woods, as they may not come from sustainable sources.
- Which firewood emits the best smell? As you’ve seen from our advice regarding pizza ovens, woods like apple and cherry give out a sweet scent. Any pine or spruce will invigorate the air with a pleasant fragrance. Oak has a subtle but nice smell, as does hickory. Choosing woods with a lovely smell can also help rid you of stress, offering a calming ambience to your household or premises.
- What species of firewood will burn longest? Hardwoods like cedar, oak, beech and ash will create a long consistent burn. It can vary slightly in how they are used of course, but oak has to be favourite.
- Can wood from pallets be burned? The answer is only in a fireplace, if the wood hasn’t been treated – otherwise, no. Those treated with the fumigant methyl bromide should be avoided as they are unsafe. This also includes any material that has been exposed to chemicals while it was in use. To be safe, the advice is stay clear.
- What happens if you burn treated wood? Wood treated with chemicals, or anything else for that matter, will give out fumes when burned. Not only is this polluting the atmosphere and environment, your own health could also be at risk when breathing in those fumes.
- What kind of wood should never be burned in a fireplace? The best advice is not to use wet or unseasoned firewood, as the burn will be slower and could produce excess smoke, resulting in the eventual clogging up of your chimney. Driftwood contains high salt levels and any treated wood, especially that treated with chemicals, should be avoided. Avoid burning your old Christmas tree or any other wood that creates sparks. Green woods, when burned, will produce both sticky tar and creosote. Finally, don’t use anything found outside.
- Can you burn wood containing nails? Providing there aren’t too many, it’s perfectly safe to do this, but you will have to pick the nails up afterwards, and it could prove troublesome to any cleaning equipment you have.
Never throw two or three very large logs on your fire at once as they simply won’t produce an efficient burn and could take a while to get going. It will all be wasted effort. Instead, make sure you use smaller logs for an efficient fire.
It’s not an exact science but as you can see, there are many factors and some interesting choices when it comes to selecting the best wood for burning. There are woods for supplying rapid warmth, and those to keep fires burning for hours on end.
There are types of wood you should never use in a fireplace, and some perfect for cooking. What you should always remember is that you can never go wrong with quality kiln-dried logs.
Logs from sustainable British woodland are always a good thing. Whatever your needs, do as much research as you can before ordering your stock. Because as we’ve seen, there’s more to firewood than meets the eye.