Top Tips on Choosing, Storing and Using Firewood Logs

Why is it important to buy dry wood?

35%-45% of the weight of freshly felled wood is water and trying to burn it will produce steam rather than heat. Drying or “seasoning” reduces the moisture content of the wood. Wood should be seasoned before it is burned and the moisture content reduced to at least 25%. The lower the moisture content, the better the wood will burn. As well as producing little heat, burning wood that has not been properly seasoned can result in tar deposits in the chimney and smoky, rather than clean burning fires.

Should I buy softwood or hardwood?

The heavier and denser the wood, the longer it will burn. Hardwoods tend to be denser than softwoods and will therefore burn longer. Softwoods, on the other hand, burn hotter and more easily so are great for getting the fire blazing.

How should seasoned and part-seasoned wood be stored?

Protect it from rain and keep it off the ground in an airy place such as an open sided lean-to. Wood will rot and go mouldy if you keep it completely covered with a plastic tarpaulin, for example. Read more in our Guide to Seasoning and Storing Firewood.

How should kiln-dried wood be stored?

Because it has less moisture to lose, kiln-dried firewood can be stored completely covered up and, if necessary, stored outside, off the ground and covered by a tarpaulin.

Can I burn wood safely and efficiently?

Wood is the cleanest fuel there is, but pollutants can be generated if it is not burned efficiently. Smoke – particles of unburned fuel – may result from using wood that is not seasoned properly, an inefficient stove or problems with the chimney. Carbon monoxide can be generated by any carbon based fuel and is potentially dangerous. To avoid problems:

  • Have your stove professionally fitted
  • Have your chimney swept at least once a year
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector
  • Never burn rubbish, plastics, glossy paper or polystyrene, wood that has been taken from salt water, treated or painted wood, particulate-board or plywood
  • Store wood outside, off the ground to avoid the circulation of allergy-causing mould spores which can be caused by drying unseasoned wood indoors
  • Help the fire to burn briskly by making sure it is getting enough air and by using logs that are 10–15 cm (4-6 inches) in diameter and so expose more surface area to the flame

How do I keep my fire going overnight?

Our standard advice with woodburners is not to try and keep them in overnight but to let them burn out at the end of the evening. What you’re essentially doing when you try to keep them in overnight is to shut the fire right down and get the logs to smoulder. This reduces the temperature of the fire and increases the possibility that the fumes from the fire will not be hot enough to rise and exit the flue as usual (particularly with tall or exposed flues). This then runs the risk of these gases condensing inside the flue, especially towards the top of the flue, leaving tar and creosote deposits. Tar deposits of course are a potential fire risk (as well as blocking the flue and reducing its efficiency) while creosote eats away at the mortar of unlined chimneys increasing the risk of carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases getting into the house. So generally not recommended!

What the experts say…

HETAS logoHETAS is the official body recognised by government to approve solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and services: www.hetas.co.uk

Download a copy of their brochure: HETAS Wood as fuel: user’s guide