Which type of wood should you choose for firewood?

You can use all types of wood in your wood burning stove, but before you choose which type to use, it's a good idea to think about what you want from the firewood and your wood burning stove. Is the wood burning stove the primary source of heating in your home or do you use it to create a nice and cosy atmosphere? This can influence which type of wood that will be optimal for you.

By: Line Nederby

Article

Which type of wood should you choose?  

There are many different types of wood that you can use when lighting a fire. Most often one of the below-mentioned is used for firewood:

  • Beech
  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Different types of hardwood

You can use all types of wood in your wood burning stove. One kilogram of wood will give off the same amount of heat no matter what type of wood you have chosen. But the weight of the type of wood varies per cubic metre.

The heavier the type of wood, the higher the heating value (if you assume that the moisture content of the wood is the same). It means that you’ll get more out of a stere of beech wood, which belongs to the heavier types of wood, than you will get out of the same amount of pinewood, which belongs to the lighter types of wood. You will have to put more firewood in your wood burning stove more frequently if you use the lighter types of wood.

The price is often connected with the heating value. The heavier the wood, the more expensive it will be.

Wood in kilograms per cubic metre (100% wood with a moisture content of 18%)
Beech 710
Oak 700
Ash 700
Elm 690
Maple 660
Birch 620
Mugo pine 600
Willow 560
Alder 540
Skotch pine 520
Larch 520
Lime 510
Spruce 450
Poplar 450

Should you choose heavier or lighter types of wood? 

There are advantages and disadvantages of both types of wood. At the same time they meet different needs.

The lighter types of wood are easy to work with and use when lighting a fire. But you will have to add more wood to the fire more frequently because the wood burns quickly.

It can be harder to light a fire using the heavier types of wood because the wood gives off gases that have to be lighted more slowly than the lighter types of wood. However, the heating value is greater and the wood will last longer in the wood burning stove and give off heat for a longer amount of time.

Note that you should avoid using firewood with resin (for example spruces) in open fireplaces – it will sputter when it burns.

Which needs should your firewood meet?

Your choice of wood should match your needs. If you use your wood burning stove to create a cosy atmosphere, the lighter and cheaper types of wood are a good option. But you should keep in mind that the lighter types of wood will take up more storage space than the heavier types of wood.

If your wood burning stove is a primary source of heating in your home, it’s a good idea to use the heavier types of wood. They are often more expensive to buy, but the heating value is correspondingly higher.

TIP – use both a lighter and a heavier type of wood

It can be a good idea to buy both a lighter and a heavier type of wood. This way you can use the lighter wood when you light the fire and afterwards you can use the heavier wood so the fire will last longer.

You cannot use these materials when lighting a fire

There’s a great scarcity of wood in the UK which means that some people burn material which isn’t supposed to be burnt in a wood burning stove. It can result in big fines and it is damaging for the environment.

You should keep in mind that materials such as egg trays, weekly magazines, chipboards and EUR-pallets all contain toxic substances which are set free when they are burnt. Even small amounts are damaging for people.

That’s why there are very strict rules in the UK when it comes to burning waste, which most of the time actually is illegal.

According to the Environment Agency, it is illegal to burn:

  • Construction and demolition waste
  • Mixed household waste
  • Waste cable
  • Inorganic farm waste
  • Horse manure from commercial stables

To learn more about what you can and cannot burn, read the Environmental Agency’s leaflet 

Furthermore you should keep in mind that many areas in the UK are smoke control areas which means that there are very specific rules about what you can and cannot burn. For example, you cannot burn wood in a stove unless it is exempted from the DEFRA rules.

Read more about smoke control areas here.

Be good to nature and your neighbours

The smoke in your chimney will disclose whether or not you burn unsuitable or illegal material. The smoke must be white or see-through when it rises. Thick, dark and foul-smelling smoke is damaging for nature and it’s a nuisance for your neighbours.

Always use dry firewood when lighting a fire

Do you want to know more about the different types of wood? 

With this short description, there will be a good chance that you can determine which type of wood will meet your needs.

  • Mixed hardwood

Mixed hardwood consists of ligher types of wood with a thin layer of bark. It is often sold as a discount product. Suitable when lighting a fire or when lighting a fire to create a cosy atmosphere.

  • Birch

Birch is a medium-hard type of wood with a thin layer of bark. It’s easy to light a fire with it. It can be used both in wood burning stoves and Russian ovens with a high efficiency as well as in open fireplaces.

  • Ash

Ash is a hard type of wood with a thin layer of bark. It’s easy to light a fire with (if convenient you could also use kindling of a ligher type of wood). Suitable for wood burning stoves and boilers. Good for long-term heating.

  • Beech

Beech is a hard type of wood with a thin layer of bark. It can be hard to light a fire with it so you should use kindling of a lighter type of wood when lighting a fire. Suitable for wood burning stoves and boilers. Good for long-term heating.

  • Oak

Oak is a hard type of wood with a thick layer of bark. It can be hard to light a fire using oak wood. That’s why it’s an advantage to use it along with lighter types of wood. Only burns optimally when there is plenty of draught.

Written by
Line Nederby
Journalist

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