All you need to know about wood stacking, seasoning and fire lighting
Autumn and winter is the peak wood burning season, and before you get started, you’ll want to know which type of wood burns best, how to store it, and the easiest way of lighting your log burner or fireplace.
Which wood is best for your log burner?
Not all wood is firewood! Some species are high density and give off more heat than others when burnt. A beech log, for example, will give you 50% more heat than a spruce log of the same size. Basically, the weight of seasoned firewood tells you how much heat it generates even if the volume of the firewood is the same. In other words: if the weight is the same, the heat output will also be the same, regardless of which species you go for.
Green, unseasoned wood should ideally be stored outdoors under a roof or topped by a tarpaulin to protect it from rain and snow. Unseasoned firewood contains a lot of moisture, which needs to evaporate before it can be used as fuel. Try to store your firewood facing south, so it gets maximum sun and heat and dries reliably.
Stack your firewood on a pallet or other raised structure to prevent ground contact. Make sure that your firewood is well aerated for drying, including underneath it, to prevent exposure to mildew or rot. Leave air gaps between your logs – the experts say that the space between logs should be big enough to let a mouse squeeze between them!
Storing unseasoned firewood indoors is not a good idea, as it may harbour both mould and vermin, and creates an unhealthy indoor climate.
A wood stack gives you no grief. It won’t lose value on the stock market. It doesn’t rust. It won’t file for divorce. It just stays put, doing one single thing – waiting for winter.
Lars Mytting, author of the book "Hel ved" (Solid wood)
When is your firewood dry enough to burn?
According to the Norwegian standard for firewood, once the moisture content of your logs is below 20% they are sufficiently seasoned (dry) for use in your log burner. By then you can also safely store the logs indoors in a well-ventilated recess. But if the moisture content is any higher than this, any attempt to burn it will be unwise: combustion and heat output will be poor and the chances of soot formation on the log burner glass increase drastically.
How to check if your firewood is dry:
There are various easy ways of checking if your firewood is seasoned enough to burn. Here are three:
Listen to it: This is the easiest method because it requires no preparation or accessories. Dangle a piece of firewood in each hand, then knock the lower ends together. Dry wood will ‘bonk’ or ring and wood with high moisture will ‘thud’.
Soap and blow it: Smear some washing-up liquid and water over the radial end of a piece of firewood and blow air into it from the opposite end. If soap bubbles up, the wood is dry. This is because fibres in the wood act like “air ducts” and as the wood dries, the moisture evaporates through the radial ends.
Moisture meter: You can do a more precise, technical test using a moisture meter. These are typically available to buy from DIY or hardware stores.
What firewood is the best?
Whilst all woods burn better when seasoned, typically the best woods for burning in your wood stove are the ones you are more likely to come across.
Here are a variety of woods we recommend:
This dense hardwood is among the top types due to its extremely long burn time. Oak does take a bit longer to season, but the wait can be worth it for such a substantially excellent wood.
Widely considered the best wood for burning; as it produces a steady flame and strong heat output. Although not as popular as oak, ash still maintains a long burn time and can be found throughout the world. The best thing about this wood is that it is easy to split, so if your wood splitting skills are not perfect, ash is very forgiving.
Beech wood burns efficiently, producing high heat output, a pleasing flame appearance, and minimal smoke when properly seasoned, making it an excellent choice.
Other excellent wood choices include:
apple, cherry, hawthorn, mulberry and cherry.
What woods should NOT be burned indoors?
Be careful about what you place in your log burner. The manual for your appliance also tells you what is safe to burn.
Do not use your fireplace as an incinerator for refuse like cardboard, paper, gift wrap, building materials, etc. These can release harmful pollutants into the air and damage your fireplace or log burner, as the temperature can get too high. Worse still, burning these may deposit a flammable coating on your chimney liner and could cause a chimney fire.
Never burn painted or pressure-impregnated wood or chlorinated plastic (PVC). These give off extremely toxic fumes. Do not burn driftwood. This contains salt which converts into chlorine by combustion. If you do want to use driftwood, you will need to leave it out in the open, exposed to the elements, for at least two years.
Liquid liquids such as lighter fluid, petrol, bio-oil or kerosene should not enter the fireplace either. These are highly flammable and are also not good for the environment.
What is common wood length?
The usual length from Norwegian firewood producers is 30 cm today, while some stoves require wood logs of a maximum of 20 cm. Both on our product pages and in the manual for each individual product you will find the maximum recommended length of wood, we recommend that you use lengths that are slightly below what is listed to get good traction.
According to the Norwegian standard, the cube diameter must be between 8 and 15 cm. And we recommend that the kindling wood is about 2-4 cm thick.
Top fire-making tips – how to easily light your log burner
Logs kept outdoors or in a cold storage space should be brought indoors 24 hours before use to bring them up to room temperature. Then chop kindling sticks so they measure approx. 4 cm in diameter. This makes lighting the fire easier and results in faster chimney draughting.
Before lighting your fire, open all the draught vents; some log burners have only one, while others have two.
The easiest fire-lighting technique is as follows:
We call it the top-down technique:
Legg to store kubber i bunnen av brennkammeret
Stable opptenningsved i to eller tre lag, eller opp til hullene for sekundærluften.
Start by placing two large logs at the bottom of the firebox.
Now stack kindling sticks on top in two or three layers, or up to the holes for the secondary air.
Place 2 or 3 firelighters or similar immediately beneath the top layer of kindling.
Finally, place a medium-sized log on the top of the pile.
Ignite the firelighters.
If the air flow is normal you can now shut the door and the fire will take care of itself.
Twice as much heat from a log burner with Clean Burn Technology
In our range of contemporary fireplaces and log burners, you are guaranteed to find one to suit your needs, and to give you real log fire heat and homeliness for many years to come. Contact your nearest dealer for help in realising your log fire dreams.