Choosing the Best Wood Logs

Heat output and cost efficiency of wood burning stoves do not only depend on the stove but on the wood fuel as well. We will therefore take a closer look at which wood logs are the best and why.

In terms of both heat output and cost efficiency, hardwoods are a better choice than softwoods. Hardwoods refer to deciduous tree species which grow more slowly than softwoods such as conifers. As a result, hardwoods are much more dense and heavy than softwoods of the same size but what matters the most is that they give up to 50 percent more heat output. Due to greater weight and density, hardwoods also burn longer which means that you will not have to fill the stove as frequently to keep the fire burning well.

Hardwoods grow at a slower pace and as a result, they are more expensive than softwoods. But because they have a higher caloric value, it is typically less expensive (and more convenient) to burn hardwoods than softwoods. Some of the best choices include Ash, Beech, Oak, Birch and Elm. If you are not familiar with the tree species, do not worry. You can also use weight to choose the logs because the heavier the log the higher the caloric value. However, it is crucial that the logs have been seasoned.

Unseasoned or green wood contains large quantities of water and as a result, it is significantly heavier than seasoned wood. So, do not choose wood logs on the basis of their weight alone. You can recognise seasoned wood by loose and peeling bark, darkened colour, and splitting of the wood on the outside. If knocked together, seasoned wood will create a distinct ‘clack’ sound.

Unseasoned wood has a very poor heat output, while high water content makes the fire very difficult to start and keep it burning well. In addition, wet wood creates lots of smoke and unpleasant odour both inside and outside. High moisture content in unseasoned wood is also responsible for excessive soot and creosote build-up which in turn poses a risk of potentially very dangerous flue or chimney fire. Also, strictly avoid burning manufactured or treated wood and wood products including old furniture, plywood, chipboard and MDF because they contain various toxic chemicals.

Where to Buy Wood Logs?

You can look for wood fuel suppliers at the National Energy Foundation (NEF) website. They often also include information about the source of the wood. If you cannot find a local wood fuel supplier on the NEF website, try with the Yellow Pages and local paper. But besides asking for the price, be sure to ask if:

  • wood is sourced from a sustainably managed forest
  • logs are seasoned
  • delivery is included in the price
  • price is by weight or volume

Also, do not forget to ask about the size of the logs in order to make sure that they fit in your stove.