What Is The Best Kind Of Wood For Stoves?
When looking to find the best kind of wood for your wood-burning stove there are a number of factors to take into consideration. These include issues such as the cost, availability, level of heat created and finding a balance between cost and output. Before we take a look at specific wood and their burning characteristics lets take a look at specific types and what they have to offer.
When to use hardwood and softwoodThere are a number of things to consider when looking at different types of wood. Density and moisture levels are the two most important. If we take a look at density, of both hardwood and softwood, what does this actually mean?In simple terms, hardwood is more dense than softwood which in laymans terms means it burns hotter and longer. The only downside to hardwood is the fact that it can take some time for the fire to get hold. As a consequence, it is probably advisable to use softwood to start a fire - kindling is very popular - and then once the fire is strong enough, slowly introduce hardwood to the mix.While softwood is good to get a fire started, it burns fairly quickly and as a consequence you will go through a greater volume of softwood than you would hardwood.
Comparing seasoned and unseasoned woodOne of the main issues with seasoned and unseasoned wood is the fact it can take some time for freshly cut wood to dry out. In a perfect world the maximum moisture level in the wood you are using for your stove should be no greater than 20%. In theory, the drier the wood the better but if it is too dry then it may well burn too quickly. So somewhere in the region of just below 20% moisture is probably the optimum level.In recent times the UK government, and others around the world, have made a point of targeting the burning of unseasoned wood. Unfortunately, this type of green/wet wood can release an array of potentially harmful emissions into the atmosphere. There is also evidence to suggest that unseasoned wood can create a tar like material which can damage your flue pipe and liner. Many people believe that in the future the use of unseasoned wood will be outlawed for wood-burning/multifuel stoves. Even ignoring the potential legal issues, seasoned wood is by far and away the most appropriate for any stove.
Measuring moisture in woodThe simplest way to measure moisture in wood is to use a moisture meter which will give an immediate reading. Many people fail to realise but some wood may need seasoned for up to 2 years to ensure it is the right moisture level. There can be a temptation to use wood before it has been correctly seasoned but this is a false economy. The value for money between unseasoned and seasoned wood will depend on the type but it can be huge. Resist the temptation to use unseasoned/wet wood!
Different types of wood to burnWe will now take a look at some of the more common types of wood available, their suitability and characteristics for burning in stoves. Remember, not all varieties of wood below will be available in your locality which can impact the delivered to your doorstep price.
Apple woodWhile Apple wood is perhaps more closely associated with decorative timbers, doors and ornate handles it is also perfect for wood-burning stoves. This relatively dense wood creates significant heat and the fact it is dense means it is a slow burner. As a consequence, assuming you can buy applewood at a competitive price it is certainly one to consider. Thats before we even mention the pleasant fragrance it creates!
Ash woodAsh wood is also very popular for wood-burning stoves but even the driest of material will take six months to season. The natural moisture level of ash wood is around 66% which is significantly higher than the 20% target for wood-burning stoves. Classified as a hardwood, ash has longevity when burnt in a wood-burning stove and creates significant heat.
Birch woodClassified as softwood, birch wood is not perfect for burning on a wood-burning stove. As we touched on above, softwoods burn much quicker and can create unhelpful omissions that can damage flue pipes and liners. Even though Birchwood may be relatively easy to come by, it is sensible to resist the temptation.
Blackthorn woodWhile many people may not have heard of Blackthorn wood, it is native to the UK and most of Europe. To demonstrate the fact it is a hardwood, it is very popular when making riding sticks or walking sticks. It is preferred by many people as Blackthorn wood burns very well and creates minimal smoke.
Cherry woodWhile the name cherry wood might suggest a relatively soft type of timber, this is not the case and cherry wood is deemed to be a hardwood. As a consequence, it is perfectly acceptable to use cherry wood to fuel your wood-burning/multifuel stove. Like all woods, it performs best when seasoned for a relatively long period of time.
Hawthorn woodWhile perhaps best known as the perfect material for cabinets, boxes, boat parts and tool handles, Hawthorn wood burns at a high temperature for a relatively long period of time. As a consequence, like most hardwoods, Hawthorn wood is one more to put on your list of potential fuel sources.
Horse chestnut woodHorse chestnut wood is one of the few types of hardwood not used for other commercial purposes. However, because it is classed as a hardwood it is perfect for wood-burning stoves which nullify the spitting effect that burning horse chestnut wood can sometimes create. A strong flame and high heat output are two of the major characteristics of horse chestnut wood.
Maple woodWhile often more associated with North America, Maple wood is a hardwood commonly used for bowling pins, pool cue shafts, butchers blocks and baseball bats. However, this list of uses perfectly illustrates the characteristics required for long burning high temperature stove wood. The cost of seasoned maple wood may well have an impact upon your final decision when looking for stove fuel.
Oak woodOak wood has a variety of different potential uses aside from fuel for wood-burning stoves. This hardwood is perfect for flooring, wine barrels and construction. To get the best out of oak wood it is essential that it is correctly seasoned with a moisture level of less than 20%. With characteristics including extremely high burn temperatures and longevity, oak wood is readily available across many parts of the UK.
Pine woodPine wood is perhaps the more stereotypical softwood which is in good supply in the UK but not really appropriate for wood burning stoves. That is not to say pine wood cannot be used to start a stove fire but long-term use will create unwelcome tar and emissions.
Robinia woodRobinia wood attracts mixed views in the world of wood-burning. On one hand this relatively hardwood burns for long period of time and creates significant heat. On the flipside of the coin, it can produce what is described as acrid smoke which is not helpful especially with ever tighter regulations covering emissions.
Sycamore woodSycamore wood is extremely popular across the UK and because it is a hardwood it is suitable for wood burning stoves. The high density ensures Sycamore wood gives off extreme heat and lasts longer than softwood which makes it more efficient from a cost basis. Traditionally Sycamore wood has been used with boats and ships and timber frames for construction.
Walnut woodWalnut wood, as the name suggests, is a hardwood which is perfect for burning in wood-burning stoves. Not only does the dense material create relatively high temperatures when burning but the wood also has longevity. The fact that it gives off very little in the way of smoke is a further benefit.
Yew woodYew wood is a very interesting material as it is often described as hard softwood while also being suitable for wood-burning stoves. The element of softwood ensures it catches fire fairly quickly but the hardwood element ensures it creates a lot of heat and burns for a long period of time. It is also known to give off a pleasant fragrance while burning!
ConclusionIn simple terms, the best type of wood for a wood-burning stove is a hardwood with a moisture content of less than 20%. When looking at different types of wood for your stove you need to take into account the availability in your area, cost of delivery and the cost of the wood itself. Hardwood trees can take literally decades to mature. However, by simply replacing trees chopped down for wood burning stoves this creates a constant stream of fuel. There are also additional environmental benefits with trees ingesting significant levels of carbon during their lifetime. The fact that some of this carbon is released when burnt is not perfect but at worst the whole process is carbon neutral.When you also consider the new combustion systems of today, primary, secondary and tertiary air supplies, emissions are now minimal. The ability to burn wood, re-burn gases and re-burn again ensures maximum heat is created and emissions are reduced. There is every chance that governments around the world will look to rein in the use of older less efficient wood-burning and multifuel stoves. However, there is no reason to restrict the use of highly efficient modern day clean burn stoves.