Our Environment - Wood Fuel Guide

Any type of wood will burn, however different types of wood can have significantly different energy values (calorific values). Hardwoods burn best and longest whereas softer wood burns quickly but hot and so are best for lighting or reviving the fire.

Waste wood is a good cheap form of fuel as most ends up in landfill and is left to rot, releasing its carbon. Care must be taken not to burn contaminated waste timber.

Local tree surgeons are a good source for timber, however the nature of their work determines the variety, quality and consistency of the logs they supply. Good practice would be to sort the fuel into soft/hard wood and price according to the energy value of that delivered.

The moisture content of freshly cut wood is between 50% and 90%. Wet logs such as these will give little heat as the energy is spent burning off the water. If wood is stored incorrectly it will take between 1 and 4 years to dry depending on the species. To get the optimum heat and efficiency from burning wood, the fuel will need to be around 20% moisture. We pass on the wealth of experience we have gained; advising on every aspect of log supply and log storage that speeds up drying times in your garden to one summer season for all tree types.

Five years of research into processing coppice from our local woodlands has given us a unique insight into the potential of wood fuel at a local level. We are surrounded by a variety of species such as Oak, Ash, Birch, Chestnut and Hornbeam, each have their own energy values, moisture contents and characteristics that are relevant when used in wood burning stoves.

Our results have shown that if wood is:

  • Sourced from sympathetically managed sustainable woodlands, streets and gardens
  • Graded for specific wood performance (calorific value) and stacked correctly
  • Chopped by hand or using minimal machinery
  • Delivered to the end user locally from where it was processed in measured quantities
  • Stacked into our individually designed drying log stores
  • Dried to a moisture content of 20%
  • Burned in a well fitted, high efficiency stove, by a consumer educated in good user practice
  • Then we have the lowest carbon producing bio-fuel available

Before the industrial revolution, wood was the main fuel for England. It is estimated that there are 40,000 Hectares of unmanaged woodland in England, in the form of coppice. The traditional use of British woodlands dates back thousands of years to a time when our ancestors lived in harmony with nature. The forests gave food, building materials, firewood and indeed many myths and superstitions evolved from the use of certain tree types. The old poem below shows the understanding people had of wood to use on open fires.

"Logs to burn, logs to burn, logs to save the coal a turn,
here’s a word to make you wise when you hear the woodman’s cries,
never heed his usual tale, that he has good logs for sale,
But read these lines and really learn, the proper kind of logs to burn.
Beech wood fires are bright and clear, if the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut only good they say, if for long it’s laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree, death within your house you'll see,
Birch and Fir logs burn too fast, blaze up bright and do not last,
But Ash new or Ash old, is fit for a Queen with a crown of gold.
It is by the Irish said, Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elmwood burns like churchyard mould, even the very flames are cold.
Poplar give a bitter smoke, fills your eyes and makes you choke.
Pears wood smells like a flower in bloom,
Apple wood will scent the room with its incense like perfume.
While the heat is good from Yew and lime,
There are many sparks from Larch and Pine,
Oaken logs, if dry and old keep away the winter’s cold,
But Ash wet or Ash dry a King shall warm his slippers by"