Man with cardigan holding firewood

Everything you need to know about wood

Would you like to know more about wood and wood burning? Wood is one of the oldest energy sources used by humans. Wood is culture and science, and an excellent way of creating warmth and comfort in the home. It is also the safest source of heating you can have in your home. We have the answers to all your questions about firewood and how to burn it!

Which type of wood is best for your stove?

Some species of wood generate more heat than others. That is because their properties and densities vary. For example, if you place a beech log in your stove or woodburner, you’ll get 50% more heat from it than from a spruce log of the same size. The heavier the wood, the more heat it produces if the volume is the same. However, if the weight is the same, the heat effect will be the same whatever species of wood you’re using.

According to the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) holly weighs the most and burns best, followed by yew, beech, oak, ash and rowan. At the other end of the scale we have linden, goat willow, aspen and spruce. See the complete list here. 

Felling is best done during the autumn when the tree trunk is driest, i.e. before the sap starts to rise and leaves begin to emerge in April and May.

When is the best time to cut wood?

Felling is best done during the autumn when the tree trunk is driest, i.e. before the sap starts to rise and leaves begin to emerge in April and May. The drier air that spring brings is good for drying the wood. Cut the wood into short lengths and split it as soon as possible so that it can start drying. Wood is also easier to split when it is fresh.

Man taking wood to put in the fireplace

What is the most popular species to use as firewood?

Birch is very common in Norway, Sweden and Finland and is therefore a natural and popular choice of firewood. Birch has a relatively high density and energy content and gives off a lot of heat. Oak is the most common type of firewood in both the UK and the USA, while beech is popular in Germany. It is about availability and energy content.

If you harvest your firewood yourself, you naturally use what you have access to.

How much can I save by cutting my own firewood?

How much you save will depend on the type of firewood, what quantity you buy, supply and demand and the efficiency of the woodburner. If you have an old, non-clean burn stove or fireplace, only 50% of the firewood will be converted into heat. Our fireplaces and wood-burning stoves offer clean-burn performance, and combustion technology that has an efficiency rating of 80% with correct burning. Or in other words; you get maximum heat from each log.

Making savings by cutting your own firewood

Naturally you can make even greater savings if you are able to harvest your own wood. Being able to head off into the forest with a chainsaw and axe and a rucksack packed with a thermos of strong coffee and sandwiches to harvest firewood for the coming season is good exercise with plenty of fresh air and does wonders for body and soul. Not to mention the rewards you reap when the cold, dark months arrive and it’s time once again to get the stove back into action. What better than being able to stoke up your fire with logs you’ve produced with your own hands!

A man may skimp on the price of a confirmation, my forget to order new furniture for the garden, and prefer to build a new garage rather than take his family south on holiday, but the man who lets his family freeze – he suffers from a lack of character.

Excerpt from «Norwegian Wood» by Lars Mytting

How to get your hands on some wood

Maybe you know someone who owns an area of woodland that needs clearing or thinning a bit. Or you can check online marketplaces to see if anyone locally is giving away wood for free if you collect it. You can also contact tree felling companies to see if they have any wood you can collect. The trees and branches they take down are often given away if the client doesn’t want them!

How to store and dry firewood

Newly cut logs can be stored under the eaves or in a wood shed where they’ll be protected from rain and snow. If that’s not possible, you can place a tarp on top of the stack. You shouldn’t cover the whole pile because that prevents a good flow of air, slows the drying process, and any trapped moisture could potentially cause mould and rot. The wood must not be placed directly on the ground. Stack the logs on pallets. This allows the air to circulate under the woodpile too.

Wood shed with ax and chopping block in front

Keep the wood dry until it is time to use it

Wood should be stored somewhere airy to allow the moisture to evaporate and the wood to dry. A south-facing position is best as that gives maximum exposure to sun and heat. The drier the wood, the less energy is required to burn off residual moisture and less energy disappears up the chimney. In other words: more efficient combustion. You should also leave a bit of space between the logs. They say leave enough space for a mouse to get between.

Well-seasoned logs should be stored in a dry and airy place before the autumn rain returns, or should at least be covered to keep the rain off if stored outdoors.

Damp wood should not be stored indoors

Damp logs do not dry well indoors and the conditions are perfect for mould to grow. So storing firewood inside the house is not good for the indoor environment and can bring in some uninvited guests that have made the logs their home.

It is therefore important to dry firewood properly:

The Norwegian standard for wood states that logs with a moisture content below 20% are dry enough to be used as firewood. A higher moisture content adversely affects combustion and the logs generate a lower heat output. Another downside is that you don’t get those wonderful crackling sounds from the fire that we all love to hear and see. If the firewood has a high moisture content, there is increased risk of soot forming in the burn chamber and on the glass.  

The hand that puts the firewood in the fireplace

How to know if the wood is dry:

  • The easiest way to find out is to knock two logs together. Dry wood makes a distinct sound. If the wood is damp, the logs will sound dull when knocked together.
  • Another simple method is to smear some washing-up liquid on one end of the log and blow into it at the other end. If soap bubbles appear at the end, the wood is dry. The reason for this is that the fibres run in a longitudinal direction almost like “air ducts”, and the wood dries out when the moisture inside evaporates through the ends.
  • A third and possibly the most accurate method is to use a moisture meter.

Would you like to know more about wood for heating your home?

Find out how a new fireplace can cut firewood consumption in half.


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