Did you know that in medieval times tenants had a ‘right of estover’ (derived from the Norman French estover, estovoir meaning “that which is necessary”) which allowed them to collect firewood from the land they held, or from common land? Well, luckily for most owners of wood burning stoves today, gathering wood is not something that has to be worried about!
These days, pre-cut logs are readily available either from local farmers, tree surgeons and forestry enterprises in the countryside or nationwide from online suppliers in city and urban areas. This means that enjoying efficient, eco-friendly heating can be really easy. Even better, by carefully choosing the type of wood you burn in your stove or fire, you can get the best possible heating value for your home:
1. Buy seasoned or kiln-dried logs
Between 35% and 60% of the weight of freshly felled wood comes from water, and trees felled in the spring/summer have a higher moisture content than those felled in the autumn/winter.
Seasoning, which is the storage of timber to ‘air dry’ it, reduces the moisture content of the wood. Stovax recommend that you purchase logs which have been seasoned for at least two years so that the moisture content is below 20%. You can tell if a log is dry because the bark will come away in your hand relatively easily and there will be splits across the grain.
Some suppliers are now offering kiln-dried logs which guarantee low moisture contents. Also please see HETAS Assurance Scheme below.
2. Specify hardwoods if you can
Softwoods such as spruce and pine tend to be easy to light and cheaper but they burn quickly, meaning you have to reload the stove (and your log store) more frequently. Hardwoods tend to be denser and heavier than softwoods, hence providing a higher calorific value and a longer burn time. However, some of the very dense hardwoods such as oak and elm can sometimes be difficult to burn. If you can, try to obtain logs from ash, beech, hornbeam, hawthorn, crab apple or cherry.
3. Check the sizes you will get
Ideally, logs should be no more than about 10cm in diameter. If any larger, the log will need to be split again to ensure it can burn properly.
The maximum log size for your Stovax wood burning stove or fire is given in the appliance’s User’s Instructions. If you ask, some suppliers will cut logs to this length for you to ensure they are easy to load.