Trying to buy logs for your log burner or fireplace can be a minefield – how do you know which firewood is best and how much you need?
Some questions you should ask yourself before you buy firewood are -
- What is my budget?
- How much space do I have to store it?
- When and how often do I want to use it?
- How much effort am I willing to put into getting it ready to burn?
- How important is the environmental impact of my firewood?
Once you’ve answered those questions, here are 7 things you need to consider to make the right choice for you
1.Moisture content is extremely important
When burning firewood, it’s vital that you only burn hardwood with a moisture content less than 20%. Burning wet wood is bad for the environment and bad for your appliance due to the levels of smoke, ash and pollutants that it emits.
Wet wood can be bought cheaply, but it will need to be seasoned or kiln-dried before it can be burned. If you want to season the wood yourself, ensure that you have space and time to season it for 1 – 2 years before you need to use it. It should be stored in a covered or dry place, away from the walls and floor, and have sufficient ventilation to allow air to get to the logs, and any moisture to evaporate
For wood that you can burn immediately, you will need to buy properly seasoned or kiln-dried hardwood logs. The debate between seasoned and kiln-dried logs can get quite heated with strong opinions on either side! We think kiln-dried wood is better than seasoned as it’s a more controlled process meaning more consistent quality. You can read more about kiln-dried vs seasoned here
2. Weights can be misleading
In general, firewood companies tend to sell by volume rather than weight, for good reason. When wood is first cut, it can hold up to 60% moisture content which carries a lot of weight! It needs to lose a lot of this water and get to below 20% moisture content, before it’s ready to be used as firewood, either through the process of seasoning or kiln-drying
Generally, the drier the wood, the less it weighs so beware comparing the price of wet or un-properly seasoned wood with kiln-dried wood, because it’s a false economy!
3. Understand the volume you’re actually getting
Q: When is a cubic metre not a cubic metre?
A: When you’re buying firewood!
A tonne bag refers to a ‘builders bag’ which is designed to hold a cubic metre of gravel, which weighs a tonne. However, when loaded with loose firewood, which is a less dense material than gravel, it will generally hold 0.6 – 0.7 m3 and weigh less than half a tonne.
Likewise, when buying wood in other types of container, bear in mind that the logs will either be loose loaded or stacked. Logs that are loose loaded into a bag or net take up 40 – 60% more space than logs neatly stacked into a box or crate, so if you’re comparing volumes be sure to take that into account
At Love Logs, all of our logs are stacked inside the boxes so that there is very little ‘dead’ space and you’re not paying for fresh air. We sell three different sized boxes
- Small - 0.0168m3, enough for a couple of nights around the chimnea or small log burner
- Medium - 0.0367m3, enough for 4 – 5 nights in front of the log burner
- Large – 0.0497m3, enough for 6 - 8 nights in front of the log burner, or 2 – 3 nights around your outdoor firepit
4. Buying in bulk is hard work!
Buying firewood in bulk is cheaper than buying in smaller quantities, so if you have a large, easily accessible log store, this may be your best option. If not, you’ll need enough space to store them somewhere dry, with good ventilation where they won’t get rained on. There’s no point paying for good quality wood, only to leave it out in the rain and have it absorb moisture before you can get round to using it!
The other consideration around buying in bulk is the work needed to unload it from the pallet or crate into the log store and then taking it from the log store into the house when you want to use it. Some customers prefer to buy manageable quantities that they have the space for and can easily get to when they need it.
At Love Logs, we only sell firewood in manageable quantities, so you don’t need a huge log store and you don’t need to worry about unloading them in the cold and the rain!
5. Species doesn’t really matter
Hardwood is better for burning than softwood, as it’s much denser and therefore burns longer and with more heat. You can read more about that here
Popular hardwood species for burning are oak, ash, beech and birch and some people have strong preferences for one against another. However, once kiln-dried, most hardwood species produce a very similar amount of energy - around 5.3 kWh/kg, so there’s very little difference in their burn quality. There isn't really a species of wood which is 'best' to burn.
We tested all of the popular hardwood species and found that the thickness of the log and the moisture content are far more important than the species. For that reason and to avoid waste, all of our boxes are mixed species hardwood.
6. Most wood sold in Britain is not British
The majority of the wood sold in Britain is sourced from Eastern Europe as it’s significantly cheaper than wood grown in the UK. The quality of European wood is comparable to British wood, but it obviously adds a lot of road miles, and therefore CO2 emissions, to transport it to the UK.
At Love Logs, we’re passionate about minimizing CO2 and supporting British businesses, so all of our logs are grown in Britain.
6. The packaging may be damaging the wood
Smaller quantity firewood is generally sold in two types of packaging – plastic bags or plastic nets. We’ve all seen enough photos of marine life trapped in plastic nets to understand the devastation they can cause when not properly disposed of, but you may not know that plastic bags are also bad for your wood. If kept in the sealed bag for an extended period of time, plastic bags can cause your wood to ‘sweat’ and get mouldy. Not good for burn quality!
When buying in bulk, you can generally buy in wooden crates or pallets, but we found that the majority of these also came wrapped in plastic.
At Love Logs, we believe that plastic pollution is a huge threat to our environment and so we don’t use any plastic at all in our packaging. We ship in recyclable cardboard boxes and only use paper tape to seal them.
7. Don’t let your wood down with poor quality kindling
However dry your wood is, it will need some decent firelighters and very dry, quality kindling to get it burning properly. Please don’t spend money on good quality wood and then try and light it with newspaper and some twigs you found in the garden!
Our kindling is made from poplar, cut to around 6inches long and guaranteed below 20% moisture content, so it lights fast but burns long enough to get your logs going.
We prefer natural firelighters which are made from wood wool dipped in paraffin wax. As well as the environmental benefits, they are odourless and smoke free - so much more pleasant to light your fire with!
If you aren’t sure how to use kindling or natural firelighters, watch our video about Top Down Firelighting