At this time of year, with dark evenings and colder weather, it’s the ideal time to fire up your wood burning stove or open fire. Over the last few years these have grown in popularity as both a style choice and a domestic heating source. Is there anything better then warming your toes in front of the fire after a long walk in the Welsh countryside?
However, there can be a lot of confusion about the best types of logs to burn in your home, how to store them and how to prepare them. The Arb Team are here to offer you Lumberjack Lessons and bring you the facts about firewood.
The Best Types of Firewood
When choosing which type of wood you would like to burn in your home, you need to consider cost, sustainability, burn time and what’s available in your area. Hardwood is normally the ideal firewood, logs from trees such as Ash, Beech and Oak. Hardwood burns for a long time, is dense and seasons well, however it can be slow to ignite. Softwoods, such as Cedar and Pine, can be more widely available then hardwood, ignite quickly and are generally cheaper. However, be aware of the resin content of softwoods as this can cause a dangerous build-up in your chimney or flue.
When splitting logs in preparation for seasoning, or to be used on a home fire, you need them to be fairly uniform in size. This makes them easier and safer to stack for long periods of time and more practical to burn on a wood burning stove. It also discourages wood boring beetles and pests making a home in the wood whilst it is ageing. By cutting the wood into manageable sizes you are also exposing more surfaces to the air, helping the water content evaporate quicker during the ageing process. There are many tools that can make the job easier including Log Splitters. Alternatively, a good old-fashioned axe and some elbow grease will do the job!
If you decide to split by hand, please be careful and ensure yours, and the safety of those around you at all times. Be sure to place the log on top of a wooden chopping block on the ground, this will keep the blade of your axe or hatchet sharper than placing the log onto concrete or soil. Make sure the area is clear and in the open, be safe at all times. Keep your feet well back, two hands on the handle of the axe and stay in control throughout the process. Line up your axe or hatchet along the grain of the wood, raise it into the air and allow the weight of the axe to bring it straight back down into the log, ideally splitting it in two.
Freshly felled and cut logs are not ideal firewood for you home fire. They have a high moisture content which makes them hard to ignite and means they give off excess smoke. They also contribute to the creosote build-up in your chimney or flue which, if left un-discovered, can make your home smell like a bonfire at best, and cause a chimney fire at worst. The process of ageing the logs (also known as seasoning) ensures the wood is fully dried, lighter to carry and easier to ignite.
Logs need to be seasoned for different lengths of time depending on the tree they came from. Some wood is denser than others and has higher moisture levels. For example, wood from an Oak Tree needs over a year of seasoning whereas some others only need six months. The practice of seasoning logs is to simply allow the moisture to evaporate from the wood and this takes time and patience. It is a good idea to stay on top of rotation within your log store, as logs left for over 4 years can start to rot and breakdown.
Improperly stacked wood will cause improperly seasoned logs that burn unevenly. Alternate the rows between bark side up and bark side down, ensuring that your final top layer is bark side up. This not only allows for good aeration around the logs, letting the moisture evaporate, but also offers a layer of protection to the elements if your log store is open. The larger, bulkier logs need to be at the bottom and the lighter, smaller pieces along the top to ensure good balance.
Ideally, the logs should be exposed to as much sun and wind as possible, but this can be difficult in colder, wetter climates. Once again, storing the logs is all about allowing the moisture to escape the wood and sun and wind are the perfect elements to help with this. There are ways you can cultivate the ideal environment for storing your logs in readiness for burning…
· Make sure your stack is properly covered from the top but allows for airflow around the sides of the logs.
· Try to build your stack in a sunny area, shade will only mean the logs take longer to season.
· Avoid stacking your logs straight onto the soil - provide a solid, dry base for the bottom layer to sit on (pallets are ideal for this as they allow the air to get underneath the stack)
· As tempting as it maybe to stack them against the side of your house this could cause problems, firstly as a major fire hazard and secondly, as wildlife like to take shelter in a log stack, it could encourage unwanted house guests.
· If you don’t have the resources to build a log store, a tarpaulin will do a brilliant job of keeping the rain out and the air circulating.
· If you really want to impress the neighbours, why not try building a Holz Hauson!
By now you should be ready to take to the Welsh mountains and live life in a log cabin! If not, The Arb Team are here to bring you a variety of different types of logs, seasoned and un-seasoned, and are on hand to give you any tips you may need. Happy Lumberjacking!