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We are often asked what is the best wood to burn on a wood burning stove. The short answer is that there are lots to choose from. Some burn really well, others not so much.
Below is a comprehensive list of all the main types of wood you can burn, and ones which you should avoid.
For ease of reading we have first listed wood, which is the best at burning to start, then those that are considered good, followed by wood which is adequate, and then finally wood which is considered poor, and should of course be avoided, unless you have absolutely no other option.
The Best Wood:
Ash – (Scientific Name – Fraxinus) Ash is thought to be one of the very best woods for burning. Ash creates a steady flame and a good heat output. Unlike other wood, ash can be burnt when green, but like with most wood burns at it’s very best when it is dry. Ash tends to have a very low moisture content when live, which is the main reason why you can burn it when it is green. Ash can cover White Ash, American White Ash, European Ash, Blue Ash. It has many other names too however, most simply know it as Ash.
Beech – (Scientific Name – Fagus) Like ash, beech burns very well. However, it does not burn well when green due to it’s much higher moisture content when live. Beech can be identified by it’s pale cream colour with a pink or brown hue.
Hawthorn – (Scientific Name – Crataegus) This type of wood has a slow burn rate, and a good heat output.
Rowan – (Scientific Name – Sorbus) Similar to hawthorn, rowan has a very good heat output that burns slowly. Rowan is also know as Mountain Ash. On a non wood burning fact, Rowan is thought to be a magical tree and apparently gives protection against malevolent beings – in case you ever wondered!
Thorn – (Scientific Name – Acacia Nilotica) Thorn produces very little smoke, which makes it an ideal wood where excessive smoke could be an issue. It also is considered a very good wood as it has a slow burn and produces a good level of heat.
Yew – (Scientific Name – Taxus Baccata) Slow burn and produces a great, intense heat. Burning yew also produces a pleasant scent, which makes it stand out a little more over other woods. Yew is poisonous so be careful, and certainly resist the urge to try and eat it – not that we would ever expect you would do such a thing!
Apple – (Scientific Name – Malus Domestica) Apple has a small flame and tends to not produce sparking or spitting. The flame burns slowly and produces a good level of heat output along with a nice scent too.
Birch – (Scientific Name – Betula) Birch is similar to ash in that it can be burnt when green. It does produce a good heat output and a strong flame. Yellow Birch and Black Birch (also know as Mountain Mahogany, Sweet Birch and Cherry Birch) produces the best firewood. There are a number of varieties of birch and their ability as firewood does vary.
Cedar – (Scientific Name – Cedrus) Cedar fire wood is quite distinctive as it can spit and crackle when burning. Although the flame from cedar is small, it does tend to last a long while and has a strong heat output. Cedar is a very popular wood for kindling. It is porous and contains natural oils, which is the reason why it can crackle and spit when burning.
Cherry – (Scientific Name – Prunus Avium) Cherry needs to be well seasoned but does burn well and produces a good heat. It is easy to split too, which is ideal if you are having to cut your own firewood. Cherry can spark a little more than most other firewoods, which may cause issues when using on an open fire.
Hazle – (Scientific Name – Corylus) This is a fast burning wood, which works best when fully seasoned. Does not split unlike other woods such as cherry.
Hornbeam – (Scientific Name – Carpinus Betulus) This burns in a similar way to beech, which is similar to ash – both are excellent firewoods.
Horse Chestnut – (Scientific Name – Aesculus Hippocastanum) This wood is ideal for burning in wood stoves but not open fires as it does spit a great deal.
Lilac – (Scientific Name – Syringa) This is ideal for kindling as it has smaller branches and burns really well. It is a hollow wood and is also often used on BBQs. Produces a clear flame and nice smell.
Maple – (Scientific Name – Acer) Produces a good flame and heat output. There are many versions of maple wood available, although most know sugar or hard maple. There are other forms of maple including Red Maple, Bigleaf Maple and Black Maple.
Oak – (Scientific Name – Quercus) Probably the best know wood in the UK for a range of reasons. It is a popular wood for furniture but also it makes great firewood. It burns very slowly and makes a small flame. It burns best when seasoned for a very long time (usually 2yrs+).
Pine – (Scientific Name – Pinus) The resin sap can cause deposits to form in the flue in a chimney, which can increase the risk of a chimney fire, so use with caution. It does however produce a good flame.
Robinia – (Scientific Name – Robinia Pseudoacacia) This produces a thick black smoke, which is not an issue if burning on in a stove. It does have a slow burn with good heat output. In the US it is often known as Black Locust.
Adequate (but not especially good) Wood:
Elm – (Scientific Name – Ulmus) Elm has a high moisture content and so should be dried for around 2 years – similar to oak in this respect, although nowhere near as good as oak as firewood. Elm can be slow to get going but can provide a decent flame.
Larch – (Scientific Name – Larix) Similar to Elm, it needs to be well seasoned. Beware of sap with Larch as this can form in the flue of a chimney and increase the risk of a chimney fire.
Laurel – (Scientific Name – Laurus Nobilis) This needs to be well seasoned and produces a good flame. However, it only has a reasonable heat output, making it not ideal for all types of fires.
Sycamore – (Scientific Name – Platanus Occidentalis) Sycamore is a decent firewood, and produces a good flame, but it does only have a moderate heat output and does need to be well seasoned as it does have a very high moisture content when live.
Sweet Chestnut – (Scientific Name – Castanea Sativa) Only should be used with a stove as it has a tendency to spit lots, which is not ideal on an open fire. Sweet Chestnut is only moderately dense, and so to produce the same amount of heat as something like oak, you may need to burn up to twice as much. This wood however, is very easy to cut and prepare for a fire.
These are a list of woods, which generally don’t burn well, and or produce a poor flame output. Unless absolutely essential you should avoid trying to burn these types of wood.
Alder – Chestnut – Firs – Eucalyptus – Holly – Laburnum – Spruce.