Wood Burning Properties

Wood Burning Properties

There are a many types of wood to choose from, all of which have their own burning qualities and properties. Although there are references to burning green wood here; to get the most efficient and effective ‘burn’ in your wood burning stove, only very dry (at least <20% moisture) wood should be used. Wood always burns best on a bed of its own ashes, the following is a small guide only and by no means comprehensive.

In addition there are also the compressed reclaimed ‘eco’ type of logs and briquettes which do tend to burn well and for a decent length of time because they are dense and very dry. However, you should try to choose a product that does not break apart too easily.

The table below shows the types of woods and their properties.

Alder Produces poor heat output and it does not last well. Poor
Apple A very good wood that bums slow and steady when dry, it has small flame size, and does not produce sparking or spitting. Good
Ash* Reckoned by many to be one of best woods for burning, it produces a steady flame and good heat output. It can be burnt when green but like all woods, it burns best when dry. Very good*
Beech* Burns very much like ash, but does not burn well when green. Very good*
Birch Produces good heat output but it does burn quickly. It can be burnt unseasoned, however the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Good
Cedar Is a good burning wood that produces a consistent and long heat output. It burns with a small flame, but does tend to crackle and spit and the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Good
Cherry Is a slow to burn wood that produces a good heat output. Cherry needs to be seasoned well. Good
Chestnut A poor burning wood that produces a small flame and poor heat output. Poor
Firs (Douglas etc) A poor burning wood that produces a small flame and poor heat output and the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Poor
Elm Is a wood that can follow several burn patterns because of high moisture content, it needs to be dried for two years for best results. Elm is slow to get going and it may be necessary to use a better burning wood to start it off. Splitting of logs should be done early. Medium
Eucalyptus Is a fast burning wood. The sap can cause deposits to form in the flue and can increase the risk of a chimney fire if burned unseasoned. Poor
Hawthorn* Is a good traditional firewood that has a slow burn with good heat output. Very good*
Hazel Is a good but fast burning wood and produces best results when allowed to season. Good
Holly Is a fast burning wood that produces good flame but poor heat output. Holly will burn green, but best dried for a minimum of a year. Poor
Hornbeam A good burning wood that burns similar to beech, slow burn with a good heat output. Good
Horse Chestnut A good wood for burning in wood stoves but not for open fires as it does tend to spit a lot.  It does however produce a good flame and heat output. Good (For stoves only)
Laburnum A very smokey wood with a poor burn. Poor do NOT use
Larch Produces a reasonable heat output, but it needs to be well seasoned. The sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use. Medium
Laurel Burns with a good flame but only reasonable heat output. It needs to be well seasoned. Medium
Lilac Its smaller branches are good to use as kindling, the wood itself burns well with a good flame. Good
Maple Is a good burning wood that produces good flame and heat output. Good
Oak Because of its density, oak produces a small flame and very slow burn, it is best when seasoned for a minimum of two years as it is a wood that requires time to season well. Good
Pear Burns well with good heat output, however it does need to be well seasoned. Good
Pine (Including Leylandii) Burns with a good flame but the resin sap can cause deposits to form in the flue and can increase the risk of a chimney fire.MUST be well seasoned. Good (with caution)
Plum A good burning wood that produces good heat output. Good
Poplar A very smokey wood with a poor burn. Very poor
Rowan* Is a good burning wood that has a slow burn with good heat output. Very good*
Robinia (Acacia) Is a good burning wood that has a slow burn with good heat output. It does produce an acrid and dense smoke but this is of course not a problem in a stove. Good  (For Stoves only)
Spruce Produces a poor heat output and it does not last well. Poor
Sycamore Produces a good flame, but with only moderate heat output. Should only be used well-seasoned. Medium
Sweet Chestnut The wood burns ok when well-seasoned but it does tend to spit a lot. This is of course not a problem in a stove. Medium (For Stoves only)
Thorn* Is one of the best woods for burning. It produces a steady flame and very good heat output and produces very little smoke. Very good*
Willow A poor fire wood that does not burn well even when seasoned. Poor
Yew* A good burning wood as it has a slow burn and produces a very good heat output. Very good*

Moisture Meters

The single worst predisposing cause of chimney fires today is wet wood. The recommended level of moisture is less than 20% to avoid chimney fires. You can read more about moisture meters here >(Moisture Meters)

This guide was originally taken and adapted from http://www.flamingfires.co.uk/which-wood-burns-best.htm