Wood Burning Properties

A quick guide to 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. The following is a small guide only and is by no means comprehensive.

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

AlderProduces poor heat output and it does not last well.Poor
AppleA 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*
BirchProduces 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
CedarIs 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
CherryIs a slow to burn wood that produces a good heat output. Cherry needs to be seasoned well.Good
ChestnutA 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
ElmIs 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
EucalyptusIs 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*
HazelIs a good but fast burning wood and produces best results when allowed to season.Good
HollyIs 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
HornbeamA good burning wood that burns similar to beech, slow burn with a good heat output.Good
Horse ChestnutA 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)
LaburnumA very smokey wood with a poor burn.Poor do NOT use
LarchProduces 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
LaurelBurns with a good flame but only reasonable heat output. It needs to be well seasoned.Medium
LilacIts smaller branches are good to use as kindling, the wood itself burns well with a good flame.Good
MapleIs a good burning wood that produces good flame and heat output.Good
OakBecause 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
PearBurns 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)
PlumA good burning wood that produces good heat output.Good
PoplarA 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)
SpruceProduces a poor heat output and it does not last well.Poor
SycamoreProduces a good flame, but with only moderate heat output. Should only be used well-seasoned.Medium
Sweet ChestnutThe 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*
WillowA 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*

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. You should try to choose a product that does not break apart too easily.
In a nut shell you should always use hard woods over soft woods.

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 in our site here

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