So you chose to install a wood burning stove, and you dream of curling up in front of it with a soft fluffy blanket, a good book, and maybe some wine. It has been installed, serviced and is ready to go. You have been told how to turn it on and off, how to take care of the fire and how to ensure your home remains smoke free. There is just one little problem. You have no idea what kind of wood to burn.

Here at Hearth of the Home we have put together a basic guide to get you started and on the right track. The most important factor you need to learn is the difference between a good burning log and a bad burning log.

When wood is cut down its cells are full of water, this is called “green wood”. When you burn this the wood wastes heat by making steam and producing tar which creates lots of smoke whilst damaging your stove and chimney.

In order to avoid this, logs must be “seasoned”- dried out to a maximum of 15-20% water- which involves splitting them to expose the insides and leaving them in a well-ventilated dry place for about a year.  This log will then give roughly double the heat per kg and will produce far less smoke.

A good way to test whether a log is good for burning or not is:

Good Wood

Bad Wood

Will feel dry

May feel damp or dense, have moss or mould.

Will have a hollow sound when tapped

Will have a dull sound when tapped

Will usually be free from bark

May have bark firmly attached

Often has cracks in the end where it has dried out

May be solid and free from radial cracks

Will usually have been split

May be round, possible with leaves attached.

Will burn easily and cleanly

Will hiss, spit and smoke when burned

Will usually measure about 100-200mm across

May be in big pieces

There are two ways of you getting seasoned wood to use in your new stove. The first way is to do this yourself, make sure you have a suitable area where they can stay dry, and remember that it will take a very long time before they are ready. The second is to buy it from a good log supplier, the best way to find this is to go through an accreditation scheme such as Woodsure. This is an audit of whether the logs are really as dry as the supplier claims, making sure you do not get ripped off. 

Image courtesy of Chris Sharp at