How to Buy Wood for stoves

There can be a huge variation in the type of firewood available and its quality and moisture content. This page attempts to equip the reader with the tools to make informed decisions when purchasing of firewood for their stove.
Woodfuel Wales have a great resource available where you can search your post code for local accredited log suppliers. In partnership with HETAS they created standards and a certification scheme for the production of all types of wood fuels. This scheme is called Quality Assured Fuel (QAF). The firewood is guaranteed to be high-quality, from sustainable resources and seasoned to below 25% moisture content.
The list of woodfuel suppliers can be found at: http://www.woodfuelwales.co.uk/

Clearview stoves have set their own standards and provide excellent quality firewood but can be expensive when delivery costs are applied the further you live from the company.  For more information and an up to date price list contact Clearview on 01588650123 or email at info@clearviewstoves.com

There are a range of local suppliers that are not accredited. The quality of firewood can be very good and cost effective especially if you have the room to buy the wood green and then season yourself. We have a dedicated page of local suppliers in the Welsh Marches – Suppliers List

Tips on buying firewood

When buying wood you are completely within your right to know what you are buying. It may be a difficult conversation to have but it something that needs to take place if you want to get the best deal for you. It is always best to shop around to get a feel for the market.

Quantity

Always try to buy the firewood by volume – buying by weight is not advisable if you do not know the moisture content of the logs.
Also, try to buy in cubic metres – when a supplier says they sell by the ‘load’, ‘trailer’ or ‘bag’ then ask what size it is – it takes just a few seconds to measure up.
Beware: builders bags, sand bags, trailers etc vary enormously. If the supplier doesn’t know the size and is not prepared to measure up – find another supplier. At the end of the day you wouldn’t purchase unquantifiable amounts of other heating fuels.

Moisture Content

The most important thing is how dry is the wood. This is the crucial aspect of getting the best efficiency out of your stove. You may wish to buy in wood freshly felled then season yourself. This way you can be assured of the method of storage and how long it has been stored. However, this is not always possible.

Ask the supplier before delivery whether the firewood is freshly cut, part-seasoned or seasoned. There should be a price difference for each of these.
When the delivery arrives it is always best to make an inspection before the load is tipped. It is not easy to visually assess the moisture content of firewood, and it is highly recommended that a moisture meter is used. With a quick check you can accurately measure the average water in the logs which cannot be argued with. Moisture meters are relatively cheap (around £15-30) and cost efficient if you buy a few loads a year from non-accredited sources.

See page on moisture meters

Where to buy

There are plenty of good reputable suppliers out there, however, there will always be some suppliers out there that claim their wood is seasoned when it is clearly not. If the supplier claimed the load was seasoned and it is clearly not you are within your right to ask for a discount for the lower quality and store it up or simply send it back.
In fairness, some suppliers may not be fully aware of moisture content, appropriate storage and seasoning. However, a decent supplier should know about these factors and no excuses should be acceptable – it is their job description to know! If it was poor quality coal or oil for heating a complaint would be in order and Woodfuel for heating should be no exception. See our Firewood Suppliers page.

Size

Obviously when you order your wood you need to specify the length of the log to meet your requirements, i.e. the size of your stove doorway. However, an important factor for efficient burning is the diameter of a log. Not only does a log that is split to 100-120mm (4-4.75 inches) in diameter not only dry quicker, it burns more efficiently.

Type

Ask the supplier what species of timber are in the load, hardwoods or softwoods, heavy species such as oak, beech or ash, light species such as spruce or poplar.

“Softwood or hardwood: Traditionally hardwood is perceived as a better fuel. The truth is both are good fuels. A kilogram of softwood can have the same calorific value as a kilogram of hardwood. You will need a greater volume of softwood to get the same energy because softwood has a lower density, however, softwood is generally cheaper and quicker to reach useful temperatures but the same volume of hardwood will burn for longer. For logs, many suppliers recommend buying a combination of the two.” – Woodfuel Wales

Further info: http://www.woodfuelwales.co.uk/

Seasoning Firewood

There are two significant factors that affect the energy you get from wood. The first is factor is the amount of water present in the firewood, its moisture content. The other is the density of the wood; hard wood gives a longer and more consistent burn, however, most softwoods are good in itself as a firewood.

There are many myths about firewood and what you can burn. The most regular one that pops its head up is that Ash wood does not need to be dry. Although Ash wood does have a lower moisture content (the amount of water in the wood) when felled it still is WET! There is approximately 35% water content in Ash as opposed to maybe 50% for Oak. Therefore, even though Ash wood may well burn, it will not burn very efficiently and in fact takes large amount of heat just to dry it out during the burning process.

You may also run the risk of producing large amounts of condensates (tarring) in your flue, which can be a costly thing to repair. So, wood should always be as dry as possible before burning. Burning dry wood will result in a number of benefits to the woodstove owner:

  • Less tarring of the flue
  • Reduces risk of chimney fires
  • Better efficient burn – warmer house
  • More cost effective – If the wood is wet then a considerable amount of heat is lost boiling off the moisture reducing the heat output to the room
  • Using wet wood means you have to burn larger amounts of wood for your heating requirements

What is seasoned wood?

The recognised standard for seasoned firewood is moisture content at 25% or below. Ideally, we would recommend 20% moisture content or below. There are many firewood suppliers who may be able to supply wood that is seasoned but this can be difficult to measure by the end user (i.e. you). Please see our page on buying wood.

Also check out the Quality Assured Firewood scheme.

A good measure of whether firewood is seasoned is to ask – was the wood felled, split and correctly store at least a year ago.

Doing it yourself

Correctly storing your wood is key to getting good quality dry firewood. A purpose made woodstore should be used for this. Essentially, it is covered from the rain but allows free flowing air to enable the drying process. A good way to visually check is to look for cracking at the end of log that radiates outward. The only way to really know though is to use a moisture meter.

Seasoning firewood checklist:-

  • Logs are split to around 100-120mm (4-4.75 inch) diameter – Splitting wood is easy when green and this also helps the drying process – this diameter is also the best size for the most efficient burn
  • Position the woodstore in sunny but dry position – South to SE is probably best, South West worst due to prevailing weather (rain) and Northwards also poor due as not sunny
  • Woodstore should be raised off the ground
  • Slated sides with gaps are acceptable but a closed shed will not work (it will not dry properly and can become mouldy which draws more moisture in and becomes poor wood for burning)

See the link to our list of Woodstore suppliers locally found.

Further reading:

Forestry Commission – download the Woodfuel as Fuel guide

Forestry Commission –  download theWood as Fuel Technical Supplement on types of wood and calorific values each type.