Seasoned Hardwood Logs
ANY COLOUR YOU WANT AS LONG AS IT’S GREY
Henry Ford famously told customers hungry for his ground-breaking Model-T that they couldhave it in ‘any colour they want, as long as it’s black’. Here around Redhill, we recommend anybody burning logs in an open grate or a wood burning stove, and wanting maximum heat and lowest possible particulate emissions, should follow a similar mantra – burn any colour wood you want as long as it’s grey. As wood dries out it naturally turns grey. Grey wood typically has a moisture content of around 20% which is ideal for burning. It catches light more quickly, burns hotter, and produces far less smoke and noxious particulates.
DON’T BE A WET CREOSOTE BLANKET
Freshly cut wood is never grey. Still full of sap it is generally a raw golden-brown colour. This is because of the fluid content – fresh logs often contain as much as 40% water. As such they’re not that good for burning and produce a heavy smoke that condenses on the flue or chimney creating a blanket of tar (in effect creosote) and acidic residue. This can not only damage your chimney or flue, it is the major cause of chimney fires.Since February 2021, in order to reduce these risks, and reduce the emission of pollutants,the Government has laid down guidelines with regard to the sale of ‘wet wood’ –house holders can buy it, but need to ensure they dry it properly before burning.
IT’S THE AIR-DRYING SEASON
When wood is dry it is referred to as being ‘seasoned’. The easiest and cheapest way to season wood is to air-dry it naturally. Whenever spring comes around in Horley, we enter the cutting and air-drying season – fresh timber is felled and cut to size and we offer it for sale as ‘wet wood’ ready for air-drying.
Following Government guidelines we recommend to all of our customers that they leave their wood open to the elements for as long as possible to let the sun and wind get to work –certainly 6 months is the minimum. If you want to check your logs’ moisture levels, a moisture meter is a good investment (usually around £20) Come the end of September orearly October logs can then be added to the wood pile and protected from rain although, inpractice, dry wood won’t really soak up much precipitation so the burning and heating qualities won’t be diminished.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT A SPLIT PERSONALITY?
Another thing to say about air-dried timber is that it’s much easier to split cleanly as the wood fibres don’t cling so tightly together. With half of the moisture gone it’s also a lot lighter to carry. That’s two things we’ll all be thankful for come the cold winter days when the nights are drawing in and it’s time to kindle a warming conflagration.If you need heating the Reigate area before your own wood is seasoned, we do of course offer ‘kiln dried’ logs where the water content has been reduced to 20% by gently heatinglogs in a controlled kiln environment.
So what is naturally seasoning? Essentially it is making wood fit for burning - by reducing the water content - usually by leaving it for a period of time 4-6 months in the right conditions. All wood contains water. Freshly cut wood can be up to 45% water, while fully seasoned Air Dried firewood generally has a 20% moisture content or less.
Fully seasoned Air Dried logs will always look grey and weathered.
Once prepared, the logs then need the proper storage to help them season properly. For most types of woods you should plan on at least six months of Spring & Summer seasoning - some heavier woods like oak will need a year or more, and all will benefit from longer.
The first stage of seasoning involves using the sun and wind to help dry out the logs - so until the end of August the logs can be spread out in the open or stacked in rows. The before the weather turns they can be stacked in your wood store to keep dry for use over the winter. The aim of the wood store is to keep rain and snow off the logs,but to still allow maximum air circulation to aid the continual drying of the wood. So ideally a wood store will have a sloping roof but open sides.
The process of kiln drying or oven drying consists basically of introducing heat and air over the logs. The fresh firewood is first cut into large metal cages and loaded into the kiln ready for drying. It normally takes 5-7 days of baking the logs at a temperature of 70 - 80c - the kiln can be run on waist wood or solar energy. By kiln drying our logs it gives us much more control of the final moisture content which is always between 10-20% no matter what time of year. In a normal drying cycle we remove about 50% of the water content from inside the logs. Kiln drying also helps to kill off any unwanted insects or fungi which means we end up with a very high quality consistent product.