Wood burning

Is burning wood sustainable ?

Oil and gas are resources laid down many thousands of years ago, and being used by the current generation at a hugely unsustainable rate. So burning wood has to be better – right ?

Like many aspects of Transition, the answers are far more complex than the question.

It has become very fashionable to have a woodburner,but where do we get the wood, especially in the urban environment ?

  • scavenging wood that has either already been used for other purposes (skip diving), or the result of garden prunings
  • Growing coppice or pollarded wood specifically planted for burning,

then the balance of local sourcing is great, with much reduced road miles or pumped transportation, the renewable nature (pollarded or coppiced trees last many times the age of free-growing trees, and will regenerate faster).

In our world of demanding instant solutions, laying down wood to season for a couple of years doesn’t



I found this useful list of which woods to burn online. Not sure of the attribution, posted by Kaye on Yahoo Answers, but have also found a variant on the Scout Association website

  • Alder: Poor in heat and does not last,
  • Apple: Splendid. It bums slowly and steadily when dry, with little flame, but good heat. The scent is pleasing.
  • Ash: Best burning wood; has both flame and heat, and will bum when green, though naturally not as well as when dry.
  • Beech: A rival to ash, though not a close one, and only fair when green. If it has a fault, it is apt to shoot embers a long way.
  • Birch: The heat is good but it burns quickly. The smell is pleasant.
  • Blackthorn Quite one of the best woods. Burns slowly, with good heat and little smoke.
  • Cedar: Good when dry. Full of crackle and snap. It gives little flame but much heat, and the scent is beautiful.
  • Cherry: Burns slowly, with good heat. Another wood with the advantage of scent
  • Chestnut: Mediocre. Apt to shoot embers. Small flame and heating power.
  • Douglas Fir: Poor. Little flame or heat.
  • Elder: Mediocre. Very smoky. Quick burner, with not much heat.
  • Elm: Commonly offered for sale. To bum well it needs to be kept for two years. Even then it will smoke. Very variable fuel.
  • Hawthorn: Burns slowly, with good heat and little smoke.
  • Hazel: Good.
  • Holly: Good, will burn when green, but best when kept a season.
  • Hornbeam: Almost as good as beech.
  • Laburnum: Totally poisonous tree, acrid smoke, taints food and best never used.
  • Larch: Crackly, scented, and fairly good for heat.
  • Laurel: Has brilliant flame. Though have seen some concerns on gases
  • Lime: Poor. Burns with dull flame.
  • Maple: Good.
  • Oak: The novelist’s ‘blazing fire of oaken logs’ is fanciful, Oak is sparse in flame and the smoke is acrid, but dry old oak is excellent for heat, burning slowly and steadily until whole log collapses into cigar-like ash.
  • Pear: A good heat and a good scent.
  • Pine: Burns with a splendid flame, but apt to spit. The resinous Weymouth pine has a lovely scent and a cheerful blue flame.
  • Plane: Burns pleasantly, but is apt to throw sparks if very dry.
  • Plum: Good heat and aromatic.
  • Poplar: Truly awful.
  • Rhododendron: The thick old stems, being very tough, burn well.
  • Robinia (Acacia): Burns slowly, with good heat, but with acrid smoke.
  • Spruce: Burns too quickly and with too many sparks.
  • Sycamore: Burns with a good flame, with moderate heat. Useless green.
  • Thorn: Quite one of the best woods. Burns slowly, with great heat and little smoke.
  • Walnut: Good, and so is the scent. Aromatic wood.
  • Willow: Poor. It must be dry to use, and then it burns slowly, with little flame. Apt to spark.
  • Yew: Last but among the best. Burns slowly, with fierce heat, and the scent is pleasant.



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