Buying Firewood - consumers guide to buying logs in the UK
BUYING LOGS AND FIREWOOD

Consumer guidance on buying firewood, logs and kindling

Buying Firewood: QUALITY OF WOOD

Firewood: A guide to buying firewood, logs and kindlingYou should only ever burn dry wood!
It is important that you only ever burn dry wood ie wood with a moisture content of less than twenty percent. Burning wood with a higher moisture content causes pollution, will quickly build up flammable resins in your chimney and it is a very inefficient use of your firewood.

When buying firewood always ascertain the moisture content. Unseasoned (green) wood may well be cheaper to buy than seasoned wood but it will require you to store it for a year or more before it is ready to burn.

Stihl Moisture Meter for measuring the moisture content of logs and firewoodThe only way of knowing if your firewood is ready to burn is by knowing the moisture content. If you buy your own moisture meter you will be sure that your logs are dry enough and ready to burn.

You can do this by weighing a log before and after baking it in your oven; from the weight lost you can calculate the pecentage water or, buy a moisture meter.

Pick a random log, split it and use the moisture meter to measure the moisture content of the wood across the grain.

Owning your own moisture meter will also reduce any 'misunderstandings' on the quality and suitability of the logs you buy in.

All wood is the same?
You can spend hours reading the considered thoughts of many 'experts' on the pros and cons of different species of wood and their characteristics when burnt on an open fire or log burning stove. Please be aware that, when fully seasoned, the calorific value of all wood types is very similar (+/-5%) by weight.

You could thus argue that there is no such thing as bad wood - it is just that you will need far more logs from from some species compared to others to achieve the same heat output. You should at least consider burning logs from some of the 'lesser' softwood types (especially at times when seasoned hardwoods are scarce) but only if the difference in calorific value is reflected in the price. It is also important to remember that "Kiln dried logs" are no different than naturally seasoned logs of an equivilant moisture content.

Buying Firewood: QUANTITIES

One of the biggest issues firewood buyers face is understanding what the quantities of wood that are actually being offered for sale by firewood suppliers.

There are so many variables in the firewood supplied that makes it particularly difficult to achieve a description or measurement that is both practical and meaningful for both the supplier and customer.

Stacked firewood logs (split or unsplit) are meant to be measured by volume, usually cubic meters. However, most wood in the UK is bought by "the load", builders bag or net.

Wood is rarely sold by weight as the weight will vary dramatically depending on the species of the logs in the pile and how dry they are. Insisting on buying by weight may also encourage the supply of poorly seasoned wood which, due to the excess water content, weighs heavier. Costs may also increase if a trip to the nearest weighbridge is incurred.

It is thus important for the buyer to determine just what quantities they are buying:

"A Load of Wood"
Buying a 'load of wood' is a popular way of buying firewood in bulk but the volume of wood in 'a load' will depend on the vehicle used to deliver the wood. Meaningful comparisons can only be made on cost if you have some idea of the the volume. Remember that it will be a loose load so the volumes will be considerably smaller when you make a nice tidy stack of it at home.

Builders bag / Ton bag / Dumpy bag of logs
A bulk builders bag of split firewood logsA builders bag is a convenient method of delivering firewood as it is relatively easy to handle for both the seller and buyer. A builders bag also provides an easy way to visualise the quantity of wood that is for sale. Please remember that a builders bag is not a ton of wood and it is not a cubic meter of wood (probably around 0.6 m3) and don't let anyone tell you any different!

Again, it is likely that the logs inside the bag have been loosely loaded so expect the volume of your purchase to reduce if you make a nice stack of your firewood. Be aware that only dry, seasoned wood should be stored in a buiders bag; as there is little opportunity for air circulation any damp or wet wood will quickly develop mold if left in the bag.

Most UK firewood suppliers prefer to sell by the cubic meter or part thereof but here are some other definitions of firewood quantities that you may come across:

  • What is a Cord of Firewood?
    A cord is a measure of volume of stacked firewood. One cord, (a full cord or bush cord) is defined as 128 cubic feet (3.62 m3) which equates to a woodpile 4 feet wide × 4 feet high × 8 feet long. The term "Cord" is believed to be derived from the length of string used to measure the log pile.
  • What is a Stere?
    Steres are a metric measurement of the volume of stacked firewood but as 1 stere = 1m³ you are much more likely to hear the term cubic meter (or Cube) used. 1 stere = 1 m³ = 0.276 cords.
  • What is a Face Cord?
    A face cord is defined as 1/3 of a full cord which equates to a pile of stacked wood 16 inches deep x 4 feet high x 8 feet long.
  • What is a Rick?
    Technically, a rick is the amount of firewood stacked by 4' by 8' by one row of the length of the log requested but the term rick is now often used to describe any pile of covered logs.

Buying Firewood: PRICE

The price for delivered logs very much depends on your location, the quality of the firewood you specify, the quantity you buy at any one time, and the time of year.

Ring around the local, regional and national firewood suppliers and find out exaclty what is on offer for the price. Remember that it is likely that prices may vary throughout the year and note that in recent times, many firewood suppliers have run out of seasoned firewood stock fairly early in the season.

Buying Firewood: LINKS

New Woodburners Handbook The New Woodburner's Handbook: A Guide to Safe, Healthy and Efficient Woodburning - is filled with tips on selecting and installing the right stove for any home, and brings the age-old practice of wood heating into the modern age. More Info / Buy

Firewood Suppliers Directory - Find your local supplier of dry seasoned logs.

Download a very good leaflet from Glasu on how to buy wood fuels including logs, woodchip, wood pellets and briquettes.

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