Sales of barbecues, chimeneas and fire pits show no sign of abating. This continued popularity, added to current estimates that there are already one million UK homes with wood burning stove, means that demand for logs and log stores continues to rise.
This is good news for the environment as wood-burning stoves are essentially carbon neutral, timber from managed forests is a renewable energy source and emits less carbon than gas and electricity.
Dry Logs Are Essential
It is essential that you buy logs from a reliable source and keep them dry in a well-ventilated log store. Using wet or unseasoned logs with a high moisture content is inefficient as smoke instead of heat will be produced.
Another undesirable result of trying to burn wet logs is that soot from the smoke will build up in the stove and flue, making it even less efficient and eventually presenting a fire hazard. Also, you have to consider the effect that the emission of all this smoke and the accompanying CO₂ has on the environment.
No-one would pour water on a fire to encourage it to burn, but putting unseasoned logs onto a barbecue or fire pit has the same effect, water within the wood literally extinguishes the flames and drastically reduces any heat that is produced.
The old saying that there's 'no smoke without fire' does not apply in these circumstances as using wet logs means that there is only smoke - and no fire!
Depending on the type of wood, i.e. oak or elm, 'green wood' has a moisture content of up to 60%. Although some wood, such as birch, can be burnt green, logs with high moisture content are only acceptable if you can season them in a log store for at least 12 months.
If the logs are required for immediate use, you should walk away from any that have a moisture content above 20%. So if possible when ordering logs in bulk, check their moisture content with the supplier.
Making sure you know the moisture content also makes economic sense if you are paying by weight since you'd much rather be spending money on timber rather than the water it contains.
If you don't have a moisture meter, check whether the bark comes away easily, if this happens and there are any splits against the grain, then the wood is dry enough to burn.
The tree species also matters as, even when seasoned, some wood burns better than others. For example, ash and beech produce a good flame and achieve a high heat output while willow and poplar should be avoided.
Log burners, fire pits and chimeneas vary in size so there is no perfectly dimensioned log, perhaps 4ins is the most favourable diameter but the length depends on where it is to be used.
Bulk Bags are the most economical way of buying logs, as the supplier finds this the easiest way to deliver and can quickly unload at your house. As builders' bags are a standard size, the customer will have a good idea of the quantity delivered each time.
Alternative Fuel Sources
Kiln-dried logs are a safe alternative as you can be assured that much of their moisture has been eliminated during the drying process. The timber is cut to approximately 10ins long, and they can be delivered in nets, half or full pallets and are ready to use immediately.
Eco briquettes are a relatively new product, easy to handle and store, they will take up far less space than logs. Made from waste wood, much from the furniture industry with no chemical additives, the briquettes are moulded under intense pressure and come in a range of shapes.
Their moisture content is around 10% and one briquette can last up to four hours with little ash or residue. Burning brightly because they contain so little moisture, the briquettes can produce as much as 50% more heat and can be used in conjunction with logs or on their own.
Wood pellets are also sustainably sourced and represent total renewable energy, usually delivered in 10k bags, they have an impressive output of heat but with low carbon emissions. These pellets can fuel complete heating systems, even power stations, and are very energy efficient.
Whatever type of log you choose, once delivered they must be kept dry, this includes briquettes that will expand quickly if left out in the rain.
Usually constructed from slatted wood to encourage airflow and a sloping roof to deflect rainfall, these stores are generally very easy to assemble and will keep your logs dry and well seasoned.
Most are quite utilitarian, manufacturers such as Forest, Rowlinson and Zest4Leisure have a large very practical range while Dorset log stores offer more decorative products.
Some have integrated storage for kindling or, if you are regularly cutting and splitting logs for your own use, garden equipment such as chainsaws, fuel and tools that can be secured against theft.
The Trimetals log store from Store More and Biohort wood stores are good examples of metal fabricated versions made from hot-dipped galvanized steel which is very durable and guaranteed rust-resistant.
Finally, there is the Forest Overlap Apex Shed which has an overhanging roof that can be used as a log store attached to it. Creating 50% more space, it can also be used to shelter garden furniture or a barbecue.