Investing in a contemporary wood burning stove to heat your home may allow you to no longer be dependent on energy utilities, but now opens a world of freedom and options for the fuel you can use. There are many different types of wood you can choose from, each with their own individual burning qualities. These different types of firewood can be split into two categories; hardwood and softwood.
The difference between hardwood and softwood
Hardwoods logs come from broad-leaved, deciduous trees that lose their leaves in winter e.g. ash, beech, birch, sycamore and oak. They are slow growing (80 – 100 years to maturity) and as a result produce a dense timber.
In comparison, softwood grows much faster, maturing in 25 – 30 years and the timber is therefore less dense. Softwood logs come from coniferous trees which are evergreen, have needles and bear cones, for example Cedar and Fir.
Generally, hardwood is considered to be superior for burning in stoves as it burns slower and creates a hot, long lasting fire without a lot of smoke or sparks. Softwood is about half as dense as hardwood, and therefore burns about twice as fast, so you may need up to as much as twice as many logs for the same weight, or energy output as if you were using hardwood.
One of the biggest advantages of softwood, if drying it yourself, is that it dries very quickly, and it can be very resinous, making it great to use as kindling. Softwood kindling can get the stove up to temperature very quickly which helps stove performance, increases ‘draw’ and reduces smoke. While hardwood logs create a slower burning fire, they also tend to take longer to dry out and are harder to light than softwood logs.
In terms of price, you can usually expect to pay more for hardwood logs as they take longer to grow and then to dry out. If you have invested in a wood burning stove you can use either hardwood logs or softwood logs, or even a mix of the two. Experiment with using softwood to get your fire going and keep it going with hardwood – just make sure it has been dried properly.
Read our guide to drying logs here.