Wood – What to Burn in a Fire Pit?
Have you ever wondered what to burn in a fire pit?
There are so many different species of tree that it’s often difficult to decide what wood to burn in a fire pit.
However, the type of logs you burn can make a huge difference to the heat you generate from your fire pit and also the length of time your fuel will last.
One of the main things to consider when burning wood is the moisture content. Wood needs to be as dry as possible and also well seasoned.
Damp wood will smoke, be difficult to light, and will also provide very little heat. Kiln-dried wood is one of the best options but it is more expensive and you also have to be very careful about where you store it.
What is the Best Moisture Content for Firewood?
It is vital to ensure that your firewood is dry and ready to burn but what is the best moisture content for firewood.
The best moisture content for firewood is between 10% and 20% but ideally the lower the better. Anything below 10% can lead to the fuel-burning too quickly and anything over 20% will lead to poor heat, poor burning, and possibly even smoking.
How Long does Firewood Take to Season?
Seasoning firewood really does depend a lot on the type of wood you are using. Some softwoods, if dried in the correct way can have a low enough moisture content after 6 months. Other hardwood such as oak can take much longer and in some cases up to 2 years.
How to Tell if your Firewood is Seasoned
If you are buying wood from a reputable supplier they should be able to tell you how old the wood is and how long it had been seasoned. If they cannot tell you this, then we’d suggest your source your wood from elsewhere.
However, if you want to check for yourself then there are a number of things you can do to check whether your firewood is ready to burn.
Firstly, dried and well-seasoned wood is much lighter than freshly cut wood as it had lost much of its moisture.
Secondly, dried and well-seasoned wood will look much different from non-seasoned wood. The bark will be brittle and will often come easily off the log and you’ll also regularly see cracks formed within the wood.
Finally, seasoned firewood makes a completely different sound to wet wood. Instead of hearing a thud, you will hear more of a knock when banged together.
The other great way to check if your firewood has low moisture content and is seasoned sufficiently is by using a moisture meter. Costing a matter of a few pounds, moisture meters can tell you the moisture content of your firewood at the touch of a button.
Now that we’ve given you some information about how dry and seasoned your wood needs to be for your fire pit, let’s take a look at what woods are best for burning. We’ll split this into three separate sections, the best wood for burning, wood that’s good for burning, and woods not to use for firewood.
Don’t forget, if you arent sure what fuels you can burn in a fire pit take a look at our Best Fuel For A Fire Pit article.
You can also find out the best types of fuel for chimineas by checking out this article on What to burn in a chiminea?.
Great Wood for Burning?
There are certain woods that are great for burning in a fire pit, open fires, chimineas and wood burners.
Oak: Oak is one of the most common woods to burn and it’s hardly surprising due to the heat it provides over a long period of time. It must however be well seasoned which usually takes up to 2 years.
Ash: Ash is considered to be one of the best woods to burn as it has a lower moisture content than many others. Although it can be burnt when green, it is recommended to season it to get the best from it.
Birch: Birch is easy to light but does tend to burn quicker than many other types of firewood. If burning birch, it’s always best to mix it with other hardwoods to help it last longer without burning through too much too quickly.
Hawthorn: Overlooked by many, Hawthorn is good quality firewood that burns well in a fire pit.
Hazel: Similar to Birch, Hazel burns quickly but is an excellent type of firewood.
Good Wood for Burning
Below are the main species of wood that are good for burning in a fire pit, chiminea, open fire and wood burner.
Apple: Apple produces a nice smell, a good flame, and warmth is seasoned well.
Beech: Beech must be seasoned well in order to provide a constant burn.
Holly: Holly can be burnt green or seasoned although you’ll always get a better result from seasoned wood. Holly burns well and makes great firewood.
Pear: Pear, similar to Apple, is good for firewood but again it needs to be seasoned well.
Sycamore: Sycamore trees are great as firewood that burns well so long as it’s seasoned properly.
The types of wood listed below should really be avoided where possible as the main source of wood for fire pits. Some can however be used to get the fire started.
Elm: Elm should be avoided where possible as it produces little heat and flames.
Horse Chestnut: Horse chestnut is a wood that tends to spit constantly. This can cause massive issues when using an outdoor fire pit especially if you’re using it on decking.
Larch: Larch is another wood that spits a lot. Although this may be fine for wood burners or enclosed stoves it is not great for fire pits.
Pine: Pine again spits a lot but does burn well. Pine is a type of wood that many people utilise for kindling to get the fire started.
Poplar: Avoid Poplar wood at all cost. Not only is it a very poor type of firewood but can also produce horrid smoke which is unpleasant for anyone sitting around a fire pit.
Sweet Chestnut: Another wood that burns well but spits a lot. Logs from this tree are no good for open fires and fire pits.
Willow: Willow wood suffers from a high water content. This means that the moisture content rarely drops below the recommended value even when seasoned for long periods of time.
Firewood has always been an important part of life from the days of early man to the modern-day. Although many of us have moved away from cooking over a fire, wood burners, fire pits, and chimineas and very popular in today’s world.
Although the devices have changed the best woods have not and so to help you remember which woods are best for burning in a fire pit we’ll mention a poem that was thought to be published in the Times back in the 1930’s
Written by Lady Celia Congreve, the poem gives a little insight into the best types of wood to burn in a fire pit, chiminea, or any other type of fire.
These hardwoods burn well and slowly, Ash, beech, hawthorn oak and holly. Softwoods flare up quick and fine, Birch, fir, hazel, larch and pine. Elm and willow you’ll regret, Chestnut green and sycamore wet.
Beechwood fires are bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year. Chestnut’s only good, they say, If for long ’tis laid away. But Ash new or Ash old, Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.
Birch and fir logs bum too fast, Blaze up bright and do not last. It is by the Irish said, Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread. Elm wood bums like churchyard mould, E’en the very flames are cold. But Ash green or Ash brown, Is fit for a queen with golden crown.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke. Apple wood will scent your room, With an incense like perfume. Oaken logs if dry and old, Keep away the winter’s cold. But Ash wet or Ash dry, A king shall warm his slippers by.
Oak logs will warm you well, That are old and dry. Logs of pine will sweetly smell, But the sparks will fly. Birch logs will burn too fast, Chestnut scarce at all sir. Hawthorn logs are good to last, That are cut well in the fall sir
Holly logs will burn like wax, You could burn them green. Elm logs burn like smouldering flax, With no flame to be seen. Beech logs for winter time, Yew logs as well sir. Green elder logs it is a crime, For any man to sell sir.
Pear logs and apple logs, They will scent your room. And cherry logs across the dogs, They smell like flowers of broom. But Ash logs smooth and grey, Buy them green or old, sir. And buy up all that come your way, They’re worth their weight in gold sir.
Logs to Burn, Logs to burn, Logs to burn, Logs to save the coal a turn. Here’s a word to make you wise, When you hear the woodman’s cries. Never heed his usual tale, That he has good logs for sale. But read these lines and really learn, The proper kind of logs to burn.