Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Know your wood

Now the nights are drawing in and the temperatures are finally getting colder, there is nothing better than enjoying an open fire after a day in the garden collecting leaves or pruning the perennials.  Many of the gardens I work in are large enough for a steady supply of wood, but it can always be bought if this avenue is not available. Some of you unlucky ones in modern houses don't have access to a fireplace or indeed the facilities to enjoy a wood burner, but there are many who live in older houses. But a brazier in the garden is always a lovely thing to have in these late autumn evenings.

Before you start to build your fire, always get the chimney checked by a professional chimney sweep. It is also imperative that you make sure the area around the fire is clear, with no carpet or easily flammable materials nearby. Once you and they are satisfied that the airway is clear, you are free to build a fire worthy of Versailles. But please bare in mind, fire and children don`t mix well unless they are made aware of the dangers or younger ones are monitored closely.

However, as you rush off to the wood yard or petrol station to buy the wood, there are differences in the wood you burn.


The king of wood is Ash. Even if it is not well seasoned, it burns well, with no spitting - giving a good temperature and a good burn time. Oak is also good, but needs to be seasoned to burn well. The chestnuts, both sweet and horse, are also good burners, but be aware they may spit, so best invest in a fire guard and watch the carpet. (By spitting I mean small hot lumps of wood get thrown from the fire into the room).

Pine, which is commonly bought at petrol stations, burns well, but fast.
It also leaves a residue in the chimney so another visit from the sweep will be needed before winters end. Another that leaves a residue is cherry so try to avoid this.

Silver birch, burns very hot, as does apple and maple, but both burn very quickly so not ideal for a good fire all evening, but perhaps useful amongst other woods.

The worst I have yet found is Tulip Tree. A light spongy wood, it refuses to catch unless under intense duress and will happily go cold if left alone, but I admit, there are not many tulip trees on offer in wood-yards.

Finally, a tip I was once told with regards to that most dangerous of fire
- the chimney fire - keep a large bag of salt by the hearth. If such an event does occur, throw the bag of salt on the fire immediately and call the Fire Brigade! You may just have saved the roof.