Get the Most from Your Fire by Choosing the Right Wood
Although central heating is a convenient way to heat up your home, it's hardly the most romantic. Get your thermostat set up right and you'll be at a comfortable temperature pretty much all the time, no matter what it's like outside.
But who wants to sit and relax in front of a radiator? There's not much to look at, and nothing inherently comforting about the things. It's for this reason that plenty of people still love a real fireplace, even when there are other options available. And fires can warm your home extremely well, competing with gas and electric heaters.
To get the most out of a fire in a fireplace, you need to make sure you get the right wood. Here's what to look for.
Coming originally from a living plant, wood naturally contains quite a lot of moisture. If it's stored outside after cutting, it can retain or even increase this moisture level, thanks to the weather.
In order to burn efficiently, wood needs to be seasoned, which means it's been dried until it only has around 20–25 percent water remaining. This not only ensures it lights easily and maintains a flame, it also burns hotter because the energy isn't used up burning off lots of moisture.
To see how well wood is seasoned, look at the colour. Any signs of green on the wood itself—not the bark—suggests it's still quite moist. Next, pick it up and test the weight. Seasoned wood should feel noticeably light. Finally, it will make a sort of hollow noise, rather than a short, dull sound. Bang two logs together to test this.
Not just any old wood will do if you want to get the best possible fire. A wood's inherent qualities mean different types burn at different temperatures.
In Australia, red gum firewood is usually one of the best options. It's been popular for a long time, with good reason. It burns hot, gives off a nice smell, and maintains an excellent fire. It's also usually sustainable and doesn't need to travel far.
If you're using a wood burning stove, you'll usually want smaller logs than you'd use in an open fire. It's better to use more pieces of smaller wood than fewer large ones, so most will need to be split into halves or quarters.
For a fireplace, one or two large, whole logs make a good foundation, topped with smaller logs and split wood. If you don't want to split wood yourself with an axe, make sure you buy firewood that's already prepared.
It's tempting to use ex-building materials and other waste wood products as cheap or free fuel, but this is often dangerous. Paint and chemicals used in processing can give off toxic fumes. Only use natural wood that's intended for burning at home.