Ansell Chimneys

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Ansell Chimneys

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Burning Wet or Sappy Wood in a Solid Fuel Stove

Wood burning stove safety: What wood?

Wood is wood! All wood burns, so why worry about whether it happens to be a little too moist or the wrong type of wood for burning?

If we had a pound for every time we have heard a statement along these lines, we could retire. The reality is that it is extremely important what type of wood is burnt and the moisture content of that wood matters too.

Some wood is toxic when burnt, regardless of the water or sap content, and we can look at some of them below, but water and sap content are the main issue for solid fuel stove owners in the United Kingdom.

Wood that is toxic when burnt

If you are using a fireplace in your home, you should be aware what wood is toxic to burn.

  • Plywood, chipboard, wood pallets or stained/varnished wood
  • Poison ivy
  • Oleander
  • Green woods
  • Driftwoods
  • Poison Sumac
  • Poison oak

Essentially, anything that has the word poison in the name is a pretty clear clue that it should be avoided. Burning these types of wood can release some pretty toxic fumes that could cause respiratory issues or worse.

Even driftwood could contain a good amount of chemicals from its previous intended use, so should also be avoided.

The man made boards such as chip, ply contain adhesives that give off dangerous fumes when burnt and even wooden pallets are likely to be coated with coatings that become toxic when burnt.

Many of the woods above are sourced from overseas, but could still find their way into the fireplace if they were, or formed part of old furniture that has been scrapped. One wood that is most definatley sourced with ease in the United Kingdom is geen wood.


Greenwood is a wood that is not completely dry. Greenwood needs six to nine months to become seasoned wood, which means it has become completely dry and suitable for burning.

Generally, Greenwood is not suitable firewood for fireplaces. This is because greenwood contains plenty of water and gum. The chemicals found in gum trees produce toxic smoke when burned.

Also, the water in the greenwood causes incomplete ignition, which causes a lot of smoke. So do not use greenwood in the fireplace at home.

Wet or green woods and chimneys

There are three main reasons burning wet firewood in a fireplace is a very bad idea. The first is that it just does not burn very well. Whether the wood is only a little damp on the outside from a rain shower or whether it is soaked through will impact its ability to burn. Generally speaking, wet wood does not burn efficiently or even at all, so what is the point of using it?

Smoke is the second reason not to burn wet wood indoors. Wet wood generates a huge amount of smoke and you certainly don't want that in your front room, choking you and your family with potentially toxic fumes and making the house smell like an old bonfire.

The third reason not to burn wet wood indoors is creosote. Many think creosote is something that we use to waterproof our outdoor wooden buildings and fences, but it is actually a thick, sticky tar like substance that can accumulate inside your chimney if wet wood is burnt.

Creosote buildup is the main cause of chimney fires. Burning wet wood can generate far more creosote than if you burn dry wood, increasing the risk of having a chimney fire.

Whatever type of firewood you use in the fireplace, use wood that has a moisture content of no more than twenty five percent. Burning wood that has ten to twenty percent moisture is ideal. This may sound a simple statement to make, but how do you know what percentage moisture is in your wood? The answer is a simple and inexpensive little device that is available from many retailers, check them out below.

Digital wood moisture meter

Moisture meters are used to measure the percentage of water in wood. This information can be used to determine if the wood is ready for use, unexpectedly wet or dry, or otherwise in need of further inspection. Wood and paper products are very sensitive to their moisture content. Physical properties are strongly affected by moisture content and high moisture content for a period of time may progressively degrade a material.

These handy little devices are simple to use and can cost well under twenty pounds online. When you consider the dangers of creosote build up and excess smoke, a few ponds invested in a device such as this really is a good investment.

Newly cut logs can have a moisture content of 80% or more, depending on species. Since wood shrinks, and can also split, twist or otherwise change shape as it dries, most wood is dried before being used. This is most often done using a kiln, but may use the air drying method, which is much slower. Most air dried material is usually about twenty percent moisture content when used.

So to avoid smoke, toxins and creosote build up in the chimney that can cause fires, use correctly seasoned suitable wood. You'll save time, money and possibly even a life!

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Why not call Ansell Chimneys now for a free quote

If you would like to know more or are interested in a quote we would be happy to help. Phone us on 01923 661 614, email us at or fill in our enquiry form and we will be in touch as soon as possible.