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There’s nothing more delightful than the roar of an open fire or the glow from a wood-burning stove after a long day or even a short Sunday stroll. Winters were designed for snuggling up and getting all hygge (a Danish term for comfort and joy) when the weather outside is colder than a polar bear’s nose.
However, if you’re unprepared, your dream of a warm and cosy afternoon in front of the fire can become a nightmare, resulting in some unhappy downtime. Luckily, we are here to save the moment or, more specifically, tell you how to keep your logs dry by creating some efficient log storage.
We don’t want to state the obvious (but we will): your fire won’t light if your logs are damp. You will end up with a soggy, smoky atmosphere, which might be fine for kippers, but when it comes to hygge, damp logs are a big no-no.
We will also tell you which logs offer a slow burn and which logs to choose for aroma, so grab your carpenter’s apron and let’s crack on.
How to build a log store
Really, logs shouldn’t be kept inside your property. You should keep your wooden logs or firewood away from your home to avoid pest infestation. You should, however, build your storage area in an accessible place that is preferably in the sun. Choose your storage area in a place that has lots of air circulation, so not in an understairs cupboard or old coal bunker/cellar.
To ensure an easier and more practical build, choose a location on level ground. Situating it in the garden is fine, but the log store should be built off the ground to prevent water from seeping into the bottom row of logs.
If you build your store against a fence or wall, leave a tiny gap between these constraints to enable air to flow freely. Create a base for your storage areas by using three narrow battens fastened underneath the slatted floor to give it the appropriate airspace or eight or so well-positioned bricks also make a good subfloor structure.
We are going to make our log store from old pallets, and you will need the following items to hand before you start.
What you’ll need:
- Several old pallets
- Screws and a crosshead or Phillips screwdriver
- Pencil and tape measure
- A saw, hand or electric
- A drill with wood-friendly drill bits
- Wooden battens, as mentioned above, for roof and supports
- Roofing felt or corrugated plastic sheets
- Four wooden posts
- Galvanised nails
- A hammer and a mallet
- Some tea, a radio and more time than you think it’s going to take
How to build your log store – instructions
- Make your log store base using either one or two pallets; the number you need depends on the number of logs you want to store and the space you have to play with.
- At each corner of the pallet base, secure your four wooden posts into the earth. For a more secure base, consider using a cement mix to fix them into place.
- To give the store a sloped roof, either the front or rear two posts must be a little higher than the others.
- Make your slatted side and back panels by breaking down several pallets or using wooden planks and ensure they’re equally spaced out and affixed using nails to keep them in place.
- Repeat this step for the roof or fix a corrugated plastic roof sheet that has been cut to size. If you’re using pallets, make sure you don’t leave any space between the panels, and cover with roof felt or similar to ensure the area is rainproof.
- To allow optimum air circulation for adequate log seasoning, store your logs inside your store according to their size or shape.
The above is just an idea that we took from YouTube – here’s the link for a more detailed how-to. You could, of course, call in a professional who will have all the tools and the know-how to rustle you up a fabulous log store in no time.
The best logs to choose for a slow burn
If you’re lucky enough to live in a rural area, you might be able to pick up some wood on your travels, as fallen trees make great logs for burning once they have dried out. The UK law says you can gather fallen wood on public land/common land, but you’re not allowed to cut trees down, so put that power saw away.
If you’re buying logs, it’s useful to know which logs burn slowly. The following wood makes the best slow-burning logs.
Oak logs or oak as firewood are the king of the slow burn. Oak is very expensive but you can buy off-cuts from wood yards, timber merchants, and joiners’ shops. The oak must be untreated, raw and, of course, dry.
How can I tell if my wood is oak?
Oak, especially in longer pieces such as joists, beams or flooring planks, has a distinctive grain pattern with regular knots or other imperfections, making it easy to identify once cut. An oak tree has smooth and silvery-brown bark that becomes rugged and gnarly with age. The leaves have five or six rounded lobes or sections; the leaves are longer than they are wide.
If you find some old oak, you have hit wood-burning log gold!
Ash is considered one of the best fuels for fires or wood-burning stoves. Ash has a low water content and can even be burned raw or green (not dried out). However, to make the most of your ash, you should season the logs to make them burn at a steady rate.
Ash is expensive, but if you’re using off-cuts, it’s a perfect choice.
How can I tell if I’m using ash?
Ash has a moderate texture with large visible pores and offers a light creamy colour wood. Because of its unique colour and grain, it’s easy to distinguish ash wood logs from other types of wood.
More slow-burning wood choices:
- Holly – slow burning, easy to find and can be burnt unseasoned.
- Apple – slow burning when seasoned and easy to find.
- Cherry – has the same characteristics as apple.
- Hawthorn – reacts like apple and cherry.
Fast burning wood
Using a combination of slow and fast-burning wood is the best way to set a fire – here’s a list of fast-burning wood.
- Beech – has a high water content and will only burn well when seasoned, and when it burns, it burns relatively fast.
- Birch – burns easily and fast, so it is best mixed with slower-burning wood. Birch bark is a great firelighter if you run out of kindling.
- Elm – has a high water content and must be seasoned well before use. Elm burns better alongside faster-burning wood, such as birch or beech, to keep it burning effectively.
- Hazel – burns fast but with no spitting but must be seasoned.
Like most things in life, a combination of things, in this case, wood, makes for a better experience. If that isn’t enough, you can also choose your logs based on fast or slow burn and smell. There’s nothing more hygge than using cedar wood in your wood burner. Here are some other gorgeous-smelling woods to add to your collection.
Wooden logs that smell great
Cedar smells amazing, and it repels bugs, especially those pesky clothes moths who love to dine out on your best woolly jumpers or cashmere socks. Apple is another wood that smells nice when burnt.
Pine can be burnt green and smells glorious, but it spits when burnt unseasoned. Pine is cheap and easy to locate but burns very quickly. Just like apple, pear wood burns well with a pleasant smell and does not spit once it has been seasoned. Walnut is considered a low-quality firewood but smells walnutty when on the fire. Imagine mixing cedar, pine and cherry – there’s a room scent that could banish any winter blues.
Logs you shouldn’t use in your wood-burning stove
We have covered sweet-smelling wood, slow-burning logs and firewood that offers a quick burn. However, there is some firewood you should step over. Alder wood is a poor-quality firewood as it burns quickly while providing almost no heat.
Although horse chestnut is a hardwood, it spits a lot and is therefore considered a low-grade firewood. Larch should be avoided as it spits excessively while it burns and produces soot when burnt even after seasoning. Lime and poplar wood are poor choices as they do not burn well and produce lots of soot and smoke.
Finally, willow and yew are okay, just about usable as firewood, but with so many options, leave the willow and yew as third-place options and stick to well-seasoned logs and enjoy the warmth and comfort of your open fire or wood burner this year.