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How does a full log box keep you and your wood stove happy?

Posted by Stewart Mcilroy on 9 November 2016 at 11:15 am

Good preparation is important if you want to heat your home efficiently with a wood stove. What you want is ‘maximisation of heat out’ and ‘minimisation of effort in’. The practical and psychological benefits of advance preparation are clear to me.

Practical benefits

First, the practical benefits. Make sure you have enough ‘wood in’ that is already adjusted to room temperature and not containing residual damp from the outdoors. You want at least enough wood in the house for the fire you are about to have and for the fire after that. This means that your log box must have capacity for at least two fires. This includes both your kindling, to get the fire going, and larger logs, for once the fire is established.

I arrange my wood for practicality and to achieve the ‘at least one full fire session’ rule as follows.

  • Start with a full log box (this contains approximately 3 - 4 fires’ worth of logs)
  • When the log box is half empty, pile the remaining logs by the side of the stove and refill the box.

My approach means the log box remains more than half full at all times, so no need to go outside for logs during the evening, and all logs get to acclimatise indoors for several days, leading to a better burning fire.

Psychological benefits

The second reason why I believe a full log box has psychological benefits is that the warm comfortable feeling achieved from a fire comes both from what is there now (current warmth), plus the promise of future warmth represented by the visible log pile. Like a half empty fridge, a half empty log box, or ‘absent logs’, suggest poor investment in a comfortable future. For me, future warmth or comfort is indicated by a stack of ready logs, so a full log box is essential.

In fact, Lars Mytting, in his wood culture bible Norwegian Wood, says it all when he quotes David Vann: “The idea that dry wood was not something his father had thought of ahead of time frightened Roy”.

So, the message is keep your log box as full as possible at all times. A full log box will make sure your fire burns easier and hotter. A full log box will also make you a happier person as it illustrates a sound investment in future warmth and comfort.

Photo credit: SuperHomes


1.       Norwegian Wood

2.       David Vann

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3 comments - read them below or add one

Eco Andrew

Eco AndrewComment left on: 3 June 2018 at 8:27 pm

I've come to this blog rather late, but glad to read the good information and advice.  I tend to gather my own wood, saw it, store it (and chop it when 'seasoned'/dried).  However It needn't be too arduous as we get older if we take advantage of wood suppliers.  I would rather not buy kiln-dried wood, especially if fossil fuels are used in the kiln, instead having patience for the sun and wind to do its work over two summers.  Of course this requires plenty of storage space.

Never any need to climb on your roof to sweep your chimney - that would put a lot of people off! It can be done from the woodburner.  Most people would employ a chimney sweep to do this.  Best time is towards end of summer just before you plan to start wood-burning again.  This will clear any falls of soot, or birds' nests blocking the chimney that may have occurred since you last had a fire and is a good annual safety precaution.

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richmcComment left on: 28 February 2017 at 5:46 pm

Rule 3, only use wood with less than 20% moisture content.

Buy a moisture meter and check. If you are gathering your own wood it will need to season for 24 months. Buying kiln dried wood adds to the cost but the heat output is up to three times that of poorly or part seasoned wood so cheaper in the long run. Also your chimney will stay cleaner.

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muymalestadoComment left on: 1 December 2016 at 12:08 am

All good theory and practice. We run two wood fires which keep the house warm but are too feeble not to burn some gas for real hot water.

Friends ask if wood burning is worthwhile. The answer has now become grooved into, 'only if you accept the practicalities'.

Think of the stove as a small animal with its demands, quirks, pleasantness as company on cold nights. And, do you have a supply of wood? So many answer, er., no. Are you willing to get wood, to prepare space to store it, can you store enough to last its whole drying time and through the burning season, are you willing to devote time each day to care for the stove, can you climb onto the roof to sweep the chimney.

As we age one day all this may be too much. But not yet, managing wood burning is too much a part of what we want life to be.

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