NZ Lifestyle Block

4 things you need to know about firewood

When to buy, what to plant, and why it’s best to light fires upside-down

- Words Nadene Hall

The key to a cosy, warm fire is what you do (or don’t) put in the firebox. Here are the basics of good firewood.

■ If you plan to have your fire burning all day, you’ll need a lot of hardwood, which is slow burning. If you only light your fire for a couple of hours at night, you need a mix of softwood (to get it burning) and hardwood (to maintain the heat).

Softwoods: pine, macrocarpa, cypress, Douglas fir.

Hardwoods: eucalyptus (gum), acacia, oak, fruit and nut trees.

■ Modern woodburner­s and fireplaces come with instructio­n books on how to use them efficientl­y, and crucially, what not to burn. This includes:

Plastic or other household rubbish – these release toxic fumes as they burn which can cause ill-health, and usually smell terrible too.

Driftwood – it contains a high level of salt, creating a corrosive steam when it burns which can damage the inside of the firebox.

Treated, composite (ie plywood, particle board), varnished, or painted wood – release toxic chemicals when they burn.

Colour printed paper – coloured inks release toxic chemicals when they burn.

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