Wet Wood ‘Ban’ – Why The Government Has Got It WRONG

So the government has decided it is to go ahead with its plan to ban the sale of wet wood under the volume of two cubic metres.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is bringing in the mandatory certification scheme next year (2021).

For smaller wood manufacturers, the scheme will be delayed for a year , coming in during 2022. This is because the Government says it realises that smaller producers may struggle to hit the deadline.

I wrote a long article about this when the original consultation started, and I was one of the few chimney sweeps to respond – indeed you will see our name in the respondents list.

So, what does it all mean?

From Now to 2021

You will be able to continue buying any fuels for your appliance. You will be able to continue using your solid fuel stove or fireplace as normal – there is NO ban on using them.

From 2021

Larger manufacturers of wood will only be able to sell ‘dry’ wood (i.e – a moisture content of 20% of less) if the volume of wood sold is less than two cubic metres. You will be able to continue using your solid fuel stove or fireplace as normal – there is NO ban on using them.

From 2022

All wood sold under two cubic metres in volume will have to be ‘dry’. You will be able to continue using your solid fuel stove or fireplace as normal – there is NO ban on using them.

So, what do I think of these proposals?

In theory it sounds a good idea. However, as I have had previously, these measures really are not needed.

Anyone who tries to burn wet wood knows it is pointless – it gives off no heat or flames at all. It’s a wholly underwhelming experience.

Also, wood is a naturally occurring product. In some areas, it is available everywhere – private properties, farm gates, farm shops and so on. I even have customers who are members of local golf clubs and heritage sites who fell wood and sell it locally at a small profit to help raise funds. Does the government seriously think all these will sign up to a certification scheme?

More likely, these places will stop selling wood (even if it is seasoned) or simply it will go ‘underground’. If it’s the former, will people pay more or will they just turn to local Facebook and eBay for old bits of timber, MDF and so on

Of course, there are some who may get round the legislation by simply selling them as timber logs for woodworking etc and not for firewood…

Which brings me onto enforcement...

I know full well from speaking to local councils that quite frankly they do not have the resources to have to cope with yet another layer of bureaucracy. It simply isn’t on their priority list. Will be be just like another Clean Air Act, which also doesn’t get enforced?

As a chimney sweep, I know that most issues concerning pollution from domestic burning comes from operator error of the actual stove – I.e not using the air controls properly. Because even dry wood can be massively polluting if it is not burnt in the correct manner. That’s why I’m a co-founder of Burnright, the national campaign which helps people understand how to use their appliances properly and how to season wood.

The ‘wet wood’ argument has always been a red herring and I’m afraid the government has fallen into the trap of listening to the major fuel distributors who want an even greater market share, rather than understanding how it actually works on the ground.

Banning the sale of wet wood under two cubic metres sounds like a neat idea in theory but it’s actually the wrong solution. It will just lead to more kiln dried wood being imported by road – how fantastic for the environment!

It also treats people like children whereas more education would help. Sweden is just one country which burns loads more wood than us yet they don’t see the need to bring in pointless measures like this.

And oddly enough, even when this ban does come in, education will continue to be just as important.

Makes you wonder where they’re actually bothering…

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

2 thoughts on “Wet Wood ‘Ban’ – Why The Government Has Got It WRONG

  1. Great blog David, you’re so right about education. Installers should do more on this front, but a government guide to lighting and burning would be useful for newly installed ‘burners’. I am going to need my chimney swept come May when the weather picks up, I will be in touch!

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