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Burning wood and coal

Important advice and information if you use wood-burning stoves or coal

Domestic burning guidance

Heating your home or business using wood or coal can have a negative effect on air quality.

The use of open fires and wood-burning stoves has risen over the last few years. Domestic wood and coal burning are now the largest contributions to harmful particle emissions. They make up around 38% of the total emissions, compared to 16% from industrial combustion and 12% from road transport.

Tiny particles in smoke can cause breathing problems, as well as contributing to other health conditions.

So it's important if you use a wood burning stove or coal that:

  • burning is undertaken safely and efficiently, and
  • you take a note of our official guidance on this page

What you can burn

Wet wood produces more smoke, So on closed appliances (for example, stoves and wood burners) it’s important to use only:

  • dry wood containing 20% moisture or less, or
  • seasoned wood

The moisture levels of wood can be established using a moisture meter.

If you use regular coal, consider swapping to smokeless coal fuels; these will produce less pollution. 

Logs used on either appliances or open fires should not be too large (5 inches wide is optimum).

If you're buying logs for immediate use, look for the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo, or buy from a trusted source.

DO NOT burn treated waste wood (for example, old furniture or pallets) or household rubbish. These can emit harmful fumes and toxic pollutants.  

Did you know that, with correct use, the impact of a wood burning stove on air quality can be reduced by 80%? 

Smoke control areas

Some areas of King’s Lynn are smoke control areas (SCA). If your property is in an SCA you must either :

Check if your property is in an SCA

You could face a fine of £1000 if you break the law.

Reducing pollution

Follow our tips to help reduce pollution:

  • think if you have to burn - is it necessary?
  • burn seasoned wood on a low emission appliance
  • maintain stoves and sweep chimneys up to twice a year
  • install a carbon monoxide monitor; this will alert you to dangerous fumes

Please also take a note of our do's and don'ts below.

Do's and don'ts for burning wood and coal
Do Don't
Bring the stove to operating temperature quickly and keep it there Don't close off the air to 'slumber' the fuel for long periods or overnight
Use dry wood - 20% moisture or less Don't use large logs
Use manufacturer's recommended fuels Don't burn wood or coal on an open fire in Smoke Control Areas
Sweep your chimney regularly. A professional sweep can also provide useful advice Unless you have just lit or refuelled the fire, don't allow smoke to come from the top of the chimney
Store and stack logs so they are well ventilated Don't buy a stove too big or powerful for the room
Use a thermometer, moisture meter and stove fan to improve efficiency, save money and reduce pollution Don't be tempted to fit or alter any part of a solid fuel system yourself - it's far too easy for something to go wrong
Fit a carbon monoxide alarm Don't mix smokeless fuel and wood; you won't get the best from either fuel
Consider replacing an older, inefficient stove with a modern, efficient one which will burn cleaner and save you money Don't burn plastic waste or treated waste wood - it can be toxic


Biomass is a renewable low carbon fuel. There is growing interest in biomass for both heating and power generation.

Larger boilers may require a permit under the Environmental Permitting Regulations. And where fuels are derived from waste, stricter controls apply. Your supplier should be able to give you advice.

More information is available from the Energy Saving Trust.

Smoke complaints

Our Community Safety and Neighbourhood Nuisance Team investigate smoke complaints as either:

  • a statutory nuisance, or
  • as waste disposal offences (this is mainly in commercial situations)

We recommend that you:

If our investigation concludes that you are causing a statutory nuisance, we may require you to carry out work to fix the problem, at your own expense.

Further information

You can find out more information in the guidance issued by DEFRA.

There's also helpful information on how to burn safely and efficiently on the Burnright website. You can find out about lower emission Ecodesign stoves from the Stove Industry Alliance.