Burning a Better Yule Log

by Josh on December 25, 2009 · 5 comments

in Fireplace,Journal,Living Room

Every year when the weather turns cold I order a load of cord wood to burn in living room fireplace. But I have been slow to fill my firewood rack this year, so I decided to try some of the engineered logs widely available in hardware stores, grocery stores and home improvement centers.  I found mine at a local True Value Hardware store just in time to burn while wrapping gifts and entertaining Christmas guests.

Unlit engineered log

These “logs in a bag” can be made from a variety of materials. Some contain used coffee grounds, others are made from old milk cartons. Whatever they are made from, the engineered logs are claimed to be safer and greener than cord wood.  Safer because the logs emit less carbon monoxide than cord wood, and greener because the logs leave trees intact and often contain recycled content.

Engineered log burning

Engineered logs may have their virtues, but what kind of a fire do they make? The instructions on the bag clearly state to only burn one log at a time.  Although the log burns well for a couple house, it doesn’t look or smell like burning real logs.  The engineered logs don’t put out much heat either, so their appeal– beyond the safe and green aspects I mentioned– is primarily how convenient they are to buy and burn. The log’s bag serves as tinder, so all you need is a match, and once lit the log requires no tending over a long 2 – 3 hour burn time.

I don’t think I’m ready to completely give up burning cord wood in my fireplace, but I like the engineered logs well enough to keep some on hand for easy, convenient fires.  At a cost of $3-5 dollars per log, this is an affordable any day luxury.

Something to try: I have heard that some varieties of engineered logs are designed to permit burning more than one unit at a time. This could help bring the look and heat output of the logs closer to cord wood and eliminate my chief complaints with the engineered logs I tried, though at an increased cost per fire.

Have you tried engineered logs in your fireplace? Do you have a favorite type or brand? Share your recommendations in the comments.

Disclosure: I was one of five bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler December 26, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Unrelated to the engineered yule log, but where did you get your fireplace screen? I have been trying to find one like yours that won’t cost me an arm and a leg?


Josh December 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

Tyler, I got the screen from Restoration Hardware about five years ago. They don’t carry this model anymore, but I think they have something similar.


Cheryl January 4, 2010 at 5:24 pm

My Mom uses Duralogs now that she is a widow and doesn’t really have the strength to deal with real wood. She still has a pail of fatwood from when they used real wood and will sometimes lean a few of the fatwood sticks against the Duralog to help with the aroma issue.

But we’re in Orlando and lack of heat output just means she can burn one on more than just the two really cold days of the year! Personally I think a fireplace in FL is crazy but a lot of people have them – and I think they run the air conditioner while burning a log. Definitely crazy.


Josh January 8, 2010 at 11:04 am

Thanks for the story, Cheryl. Your comment about Florida fireplaces inspired an analogy for a future SAT exam:

Fireplace : House in Florida / ________ : House in Minnesota

Answer: Pool

With 10,000 lakes and only 3 months of hot weather, I’ve never really seen the need for a pool here, but plenty of people have them!


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