Firewood Facts

Firewood Facts

Please Note! We do not sell firewood. These pages are For Your Information.

Here are some important firewood tips that everyone who uses or would like to use a wood burning fireplace or stove should know. From selecting and buying firewood to storing and seasoning, the wood is all-important to the efficiency of your fireplace or stove.

How to Select Firewood

It is important that you learn to select good firewood to use in order to get the best performance. It is with this selection that you can have great influence over how enjoyable your experience will be with your wood burning appliance.

Using quality, well-seasoned firewood will help your wood stove or fireplace burn cleaner and more efficiently. Using green or wet wood can cause smoking problems, odor problems, rapid creosote buildup and possibly even dangerous chimney fires.

Please take a few minutes to understand the ins and outs of firewood. It will be time well spent. We have included general background information, as well as how to buy and store wood properly.

Seasoned Wood?

Freshly cut firewood can be up to 45% water, while seasoned or “cured” firewood generally has 15-25% moisture content. Seasoned firewood is easier to start, produces more heat, and burns cleaner. Remember, most of the water must evaporate from the wood before it will burn well. (It will “burn”, but the heat of the flames MUST “boil” the water away before it burns it’s best. If your wood is cut 6 months to a year in advance and properly stored, the sun and wind will do this job for free and who doesn’t like free? When you use green (or unseasoned) wood, the heat produced by the burning process (called pyrolyzationhas to dry out the wood first before it will burn. This uses up a large percentage of available energy in the process. The end result is the fire produces less heat and literally gallons of very acidic water (in the form of creosote) can be deposited in your chimney flue! Creosote is the nasty stuff that, when there is a large enough accumulation in the flue, can be the cause of a chimney fire!

Firewood is composed of microscopic veins that the tree used to transport water from it’s  roots to the leaves. These veins will remain full of water for years, even after a tree has long been cut down! This is why it is so important to have your firewood cut to length, 12 to 18 inches depending on the size of your fireplace, for 6 months or more before you use it. This gives water a chance to evacuate. Since the vein ends are finally open and the water only has to travel a foot or two to evaporate. Splitting the wood helps by exposing more surface area of the wood to the drying effects of the outside elements. 

What to look for when you need to buy your firewood

There are a few things you can look for to see if the wood you intend to purchase is seasoned. Seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with cracks (called “checks” in the biz). It is relatively more lightweight than green or unseasoned wood (given that it is the same species of tree) and makes a clear “clunk” when two pieces are banged together. Green wood on the other hand is heavier, the ends will look “fresh” and sometimes the sap will still be “oozing” out of the ends. Two pieces of unseasoned wood will make a dull “thud” when struck together. However, these clues can sometimes fool you so the best thing to do in order to know you have good seasoned wood when you need it is to buy your wood the long before you intend to burn it, and store it properly.

Storing Firewood

Well seasoned firewood will be ruined by improper storage. Exposed to rain or snow, wood will reabsorb large amounts of moisture, making it unfit to burn and causing it to rot. Wood should be stored off the ground with just the top covered leaving the sides exposed to the drying effects of the sun and the wind. You never want to create a “greenhouse effect”, trapping the moisture under a tarp or plastic. 

The ideal situation is to have a wood shed.

This is a structure where there is a roof but the sides are open for plenty of air circulation to promote drying.

Do not store firewood near the house! All firewood has insects of some sort (think termites/roaches, etc.) that can infiltrate your home.

Buying Firewood

No one nowadays, (that I am aware of) sells firewood by a standard measure! BUT! If you have a woodyard that does, this is what you need to know.

Firewood is sold by a measured volume, the most common measure being the cord. Other terms often employed are face cord, rick, or some other regional term. A standard cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet of wood, generally measured as a pile 8 feet long by 4 feet tall by 4 feet deep. Nobody buys firewood in 4 foot lengths, this (to me) has always been a silly way to explain about a cord of wood!  I would try to have you envision a stack of wood 16 feet long by 4 feet high by 2 feet wide. This still amounts to a volume equal to 128 cubic feet.(The 2 feet wide is much closer to the 18 to 20 inches that most firewood is cut to.) A face cord is also 8 feet long by 4 feet tall, but it is only as deep as the wood is cut, so a face cord of 16″ wood actually is only 1/3 of a cord, 24″ wood yields 1/2 of a cord, and so on.

Keep in mind! You are probably are only going to be able to buy “a load!”

Truck “load” sizes vary tremendously, so it is important that you get all of this straight with the seller before agreeing on a price as there is much room for misunderstanding. It is best to have your wood storage area set up in standard 4 or 8 foot increments. It is very worthwhile to pay the wood seller the  few dollars often charged to stack the wood. Inform them before they arrive that you will gladly pay when the wood they deliver measures up to the agreed amount.

Another thought concerning getting what you pay for is that although firewood is usually sold by volume, heat production is dependent on weight. Pound for pound, all wood has approximately the same BTU content, but a cord of seasoned hardwood weighs about twice as much as the same volume of softwood, and consequently contains almost twice as much potential heat.  Happy firewooding and remember;

“Your Ash Is Mine!”

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