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Firewood Facts

Fun Firewood Facts You Should Know

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

How to Select Firewood

It is important that you learn to select good firewood to burn in any wood-burning stove or fireplace in order to get the best performance and be as safe as possible. It is with this selection that you can have great influence over how enjoyable your experience will be with your wood-burning appliance.

Seasoned firewood for burning

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

All wood contains water and that includes firewood. Freshly cut wood can be up to 45% water, while wel-seasoned firewood generally has 20-25% moisture content. Well-seasoned firewood is easier to start, produces more heat, and burns cleaner. Just remember that most of the water must be gone before the wood will burn well. If your wood is cut 6 months to a year in advance and properly stored, the sun and wind will do this job for you for free and who doesn’t like free? If you burn green wood, the heat produced by combustion has to dry the wood out first before it will burn. This uses up a large percentage of the available energy in the process and is a wasted resource. The end result is less heat delivered to your home, and literally gallons of acidic water in the form of creosote deposited in your chimney!

Wood is composed of bundles of microscopic tubes that were used to transport water from the roots of the tree to the leaves. These tubes will stay full of water for years even after a tree is dead. 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 burn it. This gives the water a chance to evaporate since the tube ends are finally open and the water only has to travel a foot or two to drain. Splitting the wood helps, too by exposing more surface area of the wood to the sun and wind; however cutting the wood into shorter lengths is the most important thing to do.

There are a few things you can look for to see if the wood you intend to purchase is seasoned or not. Well-seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with cracks or splits visible. It is also relatively lightweight, and makes a clear “clunk” when two pieces are beat together. Green wood on the other hand is very heavy, the ends look fresher and will sometimes have a sap like substance draining, and it tends to 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 spring before you intend to burn it, and store it properly.

Storing Firewood

Well-seasoned firewood can be ruined by bad storage. Exposed to constant rain or covered in snow, wood will reabsorb large amounts of water, making it unfit to burn and causing it to rot long before it can be used. Wood should be stored off the ground if possible and protected from excess moisture when weather threatens.

The ideal situation is to have a wood shed. This is a shed especially for storing wood where there is a roof but the sides are either open or loose for plenty of air circulation to promote drying.

The next best thing would be to keep the wood pile in a sunny location and cover it on rainy or snowy days with a waterproof tarp of some kind. Of course you must make sure the cover is removed during fair weather to allow air movement and to avoid trapping ground moisture under the covering. Also don’t forget that your woodpile also looks like heaven to termites, so it’s best to only keep a week or so worth of wood near the house in easy reach. With proper storage you can turn even the greenest wood into great firewood in 6 months or a year, and it can be expected to last 3 or 4 years if necessary.

Buying Firewood

Firewood is generally sold by volume, the most common measure being the cord. Other terms often employed are face cord, rick, or often just a truckload. 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. 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.

Webster defines a rick simply as a pile, and truck sizes obviously vary tremendously, so it is very 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, pay the wood seller the extra few dollars often charged to stack the wood, and warn him before he arrives that you will cheerfully pay only when the wood actually measures up to an agreed upon 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. If the wood you are buying is not all hardwood, consider offering a little less in payment.


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