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Addressing Your Firewood Questions

Do you use a wood-burning fireplace? From selecting and buying firewood to storing and seasoning it, the wood you use can have a huge impact on how well your fires burn, how much heat you get, and how much buildup your chimney faces. We’ve got the answers to all your firewood-related questions here.

Q: Why Should I Use Only Seasoned Wood?

Freshly cut wood can be up to 45% water, while well-seasoned firewood generally has 15-25% moisture content. Wood with less water is easier to start, produces more heat, and burns cleaner. If you burn green (fresh) wood, the heat produced by combustion has to dry the wood out first before it will burn. The end result is less heat delivered to your home, along with literally gallons of acidic water deposited in your chimney – which results in higher levels of creosote.

Using quality, well-seasoned firewood will help your wood stove or fireplace burn cleaner and more efficiently, significantly reducing your risk of experiencing smoking problems, odors, rapid creosote buildup, and even dangerous chimney fires.

Q: When Buying Firewood, How Can I Select the Best Pieces?

There are a few characteristics to watch for when determining if the wood you’re purchasing is properly seasoned or not:

  • Look to see if the ends are darkened with cracks or splits visible. This indicates the piece has been sitting longer, and the split ends make it dry out faster.
  • Aim for pieces that are lightweight and make a clear “clunk” when beat together. Water adds weight, so the lighter and more hollow-sounding, the better!
  • Do the pieces seem mustier/older both in look and smell? Good! This is another sign of well-seasoned wood.
  • Pieces that are shorter in length will dry out faster, so it’s more likely these have less water than bigger logs.

Firewood is generally sold by volume, the most common measure being the cord. Other terms often used 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 eight feet long by four feet tall by four feet deep. A face cord is also eight feet long by four feet tall, but it is only as deep as the wood is cut. Which means a face cord of 16″ wood actually is only one third of a cord, 24″ wood yields one half of a cord, and so on.

Q: What Is the Best Firewood To Burn?

Did you know that there actually is a difference between various kinds of wood? More than a mere distinction in name, wood from different trees possess different qualities. This makes some wood types more suitable than others for use as firewood. 

When determining the best firewood to burn, it is important to look at that wood’s density and general water content. Yes, all wood is certainly dense and must have the capacity to absorb water (that’s how all the different kinds of trees sport a variety of luscious foliage), but the amounts and percentages differ from wood to wood. 

That said, when it comes to choosing the best firewood to burn in your fireplace, you want to look for hardwoods. These tend to be denser and contain lower levels of sap or moisture when compared to their softwood counterparts.

Keep in mind though that even within the distinctions between hardwood and softwood, they don’t all burn the same – with some producing higher levels of heat or a better, cleaner burn than others. 

Assuming your intention in burning wood is to heat your living space, you might consider any of the following that are known to have a high heat value. One cord of any of these wood types is equivalent to between 200-250 gallons of fuel:

  • American beech
  • Apple
  • Ironwood
  • Mesquite
  • Red oak
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Sugar maple
  • White ash
  • White oak
  • Yellow birch

Looking for more of an aesthetic fire as opposed to one that’s functionally warm? Check out these kinds. More or less equal to 100-150 gallons of fuel, one cord of any of these types of firewood should produce a less-hot fire:

  • Aspen
  • Cottonwood
  • Hemlock
  • Lodgepole pine
  • Red alder
  • Redwood
  • Sitka spruce
  • Western red cedar
  • White pine

Q: What Is the Difference Between Hardwood and Softwood for Firewood?

While many believe the classification “hardwood” or “softwood” comes from the appearance or characteristics of the living tree, the reality is a bit more convoluted. However, the properties of whatever tree a particular kind of wood comes from can give you a clue as to whether or not it is considered to be a hardwood or a softwood. 

For instance, if your firewood was once a deciduous tree (or one that sheds its leaves in a cycle every year, called an “angiosperm”), it is hardwood. Meanwhile, wood derived from species of trees that are referred to as “gymnosperms” and sport leaves that look more like needles, is considered softwood.

Since it can be a bit challenging to determine where exactly the wood came from if you’re not the one chopping and hauling it yourself, there are some properties to keep an eye out for to help you make the best purchasing decision:

  • Color: Generally speaking, hardwoods are darker in color than their softwood counterparts.
  • Grain: Hardwoods have significantly more pores throughout as opposed to softwoods, which create a more noticeable grain.
  • Density/hardiness: Because they are hardier and more durable than softwoods, hardwoods are more difficult to chop. Wood that scratches or chips rather easily is probably a softwood.
  • Weight: Remember the density we mentioned earlier? Since hardwoods are known to be denser than softwoods, they’re also quite a bit heavier too.

Looking for good quality firewood near Nashville or its surrounding communities and not sure where to start? Give the highly trained and knowledgeable experts at Ashbusters a call! We’d be happy to point you in the right direction. Reach us online or give us a call at 615-459-2546.

Q: How Much Should I Spend on Firewood?

This is a great question that, unfortunately, does not have such a clear answer to. This largely depends on a variety of factors, such as location, accessibility, availability, and more. You might find some cords of firewood priced around $120, while others have a higher price tag closer to $900. Across the board, $300 is the average cost of one cord, but these prices can also vary throughout the seasons too.

All that to say, there really is no hard and fast definite answer because it can range so drastically. But, remember, you can always reach out to us to get professional opinions. We may not sell firewood, but we do know wood-burning appliances and the places in the Nashville area that sell quality firewood at reasonable prices. Call us at 615-459-2546 to learn more.

Q: Do You Have Some Ideal Wood Storage Tips?

Well-seasoned firewood can be ruined by bad storage. If your pile is exposed to constant rain or always covered in snow, the 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 (away from pests like insects and animals) and protected from excess moisture with a tarp or roof when threatening weather arrives.

The ideal situation is to have a wood shed. This is a shed that is used specifically for storing wood where there is a sturdy roof but the sides are either open or loose. This lets sunshine in and allows for plenty of air circulation – both of which are needed to promote faster drying.

No shed? The next best thing would be to keep the wood pile in a typically sunny location and cover it on rainy or snowy days with a waterproof tarp of some kind – just make sure the cover is removed during fair weather to allow air movement and avoid trapping in moisture.

Also, don’t forget that your woodpile also looks like heaven to bugs, like termites, so it’s best to keep only a week or so worth of wood near the house in easy reach. Once properly seasoned, wood can be expected to last 3 or 4 years.

Q: How Long Should I Store My Firewood?

All wood should be stored for at least 6 months or more before you burn it. In fact, some sources even say you should hold onto it for between 12-18 months to ensure that it has been properly and effectively dried out and seasoned.

Why? Wood is filled with microscopic tubes that were used to transport water from the roots of the tree to the leaves. These tubes can stay full of water for a long time, which is why cutting your firewood to length and seasoning it for a lengthy time is so imperative. Once the tube ends are open and exposed, 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.

Reach Out for More Info

Need more info about storing or buying firewood? We’re here to help. Simply give us a call at 615-459-2546 or reach out online – our knowledgeable techs have got you covered.


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