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The weather here in the Nashville area didn’t get the memo it seems, but Fall is upon us. And that means, even though it’s hard to imagine now, we’ll soon be turning up the heat and firing up the fireplace.

Along with scheduling your annual inspection and sweeping, it’s time to start thinking about firewood. What’s the best firewood to buy? How can you tell if it’s properly seasoned and ready to toss onto the fire?

We’re going to talk about all that and more in this best firewood 101 post…

Should You Buy Hardwood Or Softwood?

When it comes to firewood, typically you want to buy hardwood instead of a softwood. Why? Hardwoods are preferable because they’re denser and there are more BTUs available per piece of wood. Softwoods, on the other hand, have more tannin in them, so: 1) They don’t burn as hot, and 2) They put more residue in the chimney.

What are some examples of hardwood and softwood?

Hardwood:stack of firewood

  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Cherry
  • Walnut
  • Maple

Softwood:

  • Pine
  • Cedar

What Is Seasoned Wood?

The most important thing with any wood is that it is seasoned. Seasoned wood is wood that’s been cut or split and drying for at least 6 months to a year. The moisture content of seasoned wood should be roughly 15%. You don’t want it too dry or too wet, and there’s a sweet spot in there where the wood will burn properly.

How Can You Tell If Your Firewood Is Seasoned Before You Buy?

The most accurate way to determine if wood is properly seasoned is to get a moisture meter from Amazon or a paint store like Sherwin Williams. A moisture meter will only cost you about $30, so if you burn a lot of wood it’s well worth the investment.

Once you have a moisture meter, have the person you’re buying firewood from cut a piece of wood, and then stick the moisture meter into the fresh-cut piece of wood to see how wet it is. If it’s around the 15% moisture mark, then you’ve got good firewood.

If you don’t have a moisture meter, you can keep an eye out for some visual signs that the wood is seasoned, such as a lot of checkmarks or cracks on the ends of the wood, or bark coming off of the wood.

You can also use your ears…

You probably learned to listen for a distinct sound when picking your watermelon in the summer, well you can listen for a distinct sound when picking your firewood, too. Tap two pieces of the wood together and listen for a hollow or a ringing tone. If you hear that, the wood is seasoned and will make good firewood. If the wood is wet or full of water, you’ll hear more of a thud when the two pieces of wood meet.

Where Can You Buy Firewood In Middle TN?

You’ll find firewood for sale in a variety of places here in middle TN. What’s good and what isn’t? A lot of times, wood at gas stations is kiln-dried, and that can make for great firewood.

If you’re buying firewood off of the side of the road or having it delivered, always ask to make sure it’s seasoned. But keep in mind that they will almost always tell you it’s seasoned, regardless of whether or not it really is. Try to get a good look at the firewood prior to purchasing; or better yet, test it with a moisture meter.

What Should You Avoid Burning In Your Fireplace?

Okay, so now you know exactly what type of wood to burn in your fireplace. But are there some things you should never burn?

A lot of people use their fireplace as an incinerator, and that’s really not what it’s for. Christmas trees are one of the worst offenders. They’re so flammable and can quickly cause a house fire if burned in the fireplace.

To reduce fire risk, be sure to only burn seasoned wood in your fireplace, and no matter what, never burn any of the following items:

  • Trash
  • Plastics
  • Colored papers
  • Cardboards
  • Christmas trees
  • Christmas wrapping

Ready For Fall?

Temps might be higher than normal right now, but they’ll drop soon enough. Be ready by having your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned by a CSIA certified chimney sweep. We’ll check to make sure your fireplace and chimney are safe for use and let you know whether or not any cleaning or repairs are needed before the first fire of the season.

And when you head out to buy firewood, remember these three rules of thumb:

  1. Hardwoods make great firewood, softwoods don’t.
  2. Seasoned wood is firewood with a roughly 15% moisture reading.
  3. If you hear a thud when you clack two pieces of firewood together, the wood is too wet and won’t make good firewood.

Have a great Fall!