How to Select First-Class Firewood

freshly chopped trees

When a tree is first cut down, it is filled with moisture and not yet suitable for use as firewood.

When you’re ready to enjoy the warmth provided by your fireplace, why not use the finest logs so that you can enjoy a hotter fire that’s easy to start and burns clean?  Once you understand the difference between types of firewood, you’ll know how to avoid such things as:

  • Excess buildup of creosote in your chimney
  • Dangerous chimney fires
  • Smoking problems
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Inefficient wood burning

Choose Seasoned Firewood

Buying the most inexpensive bundle of firewood that you can find is a natural choice in tough economic times, but it’s not the way to hunt for logs of the best quality nor does it necessarily save you a lot of money in the long run.  When looking for firewood, you should first make sure to purchase only seasoned wood.

seasoned wood

Seasoned wood should be cut and then stacked off the ground in a dry spot so that it is ready for burning.

In short, seasoned wood is wood that is no longer saturated with moisture.  When live trees are first cut down, they are still filled with moisture due to the way trees are nourished.  Water is transported from the roots throughout the tree through a tube-like system, all the way to the leaves.  This process ends as soon as the tree is cut down, but it takes time and certain conditions for the moisture content to drop from a weight content of up to 80%, where it starts out, to moisture content that’s ideal for firewood, which is between 20% and 25%.

When firewood from any type of tree is properly seasoned, it has qualities you’re looking for:  it ignites easily, burns cleaner than unseasoned wood, and produces a greater amount of heat.

When you burn wood that’s still green, on the other hand, much of the heat produced by the fire has to first dry the wood out; much of the heat is inefficiently used up during this process, meaning it produces less heat for the benefit of your home.  In addition, the gallons of acidic water being burned out end up being deposited in your chimney in the form of creosote.  Creosote is dangerous because it can start chimney fires.  One of the most important reasons to hire a professional chimney sweep annually is, in fact, to deal with the creosote, whether there’s a little or a lot that’s accumulated.

Choose Quality Wood

The denser your seasoned firewood, the longer it will burn.  The amount of heat produced by a seasoned log depends upon its weight.  Seasoned hardwood typically weighs about two times as much as the same volume of softwood, and the hardwood also has the potential to produce twice the amount of heat.

But the best fires are made with a combination of softwoods and hardwoods.

Hardwoods are excellent because they’re long-burning and produce excellent coal, which produces a steady heat source.  Great hardwoods for burning include:

different trees

A fire made using an assortment of types of wood – using softwoods and hardwoods – will burn most efficiently.

  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Hickory
  • Hackberry
  • Birch
  • Cherry
  • Ironwood
  • Mahogany

Softwoods start burning easily, which helps get your fire going.  Good choices of seasoned softwood for your fireplace include pine and fir.  Pleasantly scented cedar is another, and it has a nice snap and crackle as it burns.

If you have a variety of types of firewood, manage your woodpile so that you have dense logs for the coldest months and use softwoods for kindling and fires during spring and fall, when less heat is needed.

A Bonus Tip:  Do not burn construction scraps of wood that is treated or painted, particularly wood that was used to build decks or landscaping ties.  There are chemicals in this type of wood which would release dangerous levels of arsenic as well as other very toxic fumes into your home.

Photo Credit: Rubber Dragon,Cheryl Reed, Lina

Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110
Phone: 860-233-5770

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