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A Beginner’s Guide To Firewood: All You Need To Know

By Urbanmatter Chicago @UMatterChicago
A Beginner’s Guide To Firewood: All You Need To KnowA Beginner’s Guide To Firewood: All You Need To Know

Whether you use firewood for a furnace, fireplace, camping, backyard fire pits, or a stove,  understanding firewood is essential because you can save a lot of money and effort when you know which types are good for burning. Firewood is all about convenience, fun, and comfort, but bad quality firewood will ruin the experience and your pleasure at home. If you want to learn more about this source of renewable energy, then check out this helpful guide for beginners to know everything you need about firewood.

A Beginner’s Guide To Firewood: All You Need To KnowPhoto Credit: Unsplash

The Best Time To Get Firewood

To get the best high-quality firewood, you need to ensure you buy it in time because freshly cut wood isn’t optimal for burning. When you’re about to start up your fireplace, stove, furnace, or campfire, the wood you use can’t be green. You need seasoned wood that is dry and has the lowest moisture level. If you don’t have access to seasoned firewood, or you find it to be too expensive, then get the fresh wood early in the spring. You can easily store and leave it to dry during the summer and fall, it will be ready when it gets cold during the winter. However, if you get green oak logs, it will need two years for them to dry to be an optimal choice for firewood. Consider buying a lot of freshly-cut wood early and leave it to dry because it will be more cost-effective.

Types Of Wood

You have a variety of choices for wood but only certain types are optimal for burning. It mostly depends on people’s preference or budget. The UK is known for having freezing winters, so people prefer to use seasoned maple, hickory, or oak because they are denser than most alternatives. Advice from the firewood suppliers at suggests that kiln-dried logs reduce moisture faster than any other type, and it’s easy to burn quickly. Fruitwoods from cherry and pear trees are thick and burnable, and they can be another good choice. They have a pleasant smell, and it can be great for BBQs because the smoke infuses the food and gives it a nice fruity flavor. Avoid using softwood for burning because it can be dangerous. Cypress, pine, spruce, and poplar wood aren’t efficient enough to be firewood because they burn too quickly, the smoke emissions are too high, and they lead to an excessive buildup of soot or ash.

Why Is It Bad To Burn Green Pieces Of Wood?

Even though green pieces of wood are the cheapest type, fresh logs have a lot of moisture that starts to vaporize. The condensation effect along with the combination of heat and other gases or ash will create a bad creosote substance. The substance will harden and form tar all over your chimney, making the cleaning process extremely difficult. The effect is similar in your furnace or stove, and the substance is hazardous when inhaled for too long. The hardened tar will also be a pain to remove and clean if left unchecked. Unseasoned wood is too fresh that the logs have no cracks, making them sizzle or bubble up when used for burning. No cracks mean excessive moisture in the wood because the bark is attached and that creates too much smoke. Consider using seasoned wood from any hardwood species to build a safe and efficient fire with minimal effort.

Dry and Seasoned Wood Properties

It can be tricky to spot seasoned wood that is dry enough to burn, but learning its properties will help you narrow down the right logs for an efficient fire. Look for cracks or marks at the end of the log’s grain because that will be an indication of dryness. However, this isn’t the only quality to prove that it’s dry enough, you will need a wood moisture meter to test it to be sure. If you can’t afford a moisture meter, then keep inspecting the wood for more seasoned qualities. You can notice the difference between a seasoned log and a freshly cut one by its weight because dry wood is much lighter than freshly cut ones of the same species. The color will change when it gets dry, showing a gray, black, or dark yellowish color instead of the white, light brown, and cream color of fresh wood.  

There is a sound test to see the level of dryness of the logs you have. Dry and seasoned wood will sound hollow when you bang two pieces of logs together, but green wood will sound very solid and dull because of the excess moisture. A touch test is conducted by splitting a log in half which will be a strong indicator as well because the inner surface when exposed will feel warm if the wood is seasoned. The inner surface of a piece of green wood will feel damp and cold because of the lingering moisture levels inside. The final test is to burn a few pieces and listen to the fire when in doubt. Fresh wood will be hard to light up quickly, and you will hear loud hissing sounds, but seasoned wood will ignite quickly and efficiently when you burn it. 

How Can I Dry Firewood?

If you’re in a hurry, and you want to season your firewood quickly to get it dry enough for winter fires, then you can speed the process up by splitting logs. Split pieces can dry up much faster than whole logs. It may be harder to haul around, but it’s worth it if you want seasoned wood because large pieces don’t reduce the water content fast enough. Consider splitting them as small as possible if you have oak logs to speed up the evaporation process. A seasoned log must have 15% to 20% water content to be considered optimal enough for burning. Consider stacking the wood outside to be exposed to wind and sunlight. Hot and dry weather will dry them up faster. Store them only in your garage or shed during the rainy and wet maritime climates.

The Best Way To Stack Firewood

The way you stack your firewood is crucial because it makes a huge difference when you’re trying to season the logs. Drying your logs will be quicker when you stack the firewood up on lumber rails in an open area like your backyard. Consider stacking each log in separate rows for better results, which allow the sun, wind, and heat to effectively clear all the moisture. Never stack them in a closed area with no ventilation, unless it’s raining outside. Keeping the top covered will protect the wood from rain, but try not to keep it outside on the ground for more than a day or two maximum. The ground will make the wood rot faster and mold will start to form around the edges and on the surface. This is why setting the wood on lumber poles, pallets or rails is safer for the quality of the seasoned pieces. 

A Beginner’s Guide To Firewood: All You Need To KnowPhoto Credit: Unsplash

The Optimal Size Of Wood Pieces

High-quality firewood depends on the size of each piece and the optimal size for cutting them depends on your appliances and fireplace. The length of the pieces must be at least 3 inches shorter than the depth and width of the firebox. Longer than that will be dangerous and a pain to load. Shorter pieces are much more desirable and easy to manage, even if you have a lot of space. Handling the flames and working on fire maintenance will be easier, allowing you to have longer and comfortable fires. Each piece must be precisely the same length because even a 2-inch difference will ruin the flames and loading the logs will cause a problem. Logs must be cut into 14 to 18-inch pieces depending on your appliances and fireplace.

When it comes to the diameter and width of every piece, having them cut into 3 to 6-inches wide is optimal for a quick and efficient fire. Most companies don’t split the firewood this way, and it may cost you extra if you ask for specific sizes. Wide pieces may smolder longer than usual and smaller pieces will ignite faster, making it very easy to prepare a fire in the winter. However, if you have large stoves or furnaces, having wide pieces will not be a problem, and it will still be effective. It all depends on your appliances, preferences, and the type of fire you want. If you don’t want to pay more for split pieces, then consider cutting them by yourself when you get the firewood sent to your home. 

The Space Needed For Firewood

The space you need for storing your firewood depends on your home, backyard, garage, or shed. It’s natural to feel tempted to order a large order of firewood in bulk for a cheaper price, but sometimes that isn’t the best option. Even if the logs can fit in the space you have, keeping enough room empty when you stack the wood should be a factor to consider. Stacking them too tightly will slow the seasoning process, and it may lead to faster mold infestations. Being realistic with your orders is crucial because the space you have for storage may not be enough for bulk orders. The last thing you need is to pay for wood that will rot by the time winter comes along. Suppliers usually sell firewood by the cord, which is a stack of logs that are approximately 8ft. long, 4ft. deep, and 4ft. high. The shipment will be similar to a 128 cubic feet container. Consider calculating how many cords your home and storage area will take. 

Focus On Local Suppliers

Depending on where you live, focusing on buying from local suppliers is better because it may be illegal in some regions to buy wood from different states or countries. Transporting wood from far areas will cost more, it’s frowned upon, and it may cause pests to spread all over the logs. Lurking insects in wood may spread diseases, and it will be a problem for you later, especially when you handle the issue with pesticides that can ruin the firewood’s quality. Stay safe and smart by finding a reliable local supplier that is close to where you live to minimize any liability issues, pest infestations, and diseases. 

Can I Cut My Own Firewood?

In some areas, you can cut your own firewood if you’re capable of doing it, but you must have the proper permits for it. You will need to contact the nearest national forest district office for more information. If they allow it in your area, you can buy a personal use permit to cut wood safely without any liability issues from the government. The permit price varies in every country, but they usually charge you by the cord which costs around $5. 

Safety Gear And Equipment When Cutting

If you plan to cut pieces of wood, then you will need safety gear and equipment before you start sawing or hacking away. Cutting wood causes a lot of debris and sawdust to randomly fly around, and you must protect your eyes with safety glasses or goggles. A pair of sturdy leather gloves will make the process easier, especially ones with Kevlar lines and anti-vibration features. Always wear a protective helmet to prevent scratches or lacerations. Consider wearing thick chaps and leather boots for extra protection. Earmuffs to cover your ears is a smart investment as well because it protects your ears from flying debris and the loud sounds of a chainsaw.

Good firewood is all about the water content level it has and its density. Many people make the mistake of choosing the wrong type of firewood for their activities, but that can ruin their experience or make them fill up more wood too early. The fact is that when the wood is denser and drier compared to other options, it will produce more heat and burn a lot better. Consider doing some research and shop around to find the most reliable firewood source. You need a trustworthy provider for great deals. Following this guide can help you understand everything there is about firewood to get ready for winter and keep your fires burning efficiently.

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

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