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You would think that logs cut from a tree are all about the same, but that isn’t the case. Each wood species has its own properties and attributes, and it important that you know a little about the differences when choosing firewood for the use a wood fireplace, insert or heating stove.
Here are some tips to ensure that you are choosing firewood that is ready to burn and perform when winter arrives.
Certain trees produce wood that is hard and dense. These include hickory, walnut, oak, balsa, willow, maple and others. Softer wood comes from trees such as pine, redwood, juniper and spruce.
Hardwoods are usually the best choice for supplemental heating in your home as they burn cleaner (less smoke and resin) and hotter for longer periods of time. Hickory is one of the most popular hardwood choices.
Seasoned wood is dry; unseasoned wood still contains a lot of its original moisture. If you’ve ever burned “wet” wood, you noticed the huge amount of smoke it produced, and probably found it difficult to keep the fire burning.
If you cut or buy unseasoned wood, a good rule of thumb is to allow six months for it to dry so that it retains no more than 20% of its moisture. Because of its excess smoke, a serious problem with unseasoned wood is the large amounts of flammable creosote it adds to your chimney flue.
A good way to check the moisture level in your logs is to split one of them. You’ll be able to feel and see dampness on the inner surfaces. You also can bang two logs together: dry wood will produce a hollow sound; wet wood will make a dull thud.
A 4X4X8 cord of wood is enough for the winter for most homes that have fireplaces and stoves. This is a good starting point, and if you find you’re using a lot more than a cord each year, you can buy smaller amounts to supplement. After a “typical” year, you should know pretty close to the exact amount of firewood you’ll need for the cold months.
About 20 inches in length and six inches in diameter is a good size for firewood logs. Before buying (or cutting your own), measure the width of your firebox. Logs should be about four to six inches narrower than that measurement.
Wood will dry better in warmer temperatures, so off-season storage should be outside with the stack a few inches off the ground and a tarp covering it to protect against rain. During the winter, wood should be stored beneath a secure covering (awning or overhang, for example) or inside a shed or other storage unit.
During the summer, keep the wood stack a foot or so away from the walls of your house to prevent termites and other insects from jumping off the wood and onto your walls.
Following these tips should make your winter fires a whole lot more convenient, productive and enjoyable.
A1 Chimney Specialist of Winchester, TN, and Huntsville, AL, is on call year-round to help with other fireplace and chimney concerns including chimney sweeping, chimney and fireplace repair, certified chimney inspections and professional installation of fireplaces, stoves and inserts.
Call (931) 967-3595 in the Winchester region or (256) 285-4895 in and around Huntsville.