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Ideally, the best time to buy your firewood is in the spring or summer. However, if you are just now thinking about making your firewood purchase with winter coming, it’s important to make sure you know how to select and store your firewood.

There are many problems that can occur from burning the wrong kind of firewood; sparks, smoking problems, odor problems, creosote buildup, chimney fires, and toxic emissions just to name a few. Use this guide to help you select the right firewood.

Make Sure Your Wood is Dry
Remember, the drier the better when selecting your firewood. Wood is composed of small tubes full of water that deliver the water from the roots to the branches of the tree. Even dried wood will contain some water. However, freshly cut firewood can contain up to 45% water, while seasoned firewood will generally have 20-25% water content. Confirming your firewood is well-seasoned Is the first thing to consider when selecting your firewood.

Well-seasoned firewood will be easier to start, produce more heat and burn cleaner.

Wood should be cut at least six months before burning. If you store it outside and make sure it is properly stacked, the wind and sun will season your firewood for you.  

Burning green wood will use up a tremendous amount of the energy produced to just keep the wood burning. This will result in less heat delivered to your home. The smoke and fumes from green wood contains much more pollutants and can deposit highly-acidic water in your chimney system.

Selecting Your Firewood
When buying your firewood, make certain the area where the firewood is stored is in a dry, well-ventilated area. Checking to make sure your wood is well-seasoned will ensure that the wood you purchase is ready for winter.

  • Well-seasoned wood will be dark to gray colored, which indicates it is older and drier.
  • The ends of well-seasoned wood will be cracked or have visible splits.
  • Pieces of wood with bark missing or pulling off is a sign of dryness since bark needs moisture to adhere to the wood.
  • Take a few pieces of wood and bang them together, they should sound hollow and should be lightweight. Green wood, on the other hand, is much heavier.  The ends will look more freshly-cut, and green wood will generally make a dull “thud” when struck.  

These tips aren’t foolproof, however. The best way to ensure that you have well-seasoned dry wood when you are ready to use it, is to buy your wood at least 6 months to a year ahead of when you will need it and store it properly. Keep this in mind for next year, and then you will be sure to always have well-seasoned wood on hand when the cool weather moves in.

Another way to verify your firewood is dry enough is to use a moisture meter.  (If you don’t have a quality moisture meter, we recommend them and we sell them in our showroom.)

The type of firewood you select will depend on what kind of fire you are wanting. Do you want a soft crackling fire, or do you need a fire to provide heat and warmth?

A Crackling Fire
There is always something special with a fire that is full of crackle and pop. Fir is a softwood that is perfect for this kind of fire. It dries quickly and will make for a beautiful crackling fire, and it gives off a nice fresh aroma that is perfect for the holidays. You will want to make sure that there is a protective screen or glass door over the fireplace since the crackling can throw a spark if not properly contained.

Pine can also provide a nice crackling fire. However, the scent can be too much indoors, and burning pine can potentially cause more buildup in your chimney, requiring more frequent cleanings.    

Varieties of softwood good for burning:

  • Douglas Fir
  • Cedar (any kind)
  • White Spruce
  • Yellow Pine
Hot Fire

A Hot Fire
Hardwoods are dense and will give off more heat and burn more slowly than a softwood. It can be more difficult to get a fire started with hardwood though. Softwood kindling can help you get your fire started, then you can add the hardwood to keep the fire burning.

Dense firewood will burn better than a softer wood. Nut-bearing trees tend to burn cleaner longer. Oak and hickory are great choices, and pine and aspen are not such great options.

Although firewood is usually sold by volume, heat production is depended on weight. Pound for pound, all wood has approximately the same BTU content, but a cord of seasoned hardwood weighs about twice as much as the same volume of softwoo and consequently contains almost twice as much potential heat. If the wood you are buying is not all hardwood, consider offering a little less in payment.

Varieties of hardwoods good for burning:

  • Almond
  • Apple
  • Ash
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Dogwood
  • Hard Maple
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Red Oak
  • White Oak

Storing Firewood
Once you’ve invested the time to choose the right firewood, don’t ruin it with bad storage. The best place to store wood is in a woodshed. A woodshed will have a roof, but open or loose sides to allow for air circulation. If your wood is kept outside, a sunny location is the next best option. Make sure that during rainy weather or snow it is covered. Keeping the wood exposed to constant rain or snow can absorb large amounts of water, undoing all of the time spent drying and making it unfit to burn. When the weather’s nice, uncover the wood to allow for air movement to prevent moisture from building up under the tarp. Make sure that the wood is stacked properly and raised off of the ground. Woodpiles can attract termites, so keep that in mind when choosing your storage location. It is best to only keep a week’s supply of wood near the house, and the rest further away from your home.

Firewood should be stacked in a crisscross pattern and then laid lengthwise across each other. This creates a well-ventilated wood pile that you can easily pull from during the winter.

Now that you know what to burn in your fireplace, make sure that you have your chimney cleaned and inspected by one of our Certified Technicians prior to using your fireplace this winter.

Give us a call at (316) 265-9828 to schedule your appointment now and be ready for the upcoming winter!

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