When purchasing firewood there are several different ways to determine whether or not it is in fact “seasoned”.
The first indication the wood is seasoned is the color. Generally, seasoned firewood has darkened ends and will have visible cracks or splits.
Seasoned wood is relatively lightweight.
When two pieces of seasoned wood are beat together, it will make a “clunk” noise. Green wood on the other hand is much heavier, looks fresher and will “thud” when beat together.
Even though your wood looks dark, is some what light in weight and sounds good, these can be deceiving clues. The number one way to know your wood is seasoned and ready to burn safely is by purchasing your wood in the spring before you intend on burning it. However, this wood must now be stored properly.
Storing your firewood
Incorrect storage can ruin even the most seasoned firewood. Constant exposure to the elements will cause the wood to absorb large amounts of water. This will cause the wood to rot and become unusable. If possible the wood should be stored off the ground and protected from excessive exposure to the elements.
The best form of storage for your firewood is a wood shed. The shed will have a roof but need to be open or have loose sides to allow air circulation. The circulation of air is needed to promote drying.
The next best form of storage would be in a sunny area of your property. If this is your only option, be sure the wood is covered on inclement days with a tarp and removed again on fair weather days. This will allow air circulation and will avoid trapping ground moisture under the tarp.
Keep in mind that your wood pile is heaven to bugs and termites. Be sure to keep only a week or less supply of wood near your home for easy reach.
Even the greenest wood can be turned into the best firewood with the proper storage. In a year or less your wood pile is ready for use and will be good for 3 or 4 years if necessary.
How to determine how much wood you are actually getting.
Firewood in generally sold in volume. The most common term of firewood measurement is cord. The standard cord of wood is 128 cubic feet. When stacked this will measure up to 8 feet long X 4 feet tall X 4 feet deep.
Another common term is face cord. Based on a piece of wood being cut in a 24” length, a face cord is only about ½ the size of a cord measuring 8 feet long X 4 feet tall X 2 feet. Another form of wood measurement is a rick. A rick is defined simply as a truckload. Because truck sizes obviously vary considerably, it is extremely important that you inquire about the truck size prior to agreeing on a price. For best results, you should have your storage area set up in 4 or 8 foot increments. Have the wood seller stack the wood prior to being paid. This will ensure you that you are in fact getting the amount of wood you are paying for. For the few extra dollars you will be required to pay for the service of stacking the wood will be worth it in the end.
The last thought on getting your monies worth is whether or not you are receiving all hardwood in your delivery. As we have discussed, wood is sold in volume, however, heat production is dependent on weight. Pound for pound all wood has just about the same BTU content but a cord of seasoned hardwood will weight about twice as much as a cord of softwood. Therefore, a cord of hardwood contains almost twice as much heat potential as the softwood. So remember, a load of hard and soft wood mixed should not cost the same as a load of all hardwood.
Some quick tips for homeowners
If the “seasoned” firewood you purchased is in fact green and you choose to burn it anyway, be sure to maintain your chimney more often than usual. Burning of green wood may cause creosote to build up much more quickly.
It is not necessary to burn only premium hardwoods. Woods like elm and soft maple which are less dense make for good firewood also. Keep in mind though that more trips to the woodpile will be necessary if burning these species of wood.
If your woodpile is made up of a variety of wood species it is important to manage your fuel. During the colder months burn the more dense woods and save the lighter wood for kindling fires and during the spring or early fall when not as much heat is required.
With their obvious convenience, the burning of artificial logs is becoming more common. It is okay to burn these artificial logs but keep a few tips in mind. Burn them one at a time and it is best to burn them in an open fireplace only. Once the artificial log is burning be exceptionally careful when poking or moving them around. These logs will easily break up which may cause your fire to burn out of control. Be sure to read all manufacturer instructions before igniting an artificial log.
When burning wood the risk of creosote build up is much higher than that of other solid fuels. Look into reling your existng masonry chimney with a flexible stainless steel chimney liner. It is recommended when burning wood to use a smooth wall flexible stainless steel liner. Unlike the corrugated inner lining of the single wall pipe, the smooth wall flexible liner allows for ease in cleaning and has no corrugations for creosote to build up in.