I thought I’d share some of the scintillating facts I’ve picked up about firewood since we started heating with a wood stove. I say that intending a bit of sarcasm, but the truth is I really do find this stuff way too interesting. Here we go:
1. While every old-timer has his or her list, in descending order, of the best woods for burning, the bottom line is that it’s all about the seasoning (drying). In other words, the species of tree is far less important than whether or not your firewood was felled, bucked (cut into log lengths), split, and allowed to dry for a whole year or more before you burn it. This even applies to (insert appalled intake of breath here) softwoods!
2. Creosote buildup is most likely to occur when wood is burned at low temperatures (trying to burn green wood) than due to the type of wood being burned. A hot flue is a cleaner flue. Of course, regardless, keep your chimney/flue clean and inspected regularly.
3. When buying firewood, do your due diligence. Don’t just ask if the wood is seasoned. Go to look at the wood in situ if possible. It’s hard to turn away a truckload of wood sitting in your driveway. What to look for:
- wood that is graying on all faces, not just the cut ends (they might have bucked it a year ago but only recently split it–not as good–large logs must be split to dry well). You want a dull pile of wood, not a bright, shiny one.
- wood that is relatively light in weight for its size (the opposite of how you select a good sweet potato, by the way)
- the wood has little cracks in the ends from the drying process
- no fresh-cut smell
- bark may be beginning to loosen in some types of wood
- not beginning to rot–that’s seasoning gone too far under the wrong conditions
4. When buying firewood, make sure that what you are calling a cord is what the seller is calling a cord. Here is a good discussion of the controversy and a good explanation of what a cord really is.
5. Finally, have a covered place to store your firewood away from rain and away from direct ground contact. Don’t store wood right next to your foundation if you have termites in your area. (And if you don’t have termites in your area tell me where you live so I can move there).