Deciding What Wood to Burn

Now that you have had your repairs made and a new wood burning insert or stove installed, its time to think about picking the right fuel. We get asked a lot by customers what kind of wood is best to burn and honestly, it is not so much about the type of wood as it is the moisture in the wood. With good planning, thoughtful storage and knowledgeable buying, you can have a cost effective burning season.

All wood is chemically the same, regardless of type or species. It is density and moisture that determines its behavior and its value as firewood.  Dense wood has a higher energy content and release more heat. Dense wood (like hickory or red oak) also produces longer lasting fires and hotter coals. Soft woods (like elm or soft maple) burn faster and do not produce a long-lasting coal bed when burned.  Keep in mind – a hot fire releases little smoke and requires less fuel.

You should be storing all firewood outside, with the top covered and sides open to air. Wood should be sheltered from the weather but allowing air to circulate. It should also be kept several inches off the ground. Store only a small amount of wood inside your home.

 

Firewood Rating

Based on BTU’s per cord in order from high to low:

Hickory, beech, hard maple, red oak, yellow birch, yellow pine, white ash, white oak, soft maple, black cherry, white birch, sweetgum, elm, yellow poplar, spruce, pine, fir, basswood.

 

Never Burn In Your Fireplace

  • Plastics
  • Magazines or newpapers
  • Gift wrap
  • Rags or fabric made of synthetic materials
  • Household garbage
  • Plywood, construction materials or other treated woods

 

Tips on Buying

  • Ask your friends and neighbors for a recommendation on who they buy from.
  • A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet. Stacked that equals 4 feet tall x 4 feet wide x 8 feet long.
  • You can test whether the wood is fully seasoned by hitting two pieces together. Unseasoned wood sounds like a dull ‘thud’, while dry wood sounds hallow.
  • Always confirm that the wood that you purchase has less than 20% moisture. Otherwise you will be drying it for several months before you can burn it.
  • Don’t order wood over the phone. Inspect the wood in person. If its not stacked, you can’t tell if you are really purchasing a full cord at the cord price.
  • Make sure pieces are split small enough for use. You are paying for a service and you don’t want to have to resplit any logs.
  • If possible, purchase your firewood in the spring. Prices tend to be lower at that time of the year.
  • Stack your firewood yourself so you can control the seasoning process.
  • Try adding some fruitwood to the fire. It adds a pleasant aroma. Try apple, cherry, beech or pecan.

 

Consider Sustainable Harvesting Methods

When ever possible, get your firewood from someone who uses good forest management practices. Many hardwoods are rare and protected or difficult to come by in certain areas. To support sustainable forestry practices, use wood from a blend of species.

Wondering about artificial logs?

Yes, they are convenient but we recommend only burning one log at a time. They are good for when you want a quick fire for the ambiance but they are not recommended for heating and should only be burned in an open-hearth fireplace. Unlike pellets that are made of sawdust and bound together by the natural cellulose in the wood, artificial logs are often bound together by bitumen oil. We recommend that when you burn artificial logs, once lit, you leave it alone. Don’t poke at it or try moving it around at all.

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