No matter if you burn wood in a fireplace, wood stove, or outdoor fire pit; the use of good quality firewood is important. If the firewood is wet and the pieces are not the right size or shape for your situation, burning the wood can be very frustrating. Additionally, the wood won’t burn efficiently and can deposit creosote on the inside of your chimney putting you at risk for a dangerous chimney fire. The bottom line is that you should use good quality seasoned firewood. If you are burning wood outdoors and creosote buildup is not an issue, then burning dry pine, spruce or other conifer woods will not be an issue and this wood is generally much cheaper or even free.
Note: Just because it is a wood based product does not mean it should be burned. Treated lumber for instance should not be burned because the chemicals used to treat the wood are released into the air when burning and are not safe to breath.
When buying firewood, it is important to know what you’re buying –and the quantity of what you are buying — so that you can properly compare prices. The “cord” is the industry standard unit of measurement for firewood. It measures 4 x 4 x 8 feet (128 cubic feet). You can find wood sold in different smaller piles called fractions of a cord. Typically, called ½ cord, or 1/4 cord. The average length of the pieces is generally 18-22”. Shorter pieces for smaller wood stoves and fire places can be cut as well. It is important to buy firewood to suit your needs. Buy the amount that you will use for a single burn season. Most importantly buy firewood that is the right size for your fireplace, stove, or fire pit. Paying a little more for the right length, thickness and dryness many times is way worth the few dollars.
There are many different species of trees used for firewood. Traditionally hardwoods are preferred. Hard hardwoods like oak, hickory, cherry, walnut, ash and sugar maple have a higher energy content and will release more heat when burned. They will also produce a longer lasting fire with good coal beds. Soft hardwoods such as birch, poplar and red maple are not as dense and burn at a much faster rate and will not produce a long-lasting coal bed when they are burned. This doesn’t mean that softer hardwoods are not good just know what you are buying and choose accordingly.
Storing firewood is very important. Proper storage, so that the wood stays dry and has proper air flow is critical. Air must flow around the wood to ensure it stays dry to keep from rotting.
Tips to improve air flow for wood piles:
- Stacking wood directly on the ground is not a good idea. Use ground poles, lumber rails, or pallets to keep the firewood off the ground.
- Rows should not be placed too close restricting air movement.
- A cover can be placed on top of the stack to keep rain off but it is not recommended to cover the sides.
- Storing your wood in an open area allows for air movement and the heat of the sun to help keep your wood dry.
The cost of firewood can fluctuate depending on the type of wood, length of wood, if all short pieces are needed, and amount of purchase. Delivery and stacking fees will also vary based on your location from vendor and time it takes to stack.