Firewood Odor

Firewood odor can depend on several different factors.  

The type of firewood you're burning, the moisture content of the wood and whether or not the firewood is moldy will all change the way your woodpile smells.

Thomas, a visitor to our website, had this question regarding some firewood he recently purchased that had a distinct smell.....

"Does rotten wood have an odor like old perfume?

The wood I bought is not burning. It's making a hissing sound and does not burn very long. Is this wood bad?"

I have a few thoughts regarding your concerns.  

First, the smell you describe is probably related to the species of wood you purchased and doesn't necessary mean the firewood is rotten.

Sometimes rotten firewood will stink, but it usually has a musty smell similar to a damp basement.  The smell is related to the mold spores growing on the wood.  Plus, rotten wood will be spongy and it generally has sections that crumble apart when you move or stack the wood.

From your experience so far with the wood, I believe you have a load of oak firewood that's not fully seasoned.

Why The Wood Smells And Won't Burn

Oak firewood has a very distinct odor.  I've always thought the wood has a sweet smell similar to the old perfume you described, however, many people say the smell is similar to vinegar, urine or even pickles.

I've always noticed the distinct smell is stronger when the wood is still wet.  Usually, the smell decreases a little as the wood dries.  Also, oak firewood takes at lease one full year to season......usually two years.

Oak is a great firewood choice, however, it does take longer to season than a lot of other species.  For best results oak really needs two full years to completely dry out.  If not, the wood will sizzle, hiss and it will not burn very long just as Thomas describes.

I commonly use oak to cook with over a campfire.  The wood produces nice coals which work great for a campfire meal.  I know from experience wet oak simply won't burn.  Even though the wood may appear dry, a lot of times it's not.  It's a frustrating experience to say the least.  

Firewood Odor - What Can Be Done?

To solve the issue you have a couple options.  First, you could contact the supplier and maybe they will exchange the wood or refund your purchase. Depending on the quantity of firewood that needs to be moved and the hauling distance, this may or may not be a reasonable option.

The second option is to season the firewood for another year and burn it next year.  Stack the firewood off the ground and let it dry out over the summer when the warm sun and summer winds will reduce the moisture content of the wood.

Although this does not help solve the problem now, you can still use the wood next year and it will burn a lot better.


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