No matter what species of firewood you choose to burn, using seasoned firewood is always the best choice.
In fact, a lot of people are so concerned about BTU's, ashes and coaling qualities they fail to concentrate on the most important characteristic of any firewood.......making sure it's dry!
Since seasoning a piece of firewood can take 1-2 years it's often overlooked and ignored.
However, burning wet or green firewood is not only frustrating, it's also dangerous.
Have you ever thrown a wet log into the fire and watched moisture bubble out from the ends of the wood as it sizzled and hissed? Or, have you ever tried to start a fire only to find that it just smolders and smokes but never really takes off?
Both of these examples are common with wet firewood. Here's the real problem. The fire uses all of its energy during the combustion process to evaporate the moisture before the wood will burn. The unburnt gasses rise up through your chimney and adhere to the cold chimney walls.
These unburnt gasses stick to the chimney walls forming a dangerous and flammable substance known as creosote. Creosote is the substance responsible for countless chimney fires each year destroying homes throughout the country.
Seasoned firewood is defined as a piece of wood that contains a moisture content of 20 percent or less. This is much different than a live tree that can contain up to 45 percent moisture.
Think of a tree as piece of wood containing bundles of tiny microscopic tubes running from the root system up to the leaves. These tiny tubes transport moisture throughout the tree, kind of like veins and arteries transport blood throughout the human body.
Although a dead standing tree will have less moisture than a live tree, the only way to fully dry out the wood is to cut it, split it and stack it.
When you cut the wood into smaller pieces (usually 16 inches) it allows the moisture to escape from the tiny tubes, reducing the moisture content of the firewood. Splitting the wood into smaller chunks exposes more surface area to the wind and sun drying out the wood even faster.
There are several different ways to identify a piece of dry firewood. While these guidelines are fairly accurate, the only foolproof way to determine moisture content is to use a firewood moisture meter.
Seasoned firewood will be much darker than green wood and can sometimes have a grey color. The ends will have noticeable cracks and splits and the wood will weigh less than a piece of green firewood.
If you bang two pieces of dry firewood together you should hear a distinctive "ping" sound almost as if the wood was hollow. However, if you bang two pieces of green firewood together it makes a "dull thud" sound indicating the wood is still wet.
Seasoned firewood should look old, gray and somewhat ugly like the photo above. If it looks fresh, clean, and bright it's probably wet and needs longer to dry.
In order to dry out a piece of wet firewood you need 3 things.....time, wind and sun. All are free but require some planning on your part.
Stack your firewood off the ground in a spot where the wind can blow throughout the stack drying out the wood. The summer sun works great so consider stacking your wood in a spot that receives plenty of direct sunlight.
Finally, no matter what you do firewood needs at least 6 months to season.....preferably 1-2 years depending on the species and climate. This is often the hardest lesson for any beginner. We've all tried to burn firewood before it was ready and every time the results are the same. Wet firewood does not burn!
Whether you're using hardwoods or softwoods, the wood you burn must be seasoned.
Seasoned firewood burns hotter, burns cleaner, lights easier and is without a doubt the best firewood choice!