Buy Seasoned Firewood

first_imgNothing can make firewood sales go up quite like temperatures goingdown. But University of Georgia scientistssay buying firewood to burn right away can lead to problems if you don’tget seasoned wood.It isn’t always easy to tell if firewood is dry enough to burn well,said Julian Beckwith,an Extension Service wood productsspecialist with the D.B. Warnell Schoolof Forest Resources at UGA.The best indicator, he said, is weight.”When firewood is cut, it holds a lot of water — up to 50 percent ofits weight,” he said. “In fact, one fresh-cut cord of oak firewood cancontain nearly enough water to fill six 55-gallon drums.”In a wood-burning stove or fireplace, that wood has to dry out beforeit will burn, he said. And boiling off the water steals a lot of heat awayfrom the house.”The critical word when buying firewood is ‘seasoned,'” Beckwith said.”Seasoned means the wood has been dried to a level that will allow it toburn easily, and to give up a high proportion of its heat value.”Because of the water in it, unseasoned wood is heavier than dry wood.If you don’t know whether your firewood is seasoned, Beckwith suggestscomparing its weight to seasoned wood of the same type. Use a bathroomscale to weigh a fixed volume, such as a cardboard boxful, of each.There are other signs of wet, fresh-cut wood.”Split a fireplace log and look at the split surfaces,” Beckwith said.”Recently cut wood will have a darker, wet-looking center with lighter,drier-looking wood near the edges or ends that have been exposed sincecutting.”Wet wood will be easier to split than dry wood, too. And when firewoodis very fresh, he said, the bark will be tightly attached. Bark on verydry logs usually can be pulled off easily.Pound for pound, all seasoned firewood produces about the same heat,Beckwith said, although pine may yield slightly more heat per pound becauseof natural resins in the wood.But woods vary greatly in density. Oak and hickory logs weigh more thansweet gum or pine logs of the same size. So it takes more pine or sweetgum logs to produce the same heat as oak or hickory.Beckwith said the gum-like resins in pine wood lead people to thinkpine produces more residue or buildup, called creosote, than hardwood.But it doesn’t. Burning any seasoned wood in full, hot fires will avoidcreosote buildup.”Creosote buildup on fireplace or wood-heater walls, chimneys and fluepipes,” he said, “seems more a result of burning wood at relatively lowtemperatures.”When wood is heated, he said, some of its chemical ingredients are firstchanged to gases and then ignited if the fire is hot enough. At temperaturestoo low for them to burn, though, they become part of the smoke.”If these gases contact a cool-enough surface, they condense back toa liquid or solid there,” he said. “Over time, they form a thick layerof creosote that a hot fire can ignite, causing a dangerous chimney fire.”Filling a wood stove at night and closing the damper to reduce airflowcan keep a fire burning slowly until morning. But it can also help creosoteto form. So can building little fires just to “knock the chill off.””Burning wood that hasn’t been seasoned long enough favors creosotebuildup, too,” Beckwith said, “because evaporating water cools the burningprocess.”last_img

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