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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I visibly tell if the wood is ready to be burned and not green?
There are a few things you can look for to see if the wood you intend to purchase is seasoned or not. Well seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with cracks or splits visible, it is relatively lightweight, and makes a clear "clunk" when two pieces are beat together. Green wood on the other hand is very heavy, the ends look fresher, and it tends to make a dull "thud" when struck. These clues can fool you however, and by far the best way to be sure you have good wood when you need it is to buy your wood the spring before you intend to burn it and store it properly.

How can I keep my chimney working well?
The chimney is very important to an efficient burning heat source in your home. For more information on optimal chimney operation go to our Chimney page.

How do I keep smoke out of my house?
A smoke filled house is not only unsafe but the smell will stay in the furniture and carpeting for a time. Smokey fireplaces are symptomatic of several potential problems.

How long should "green" wood sit before it's ready to be burned?
The sap in seasoned wood has dried up. Unseasoned, or green wood, won't burn well (if at all) because it is too wet. If the wood is extremely heavy and has sap oozing out of it, it's too early to burn. Wood takes from six months to a year to season; most wood being sold now was cut last spring. To tell whether wood is seasoned, knock two logs together. Well-seasoned logs make a sharp ringing sound. Well-seasoned logs will be cracked on the ends, not be reddish or golden in color and not have a woody smell.

How should I store my firewood?
Finally, a two-three day wood supply should be kept indoors. Wood brought in from outdoors in winter and burned immediately will cool the fire too much and prevent proper combustion.

Is it better to burn hard or soft wood?
Another thought concerning getting what you pay for is that although firewood is usually sold by volume, heat production is dependent on weight. Pound for pound, all wood has approximately the same BTU content, but a cord of seasoned hardwood weighs about twice as much as the same volume of softwood, and consequently contains almost twice as much potential heat. If the wood you are buying is not all hardwood, consider offering a little less in payment.

Should I split unsplit wood?
Unsplit logs don't burn as well. You can split them yourself, but remember they need to dry before they'll burn efficiently.

What about bugs in the wood, how should I store it?
Proper firewood storage protects the wood as well as your house from termites, ants and other pests. Store firewood at least 10 feet from the house to keep insects away. Keep logs at least 6 inches off the ground to avoid infestation. If logs are split, store wood with the bark side up to help shed rain.

What are the key factors to consider with firewood?
The quality of firewood that you burn will greatly affect the efficiency of your system. The main factors you should be concerned with are moisture content, tree species and piece size.

Burning wood that is wet will result in a loss of energy output because the energy being consumed is primarily used for boiling and evaporating the water present in the wood. Properly seasoned wood burns easily and efficiently. Cut and split wood in early spring, stack under cover for burning in the fall. Consult your firewood dealer for more tips and questions.

What is the best way to build a fire in a fireplace?

Gathering around a cheerful blaze and staring into it’s fiery depths--that’s something that people from all walks of life can appreciate. It calls one back to an earlier time, when early humans huddled around fires for warmth and protection from animal predators. One can feel some of the same effects of security today relaxing by the warmth of a fire in the fireplace. Although there are some differences between making a fire in a traditional fireplace and a wood burning stove, this set of instructions is for a traditional fireplace, and will add notes for wood burning stoves as needed.

A fire constructed with perfect form and bone-dry materials will still fizzle out if you don’t understand the role of the flue. The flue is the channel inside the chimney or stovepipe that circulates air and creates a draft, thus feeding the necessary oxygen to the fire.

The flue is kind of a valve or doorway that opens or shuts off the air flow though the chimney, known as the damper. A handle opens and closes it, and that’s usually located in the fireplace near the bottom of the chimney. For wood stoves, there’s usually a handle located on the side of the stove, towards the top and at the back. Take a flashlight and familiarize yourself with the operation of your damper-- and the position of it’s handle or chain when it’s closed or open. This will prevent the unnecessary smoke-outs and beeping smoke detectors that inevitable follow careless damper operation. Once you know the operation of your flue and damper, it’s time to build a fire.

There are three steps to building a fire and certain materials that you need. The three steps are preparing the materials, setting up the fire (building a fire), and lighting and maintaining the fire. The necessities for building a successful fire are 4 to 7 sheets of newspaper, two to three handfuls of dry kindling about an inch thick and 12-18 inches long, 4 to 5 logs of firewood that have been split and seasoned, long wooden matches or a butane lighter, and a fireplace screen. Place the sheets of newspaper in the center of your fireplace grate. Place the kindling on top of and around the newspaper, leaving enough room for the newspaper to receive oxygen.

Then place two of the big logs on either side of the newspaper and kindling structure. Then just use your matches to light the newspaper and the kindling should start right up. Keep and eye on it to make sure it doesn’t go out and make sure that the big logs start burning. When that happens just relax and enjoy your blaze.

What type of wood should I burn in my fireplace?
Osage orange wood is the most dense and hardest, and thus burns the longest, but the burning of internal resin in the wood will cause spitting and popping of embers. Other top-burning hardwoods are oak, hard maple, ash, walnut, locust (honey or black), apple, cherry, peach and plum. Mixed hardwoods burn longer and cleaner with less creosote buildup in the chimney than softer woods such as willow, poplar, pine and cedar. Most dealers don't sell softwoods and recommend mixed hardwoods. Willow won't produce heat, even if you burned an entire tree in a weekend.

What's a Cord?
It is the legally defined measurement for firewood. In some states, wood must be advertised and sold by the cord or fractions of a cord. A cord must equal 128 cubic feet of wood. To measure wood, stack it in a row with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other. Stacks should be 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep and 4 feet high, or 16 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 4 feet high. If you're a weekend firemaker, a third of a cord of wood should be sufficient for a season. If you heat your home with wood, buy a cord. If stacked properly, about a third of a cord fits in the back of a pickup. Ask for logs 16 inches to 22 inches long. If logs are longer, they may not fit inside the fireplace opening.

What's the difference between burning hardwood and softwood?
Wood varies in hardness. While both hard and soft wood can be used for burning in your fuel system, there is a difference between the two types of wood. Generally hard wood will create hotter smoldering coals and will burn for longer periods of time. Soft wood can be used for short hot fires. Use hardwood for longer burns. Below is a list of wood from hardest to softest:

Why not just cut the wood myself?
Do it yourself. It's nice in the mind's eye to envision cutting your own. It's downright romantic. But there are several factors to consider. Is there a place you can cut it? Do you have a chainsaw? Do you have a way to transport the wood? If you have answered even a single "no," you would be better off just buying precut wood.