Seasoned Wood Characteristics:

  • Seasoned wood is wood that has been cut and split and air dried for approximately 6 months.
  • This wood will usually has many cracks or check marks in the ends of the logs.
  • The bark can be lose or easily removed from the log.
  • The wood may be starting to turn gray
  • Burns very easily in your stove or fireplace
  • The best way to know is to buy or cut your wood the season before you need it.

Buying Firewood

Firewood is generally sold by volume, the most common measure being the cord. Other terms often employed are face cord, rick, or often just a truckload. A standard cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet of wood, generally measured as a pile 8 feet long by 4 feet tall by 4 feet deep. A face cord is also 8 feet long by 4 feet tall, but it is only as deep as the wood is cut, so a face cord of 16″ wood actually is only 1/3 of a cord, 24″ wood yields 1/2 of a cord, and so on.

Webster defines a rick simply as a pile, and truck sizes obviously vary tremendously, so it is very important that you get all of this straight with the seller before agreeing on a price; there is much room for misunderstanding. It is best to have your wood storage area set up in standard 4 or 8 foot increments, pay the wood seller the extra few dollars often charged to stack the wood, and warn him before he arrives that you will cheerfully pay only when the wood actually measures up to an agreed upon amount.

Seasoned Firewood bundled up with tree branches in background
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.

Most firewood you purchase will be green and have a fair amount of water in it. When selecting wood, also take into consideration ease of splitting, ease of ignition and burning, how much smoke it produces and its “coaling” qualities. “Coaling” refers to the ability of a species of wood to form a long- lasting bed of hot coals when burned. Coaling qualities improve with higher density.

Green wood contains up to 50 percent of its weight in water. The first stage of combustion involves bringing this mass of water up to its vaporization point. The energy expended in doing this does not heat your home. And, while steam heat has its place, that place is definitely not in your woodstove. Worse yet, green wood gives off far more creosote than seasoned fuel, which further robs a stove and chimney of efficiency. On top of that, creosote produces the hazard of chimney fires, which have laid many a home to ash. Therefore, by cutting firewood a full year or more in advance, you theoretically could halve the amount of wood required to heat your home. Buying or cutting two years’ worth of fuel may take some up front money and discipline, but it’ s an investment that pays for itself quickly in dollars, effort, and safety

A growing awareness of the environmental impact of fossil fuels (such as natural gas, oil and coal) along with the desire to be more energy independent have encouraged a renewed interest in heating with wood. Not too long ago, even the best wood stoves weren’t terribly efficient. In fact, the haze they produced was a sign that homeowners’ hard earned heating money was literally going up in smoke. A lot has changed since 1990. That was when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated strict particle emissions standards for stove manufacturers. Today, all new wood stoves are EPA-certified. And that means they are much more efficient, and friendlier to the environment as well. But doesn’t burning wood produce pollutants just like coal or oil? Well, the answer is yes…and no. When fossil fuels are taken out of the earth and burned, they produce an overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And since these fuels are produced far from where they will ultimately be consumed, mishaps such as oil spills cause other problems. Once burned, fossil fuels are gone forever. Wood is different. As all plants grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to fiber. The carbon dioxide is released after they die, whether they are burned, or simply left to rot in the forest. This process is part of nature’s cycle. Heating with wood can be both satisfying and economical. But it requires special care right from the beginning.


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