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Successful Wood Burning

Well, it’s not like it’s exactly rocket science, is it? You get some wood, cut it to length, split some of it, leave some whole, and burn it. Pretty simple and straightforward.

Well … yes and no. The key to successful wood burning is proper planning for laying in your supply, storing it properly, and seasoning it well. Pieces that are not seasoned right will not burn efficiently, will deposit creosote that can build up and lead to a dangerous fires, and will be all around frustrating to deal with.

I’m not going to get into cord length, fractional cords, or anything like that. If you don’t own a chainsaw and can’t cut your own wood, then ask friends and family for some recommendations for people who sell firewood. Don’t buy over the phone. Go to where the wood is stored and inspect it there.

Take a tape measure with you and make sure the wood will fit your application. Don’t buy wood with a bunch of dirt and mud on it. If possible, have it delivered in the spring so that you can stack and season the wood yourself, and know that it’s properly done.

What’s the best type of wood to burn?

All wood is similar. It’s the moisture content of the wood and the density of the wood that determines how slow or fast it burns. Ideally you want wood that is less than 20% moisture content. Your harder woods are going to burn longer, hotter, and produce more coals. Your softer woods will have a shorter duration of burning and not be quite as hot a fire. However, we don’t have the luxury of choosing the trees that grow in our areas, and the newer efficient wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and furnaces can overcome shortcomings in the wood itself.

You’ll want to make sure that your wood is cut to the right length and diameter for your appliance. Pieces that are too long can be hard to move around, position, or stoke. It’s recommended that your wood be cut 3 inches shorter than the firebox for stoves and furnaces. 14 to 18 inches seems to be the best length.

Use a variety of different size diameter pieces to get your fire burning steadily. Smaller pieces will light quickly, and the larger pieces will burn steadily.

Storing Your Firewood
Your wood is going to need air circulation and sunlight to properly cure. Stacks that are placed too close together, covering up the sides of the firewood, and stacking firewood on the ground will keep your firewood from properly curing. Softer woods that you stack in the spring should be ready by fall, but harder woods may need a year or more to cure out. Drying also takes longer in damp conditions.

So how do you tell if your wood is dry enough? There’s several ways:

• Split a piece. If the wood is moist and damp on the inside, it’s not cured. It’s still too wet to burn.
• Dry wood weighs much less than wet wood,
• The wood changes color, from a white or cream color to a gray or yellow color
• Bang two pieces together –dry pieces have a hollow sound, while the wetter pieces have a more solid thud to them when tapped together.

After your wood has dried you should move it to a dry and sheltered storage area for the winter. Storing your wood inside your house is not recommended. Not only can mold grow on the wood, but it’s the perfect spot for insects and pests to hide.

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