As the seasons of shorter days and cooler nights approach, homeowners are making necessary preparations for heating their homes. If you’ve not already cut or bought and stored your firewood, chances are you’re looking for the most efficient and inexpensive options available for your wood burning fireplace. What is the best wood to use? Where should your firewood be stored? To help you begin to stock up for winter, here are a few tips on choosing and storing firewood.
Which woods are optimal for burning?
If you’re burning wood in your fireplace, you likely are aware of the dangers of creosote buildup. Creosote is a sticky, smelly substance that collects in your chimney, and it is extremely flammable. If left uncleaned, a buildup of creosote can cause chimney fires. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that an average of 24,300 chimney fires occur each year due to fireplaces.
To avoid the buildup of creosote, buy and burn wood which has been dried to 15 to 20 percent water. Generally speaking, the more moisture firewood contains, the less efficiently it will burn. That means that in addition to creating creosote buildup, wet or green wood will not burn as hot as dry wood and may cause smoky conditions in your home.
In addition to wet or green wood, sap woods will contribute more to a smoky burning atmosphere and dangerous creosote buildup. Avoid sticky sap woods such as cedar, firs and some pine. In the case of an emergency, these woods, if well seasoned, can be used, but take care to have a certified chimney sweep inspect your chimney for possible hazards which may have accumulated as a result of this emergency burning.
Finally, avoid burning any kind of treated wood. Scrap lumber and other treated woods, if burned, can not only cause creosote buildup but also can emit extremely toxic fumes.
Ideally, your firewood will be well seasoned and a hard wood such as ash, beech, or yew. When properly seasoned, these woods will burn very efficiently and slowly, with a high output of heat and minimal pollutants emitted. Whether you purchase or split your own firewood, ensure that the length of the wood is at least three inches shorter than your firebox. Try to burn a variety of sizes of wood, but do not burn any log more than 8 inches in diameter.
How should I store my firewood?
Many households choose to stack enough firewood to last a season. If you do stack your firewood, be sure that it is in a dry place. Stack your firewood on racks, so that it will not come into contact with the wet earth; bugs and mold love a wet log. Firewood storing racks are available commercially, and are an excellent way to keep your wood dry and ready for use.
If possible, an ideal place for your firewood supply is on a covered porch or even in your garage, if you don’t anticipate rodents being an issue. But if these are not available options, you may choose to lay a protective tarp over your outdoor wood pile. Be sure to only cover the top of your pile, leaving the sides open for ventilation. Occasionally air out your wood pile on sunny days to prevent the growth of fungus, mold and mildew.
Once your fireplace is cleaned and inspected, you’re ready to burn your supply of firewood. Choosing the proper woods and storing them correctly will ensure relaxing, efficient and safe fires that will keep your family warm all winter.