Anyone that has used a fireplace with some regularity knows that the type of wood you burn has a major influence on how efficiently the fire can heat your home, and how much smoke you struggle against in the home. Well seasoned firewood helps a fireplace burn cleaner, with reduced creosote buildup, while regularly burning wet firewood can lead to more smoke, odor issues, and even dangerous chimney fires.
The process of seasoning the wood extracts water content from the wood, making it easier to start and more efficient to burn. Freshly cut wood can be up to 45% water, while well seasoned firewood generally has closer to 20% water. The water in the wood must be gone before the wood will start to burn. Anyone who has started a fire with newly cut wood has seen how much longer it takes to get the fire going and how much more smoke is produced. That is because the fire is first trying to burn up the water in the wood.
So how do you season the wood? Cut the wood at least 6 months before you plan to burn it, and store it properly. The sun and wind will help expel the water from the wood and prepare it to burn properly. Splitting the wood when it is cut helps as well, as more surface is exposed to the sun and can dry out.
If you are not cutting your own wood, what should you look for when purchasing wood? Well seasoned wood is fairly light, has darkened edges with visible cracks and makes a loud sound when beat together. Green wood feels much heavier and makes more of a “thud” sound when beat together. Of course much depends on how the wood is stored. Your best guarantee of having efficiently burning wood in the fall is to purchase or cut it yourself in the spring and store it properly.