With winter a few months away, and the extreme cold that comes with it, this might be a good time to start thinking about firewood and how you can best use it around your home. While you can use firewood for cooking and making deliciously smoked or grilled foods, it is in warming up your home that firewood proves to be quite useful in winter.
Yet, it is not as simple as getting any wood you can get your hands on and setting it on fire. There are a lot of angles to consider here and factors that should affect your choice of firewood. Here is how you can get the best firewood.
Cutting vs. Buying
When it comes to firewood, you have two options: you’re either buying it, or you will be cutting it. Both options work, but how you handle each will differ. If you will be cutting your own firewood, then you need a nearby source that is close to where you will be storing it. The source should also be easily accessible by car.
If you’re going to be cutting the wood, you should also have a place to store it, because it does not make sense going through the trouble of chopping a tree down every time you need a few logs. If you have that place, then all you need is to find firewood for your home.
Fortunately, for those who cut their own firewood, you can find inexpensive wood in plenty of places. You can start looking in sawmill yards, forests, and any nearby logging operations. So, if you have space, you should look for easy to acquire and free wood in those places, and chances are, you will find plenty.
Your other option is to purchase your firewood, and we will explore the factors that you should keep in mind if that is what you are doing. You should know, though, that the wood you will be buying will be processed for fireplaces or stoves, so it will cost some money.
Your Storage Space
When you’re buying wood, the first thing that you need to keep in mind is the storage space in which you will be storing it. A lot of people get tempted to buy in bulk to save themselves the trips to the vendor, so they buy enough to last them for a while, but this isn’t always a good idea.
Your storage space needs to have enough room for you to store the firewood with enough space between the logs, which is crucial so you could prevent the rotting and drying of the logs. There should also be some space between your storage area and the house to avoid having pest infestations seeping into your living space, not to mention the increased fire hazard.
This might seem irrelevant, but how you store the firewood you purchase is actually as important as the vendor you buy it from. You can get the best firewood in the market, but if you don’t store it properly, it would be as useless as the cheapest firewood in the market. Wood can easily get damaged and go rotten, so be mindful of how you store it if you want to make the most out of your firewood.
Look for Easy to Split Wood
The varying types of wood have different properties when it comes to splitting, and this is something that you need to take into consideration because it can make your life a lot easier. Some types of wood don’t take much effort to split, while others can be difficult to split and require a lot of effort.
You obviously need to split the wood to fit it in a fireplace or a stove, but that is not the only reason why you need to consider this. Splitting also makes it easier and faster for the wood to dry, which is very important to get the needed heat.
The more difficult types of wood to split come from the gum, elm, and sycamore trees, while oaks, ash, hard maple, and conifers are much easier to split. The first type of trees are difficult to split because they have interlocking grain, so it takes a lot of effort for you to be able to split this kind of wood. Something else to remember about the splitting abilities of wood, always go for greenwood, because this is the easiest to split compared to dry wood. Softwoods also split easier than hardwoods, so that’s something else to keep in mind.
What Works Best for Your Fire
Not all fires are created equally, which means you won’t use the same type of firewood all the time. If you will be burning wood indoors in a fireplace or a wood stove, you will need woods that are denser like oak or maple. On the other hand, if you are burning wood outdoors in a pit, it doesn’t matter what kind of wood you use.
As you can see on Buyfirewooddirect.co.uk, you have a lot of options for firewood that you can buy online. You could use softer woods inside like poplar because it burns faster, or ash, which doesn’t burn as well as oak and maple due to its smaller density, but is still quite efficient and useful.
You should avoid resinous woods like pine or spruce when you are using firewood indoors because those can cause a chimney fire due to the formation of creosote. If you are getting woods for making food, though, then it is a whole other ballgame because different woods give unique flavors to the food. Maple and fruitwoods are quite popular types of firewood used in cooking because they give the food quite a pleasant and noticeable flavor.
Generally speaking, whether for cooking or heating, avoid pressure-treated and painted woods like plywood since those give off harmful gases when burned, so never use those.
Understanding How Wood Burns
Without getting too technical, it will be quite helpful when you’re picking firewood if you understood how it burns in the first place. Depending on the type of wood you’re using, you get a usable amount of heat, which varies from one species to the other. Wood, in general, burns over three stages, and the quality of the heat coming from the firewood depends on how the wood goes through those stages.
The first stage of burning entails the wood heating up and the moisture escaping its cells as it dries off. When the wood starts to lose moisture within its cells, it slowly turns to charcoal –– and charcoal companies stop the burning process and package their products.
During the wood’s chemical transformation to coal, volatile gases and liquids are emitted, which are then burned during the second stage where the fire almost eliminates these volatile elements completely. This second stage is where the wood loses much of its fuel energy.
Then comes the third stage, where the charcoal burns further and slowly produce the embers that glow and are visibly red. This phase –– called coaling –– is where heat is radiated from the burning wood. Generally speaking, different types of wood burn differently and give off heat energy in their own ways across all three stages.
So, how do you know a high-quality type of firewood? Top-quality firewood needs to be dry, and it should emit minimal smoke when it burns in the second stage. Good firewood also spends a lot of time burning in the third phase, thus providing you with the heat energy that you need –– wood that loses its heating potency after a few minutes in the fire is not a good kind and you should stay away from these types.
As we explained, different woods emit different heat energy, and this is a comparison point that you should think about when you are on the hunt for the best firewood in the market. The classification of the heat energy coming off firewood is done according to the amount of heat energy created per cord of wood. The best firewood will offer you equivalent heat energy of 200 to 250 gallons of oil fuel.
The types of wood giving off that kind of energy include maple, white ash, white oak, and birch. A lower category offers the equivalent of 150 to 200 gallons of fuel, and this category of firewood includes cherry, elm, and tamarack. The lowest category offering heat energy produces an equivalent heat to 100 to 150 gallons of fuel oil, and this includes hemlock, pine, redwood, spruce, and alder.
We mentioned earlier the importance of choosing greenwood if you are going to split it, but that is not the kind of wood that you should be burning. Green means recently harvested wood, and this is usually pretty heavy because it still has much of its moisture content, which means it is not easy to burn this wood.
This is why it is important to let the wood season (dry out) if you plan on buying it green. Greenwood should be left to season for 9 months before you burn it, depending on the humidity where you live.
Ask About the Wood
When you are looking for the best firewood to purchase, you will come across a variety of vendors, and you need to ask them all the questions you have in mind since it is not just the quality of the wood that will be the deciding factor in your choice. Does it come split, or do you have to split it?
This is an example of the kind of things you need to know from the seller; most do provide services to split the logs for you if the wood is not split. Then inquire about the available sizes so you could understand whether or not they would fit into your fireplace or stove. Does the seller deliver, and if so, how much does it cost?
Do they stack the wood in the storage space you have allocated or will they just deliver it to your doorstep and leave it up to you to decide?
Last but not least, you need to ask about the price. As we said, you will find a lot of vendors, and you most likely need to find the one that would cost you the least without jeopardizing the quality. These are all factors that you should take into consideration while looking for the best firewood to keep you warm in winter because the quality does not just apply to the firewood itself, but also the vendor service and the options that come with the deal.
When you’re at a vendor’s and looking for firewood to get, don’t pick from the top of the pile. Avoid the newest wood added and dig a bit deeper until you find the oldest wood you can find. You should also keep an eye out for wood with cracked ends or with the bark missing because this is an indicator that the wood is dry –– the bark needs moisture to stick to the wood.
In the same vein, you should also select light wood, because this also means the wood is dry and not weighed down by moisture. One last pro tip: bang a couple of logs together, if they sound hollow, this is a good sign that the firewood is of good quality.
This is not as complicated as it may seem, but it will take you some time until you understand how you can spot good firewood and how to separate it from the bad quality options. Once you find a seller that can provide you with that high quality and offers a lot of complementary services, strike a deal with them and build a relationship because you will most likely be dealing with them quite often.
There are quite a few untrustworthy dealers out there, so be mindful of the points we have mentioned so far while shopping for firewood.