Season your firewood

Shannon Hurst's My Town column.

The world of wood burning used to seem so simple. Build a fire using kindling with paper and then light. However, as one learns more about the art of burning wood for heating ones house, the matter becomes a lot more complicated.

First and foremost, it does not matter what kind of wood you burn as long as it is seasoned. That means that in the case of all hardwoods, they must be dried for at least a year before burning. I have heard many debates over what woods create more creosote and what woods burn longer but the bottom line, properly seasoned wood will produce the most heat the least amount of creosote.

The experts also say that even if the wood has been cut down for at least a year, it also must be split. This was a tad bit shocking as I had believed a nice mix of split wood mixed with a few good rounds made it a longer lasting fire. Yet apparently, this may not be the case.

Now how to tell if your wood is dry unless you buy a moisture meter. They say seasoned wood will look white inside when split and will seem brittle and there should be a lot of cracks on the inner rings and the bark will fall off. Some woods may even require more than a year to dry properly. Softwoods like fir or pine might be dry enough in just a year to burn well but for other woods such as hemlock and fir seems to be the most trouble free recommended wood at of them all. I was surprised to learn that soft woods such as pine are really the best as about 30 years ago they did several tests to discover which kind of wood created the most creosote in an open fireplace and pine and fir came out on top. Their reasoning, softwoods burn hotter and create a more intense fire and  the draft berated by that moves the air faster. The faster the smoke leaves your chimney, the less creosote

Experts also say don’t cover your wood with a tarp as it will prevent evaporation so storing your wood in a shed or a wood crib is best. Now there is another side to all of this as I know several people stock pile wood for years and it is said that after four or five years the wood actually starts to deteriorate even if it is dry and stored properly. If you want to get a head start on wood for future years remember that two to three years is optimal.

Aside from all this technical wood drying, having a properly working and certified stove and chimney is a must. Cleaning out the air ducts in your house is another great practice to get into every few years at least. After having two chimney fires, one which was quite severe, I have come to the conclusion that proper wood, regular cleaning of my chimney and proper maintenance of my stove is a must but it’s also a great idea to get the whole system checked by the pro’s every year.

So this year as the nights are getting colder, don’t take the chance of losing your home or your life when it comes to wood burning and start with the right kind of firewood and a certified and inspected system.

Shannon Hurst is the correspondent for the Three Rivers Report.