As you procure fuel for you wood-burning fireplace this fall, it’s crucial that you make sure your firewood has been properly seasoned. Properly seasoned firewood — firewood that has been dried to a water content of 20 to 25 percent — allows your fire to burn hotter and more efficiently. And when your fire burns more efficiently, it not only keeps your home warmer with less fuel, it also helps to prevent dangerous creosote from building up rapidly within your chimney flue.
How to properly season firewood
Proper firewood seasoning starts as soon as a tree is cut. Logs should be cut to fit your fireplace, about 3 to 6 inches shorter than your firebox. They should then be split to a width of 3 to 6 inches. Once cut to the proper size, the firewood should be stacked loosely so that air can circulate through the wood pile. It helps to stack wood in a sunny place where the warmth and heat of the sun will help to dry it further. At this stage, the firewood does not need to be covered. Your prepared firewood should be stored in the loosely stacked piles for 6 months to one year, depending on the size and type of the wood.
How to tell if firewood is fully seasoned
You will be able to tell your firewood is adequately dried and ready to burn by examining its color, weight and bark. Seasoned firewood will be grayish in color and will feel light for its size when picked up. The wood will be pulling away from the bark, and it may be cracked in places. If you strike two pieces of wood together, they should make a hollow sound. Once the wood is placed in your fireplace, it should light easily, and the fire should crack and pop pleasantly. If the wood is difficult to light, and if it hisses and smokes heavily when lit, its moisture content is still too high for safe and efficient burning.
How to store your seasoned firewood
Once the firewood has been fully seasoned, it is important to store it properly to keep it dry and ready for your fireplace. Seasoned firewood should be stored off of the ground in a dry place. It should be stored either under a roof or covered with a tarp. Properly storing your seasoned firewood prevents the wood from reabsorbing moisture, molding or rotting.
While properly preparing, seasoning and storing your firewood does take some extra time, it helps you to get more efficient heat from your fireplace, and it helps to keep your home safe from the dangers of creosote, which include chimney fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and foul odors. If you are purchasing your firewood from a supplier, make sure you inquire whether the firewood already has been seasoned, and check the firewood for signs that it is dry and ready for your fireplace.