Your Complete Guide to Firewood

Stack of wood

Keeping nice and toasty is always more pleasant snuggled up by the glow of a warm fire. Whether you have a fireplace, woodburning stove or an outdoor firepit, the quality of the firewood you use makes a world of difference to your woodburning fire experience. It might seem buying wood for a fire is an easy process, but it takes experience to find the best firewood for sale.

If you have experienced the annoyance of sizzling, smoking fires due to wet or young wood, or find you are tossing log after log onto your fires, chances are you are using the wrong firewood. Your complete guide to firewood provides useful firewood tips with everything you need to know to make the most of your fires this season.

Firewood Sourcing

Knowing where to buy firewood is the first step to finding the highest quality wood. Not all firewood suppliers are created equal. The trick is knowing where to buy seasoned firewood. When visiting your firewood supplier, you can use these tricks before you purchase firewood:

How to tell if the wood is seasoned

First, you want your firewood to be seasoned. Seasoned firewood has been given at least six months to dry out properly. Using green wood creates an unpleasant fire with more smoke, lots of sizzling and “popping” as opposed to a pleasant crackling. Using green wood is specially unwise for indoor fires as greenwood tends to produce more creosote. Creosote residue builds up in your chimney and flue, increasing the risk for fires.

To make sure your firewood is seasoned you can:

     Check the colour: Seasoned firewood is dull and gray in colour, without traces of green or brighter, golden tones.

     Consider the shape: Purchase split wood, as this shows the wood had better air circulation to dry.

     Test weight: The lighter the wood, the drier the wood.

     Check for hardness: Look for harder wood, as drier wood is stronger.

     Make sure bark is loose: If there is bark on the wood, it should be loose.

     Look for cracks: If you notice cracks, in most cases this is a good sign. Just make sure you have other signs the wood is seasoned as some green wood can show cracks as well.

     Check “sound”: When you hit the wood together, it should make a hollow sound as opposed to a thud.

     Smell the wood: Dry wood loses its sap aroma, so the more fragrant the wood, the greener it is.

Checking these basics will help you find seasoned wood.

Signs You Have Bought Green Wood

If you are using a new firewood supplier, a good tip is to buy a single cord first. You can then take it home to test it for quality. Some signs you have purchased green wood include:

     Dampness: Split your wood when you get home and see if it is dry to the touch. Green wood holds its moisture and will feel wet. 

     Poor flammability: You really don’t want to light green wood inside. Green wood is hard to light, smoulders and produces tons of smoke. When using wood from a new firewood supplier, light a piece in a safe spot outdoors to see how it burns.

A moisture meter purchased from a hardware store can be used to measure moisture when buying firewood. You are looking for wood below 20 percent moisture.

Cutting Firewood

Cutting firewood takes a lot of energy and effort. The trick is to spend less time chopping and more time relaxing.  These firewood cutting tips and tricks will make the job easier:

     Safety first: Make sure you wear protective gear including goggles to protect your eyes from flying wood chips. Always wear boots and long pants.

     Use the right tools: While images of an axe-wielding logger come to mind when you cut your own firewood, the maul is a far better choice. It has a wider head and heavier weight ideal for wood splitting. If you find your wood is very knotted, you can keep a wedge or prying triangle nearby so you can dislodge your maul if it gets stuck. A woodblock made of a large tree stump is a traditional base used when splitting wood.

     How to cut logs of firewood: A firewood cutting rack helps keep the wood steady if you are working with logs as opposed to pre-cut lengths.

     Aim at splits: Wood has natural splits and cracks that make good targets when cutting firewood. If there aren’t any obvious splits aim for the center to get an even split.

     Use the maul’s weight: Let the weight of the maul do all the hard work. First, aim your maul with a practice positioning so your target is in sight. Then lift the maul above your head and swing down to your target letting the weight of the maul bring it down forcefully. Being too aggressive tires you out and increases the risk for accidents.

Always take a rest when you are feeling winded and tired, to reduce the odds of accidents.

Outdoor Lit Firepit

Burning Firewood

Ontario offers an excellent selection of the best firewood to burn. As mentioned, first and foremost you want seasoned wood. It burns well and produces less smoke. Next, you want to find the best types of firewood to burn which means you want wood that produces the most heat.

Firewood heat is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). High BTUs are especially important if you are using woodburning stoves or fireplaces as a major heating source in your home. Here are tips to get the best burning firewood.

What is the best firewood to burn?

There are several types of firewood to burn from Ontario including:

Birch: White, yellow, and black birch trees are a popular and commonly found firewood in Ontario. The wood gives off minimal aroma and produces the following BTUs:

     White birch: 20.2 million per cord

     Yellow birch: 21.8 million per cord

     Black birch: 26.8 million per cord

These are an excellent option for your outdoor and indoor burning needs.

Hickory: This is a wood known for its aroma making it a popular choice for smoking and barbecuing. However, it also offers a dense fibre, slow burn, and high temperatures for firewood. Hickory has the following BTUs:

     Bitternut hickory: 25.5 million per cord

     Shagbark hickory: 27.7 million per cord

Some people might be impatient with the time it takes for hickory to start burning. 

Oak: There are many varieties of oak used for burning. However, white, and red are most common in Ontario. Like hickory, oak is very dense producing high heat and slow burn. BTUs for oak are:

     White oak: 26.4 million per cord

     Red oak: 24.6 million per cord

Oak is an excellent choice for all your burning needs.

Cherry: Cherry wood offers a lovely aroma when burned making it an excellent option for indoor fireplaces and woodburning stoves. At 20.0 million BTUs per cord however, it is at the lower end of the heat-producing spectrum.

Mixed Wood: This is your best bet as it combines all the best woods. You combine the aroma, ideal temperature and burn times for a perfectly balanced fire.

How long does firewood burn?

When burning firewood it’s always easier to have the longest burning firewood. The hardwoods mentioned above are all woods that will burn longer. However, giving an exact length of time wood will burn is impossible as it depends on the size of the logs, how well-seasoned they are and of course where you are burning the wood. As a rule, using these tips will help your wood burn longer:

     Use well-seasoned hardwood

     Always fully load the firebox

     Use low airflow for your damper

This way you’ll enjoy a warm, long-lasting fire to keep warm so you can relax.

Storing Firewood

Storing firewood is not as simple as piling it up somewhere and leaving it. Storing firewood properly helps ensure it stays dry and reduces the risk for pests. Here are some helpful indoor and outdoor firewood storage ideas:

Outdoor firewood storage

First, you want covered firewood storage for any wood kept outside. You can use a firewood storage bin or firewood storage crates as this is how to stack firewood, so it doesn’t fall over. 

Some other great tips:

     Keep wood off the ground, using the bins or crates mentioned, or a palette. If you can’t do this, lay a tarp down on the ground.

     Keep the ends of the wood exposed so it is well aired, especially if covering your wood with a tarp.

     When stacking firewood, never stack it higher than four feet for safety reasons.

     Choose a spot in the sun where there is a breeze whenever possible as shade and limited air movement keep wood damp.

     Stacks should have space between them as well as between the wood and other structures to improve air circulation.

Choose a site close to your home so you don’t have to traipse too far in the dead of winter. Just make sure it is at least 20 feet from the door to reduce the risk of pests following you inside.

Stack of Firewood in nook in wall indoors

Indoor firewood storage idea

It’s always nice to have a good supply of firewood stored inside in the dead of winter. Just keep in mind you could be bringing in pests when you do so. Some fun firewood storage ideas include:

     Build shelves around your fireplace to display the natural beauty of the wood

     Shop for interesting antique storage ideas such as old metal washtubs, vintage metal buckets, metal baskets, old wood crates, antique wood barrels, etc.

     Stack wood under an open staircase

     Use an antique storage trunk

Finding ways to repurpose common items and rare finds adds a unique twist to your storage.

Alternative Uses for Firewood

Firewood has many other uses including:

     Natural raised garden borders

     Accents in your home

     Wood chips for garden paths or mulch

     Habitat for wildlife on your property

As with storage ideas, the uses for firewood are limited only by your imagination.

These tips will help you find the best firewood for your needs. Create ambiance and warmth with the high-quality firewood found at Van Beek’s Landscape Supply. Order your firewood and have it delivered to your door with Van Beek’s Landscape Supply.

Sources:

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https://www.firewood-for-life.com/firewood-btu.html

https://www.thespruce.com/best-firewood-for-fireplace-heat-stove-1908011

https://www.almanac.com/content/best-firewood-heat-values-wood-burning-tips

https://www.regency-fire.com/en/Blog/Burn-Times-Explained-How-they-Work-How-to-Maximize”

https://www.bioadvanced.com/articles/storing-and-seasoning-firewood

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