Not all firewood is created equal. If you have ever tried burning wood that is too
green; too long for your fireplace or woodstove; or too full of bugs, detritus, or sap, you know this already!
Know the length you want your pieces of firewood to be before cutting or purchasing firewood for either your fireplace or woodstove.
For a fireplace, consider the length of your fireplace grate. If your wood is too short, you will be carrying in load after load of firewood, but pieces too large are even worse.
Properly seasoned firewood eliminates the smoke associated with green wood as well
as much of the bugs and detritus that you don't want brought into your home. But not everyone agrees what the term "properly seasoned" means. What you are really looking
for is firewood that has been stacked in a sunny location (not just heaped in a pile!) so that air can freely circulate around the pieces and wood that has dried, ideally about a year.
Your firewood, both as it seasons and as it awaits use outside your house, should be kept off the ground.
Wooden rails can be used for this, but sometimes termites use those rails as conduits to your firewood. Many destructive and expensive termite
infestations start under stacked firewood and then invade homes. So metal firewood racks are good investments because they keep your firewood off the ground. In addition,
they assure that any firewood by your home does not lean against an exterior wall of your house.
When firewood has been allowed to season properly, much of the loose bark, which harbors both live and dead bugs as well as dust, has already fallen off. That means, when
you bring it into your home for your fireplace or woodstove, you're not going to find as much loose detritus or as many unwelcome bugs.
Firewood from pine and spruce pine trees, even after ample seasoning, still has sap
that gets on your hands and clothes as your manage your firewood. Some people just use fireplace gloves as protection and don't mind the sap. Even worse, as the sap burns it
deposits a thick crust in your chimney that can harbor a chimney fire, or gradually reduce the draft of your fireplace.
The aroma of burning logs is part of a fireplace's or woodstove's ambiance many
people enjoy. If there are particular types of firewood, however, that produce an aroma you don't especially enjoy, you will want to note them so you can avoid such firewood.
Also, if there are people in your home with an allergy to a specific wood, you'll want to skip that type of firewood.
One type of firewood everyone will want to skip is firewood with poison ivy or poison oak on the logs! These pose a hazard not only to the people who have touched
the firewood, but also can cause reactions among some people who have breathed in any smoke from the fire. Watching out for "leaves of three" isn't enough after poison ivy's
growing season is over. You'll want to familiarize yourself with poison ivy's stems and hairy vines that can be an irritant even when the plant looks dead!
Energy content is measured in British Thermal Units, better known as BTU's. Different types of firewood all have the same amount of BTU's per pound, but
since they are not all equally dense, they vary considerably in the amount of BTU's available per cord. The chart below shows some common types of firewood and their
BTU's per air-dried cord. A cord of rock elm, for example, has almost twice the energy content of a cord of white spruce.