Freshly cut trees contain a lot of moisture. This fresh wood is called “unseasoned.” Moisture in unseasoned wood will make it more difficult to light and will cause the wood to smoke. If the flame goes out on unseasoned wood, the wood will continue to smolder causing an unpleasant burnt smell to the house and creosote to chimney. The wood should be seasoned to avoid this issue.
To get seasoned wood cut, split and stack wood outdoors to dry (or season). The best drying occurs when the wood is stacked with every other row turned 90 degrees, which allows air to circulate better between the logs. Make sure the wood is away from rain. It would be dried more quickly in a shed or garage. If you do not have a shed or garage, cover the split wood with a tarp to keep rainfall off the wood. Use the tarp in a tent-fashion, suspended over the wood stack if you can otherwise remove the tarp on sunny days so moisture can escape.
Appearance of Seasoned Wood
To test the dryness of the wood knock two pieces of wood together. If a hollow sound is made then the wood is dry. Seasoned wood is also cracked, gray in color and much lighter without the water content. Safe wood for a fireplace needs at least one year to dry before using. Seasoned wood generates the most heat and burns clean, with less smoke that unseasoned wood.
If you are buying seasoned wood, it will be sold by the cord or half cord. A cord measures 8 feet long, 4 feet high and 4 feet deep. With the amount of time it takes to make seasoned wood it will cost more than unseasoned wood.
- To produce a lot of heat deciduous trees like eucalyptus, madrone, oak and walnut as hard woods are the best choice.
- Slightly less heat would be Ash, locust, hickory, apple, plum, cherry, pear.
- If you want a fruity scent try apple, pear, plum and cherry woods.
- Maple, sycamore and elm are fair for heat production.
- Poor alternatives for heat production are cottonwood, alder and willow.
As seasoned wood, all hard woods will burn longer than soft woods, giving off continuing heat and ambiance. However, hard woods tend to be more difficult to start burning. A tiny amount soft wood, which is easier to light, along with some newspaper (non-glossy kind) make good kindling for starting a hard wood fire.
- Conifers are soft wood with pine and fir suitable for burning. They burn hot. but burn fast as a seasoned wood.
- If you want a scent that reminds you of Christmas and/or Thanksgiving fir is good. Can also be used as kindling to get hard woods to start burning.
- Cedar also has an appealing smell and it snaps and crackles as it burns.
For longer lasting fires continue to add more wood.