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Firewood


Firewood Facts

Confusion about Firewood?
Have you ever set out to buy firewood, only to become more confused than when you started? You go to the local nursery, and they want $500 for a cord (and you’re not even sure what a cord is). Then you hit KIJIJI and find “cords” for $250, only to find out that it’s really a FACE cord? Kiln dried, seasoned, green, barkless, and thermawood; cords, face cords, quarter cords, and log length! It can all be a little overwhelming. I am writing this article to clear up some common misconceptions about firewood. Take the 5 minutes and read this article, then you will know everything you need to know to be an educated firewood consumer (and I can practically guarantee you won’t get ripped off!).

**Please note, we don't sell all of the options described in this article!!

Terms:

Green
Cut and split, but this firewood that has not been seasoned or kiln dried. This type of wood is not ready to burn immediately and would result in a smoky fire, and a lot of hissing.

Seasoned
Cut and split firewood that has been left out in the elements for about 9 months. Should have less than 20% moisture content, and the pieces should be fairly lightweight.

Kiln Dried
Cut and split firewood that has been baked in a kiln to reduce moisture content. This wood is 100% bug free as the wood is brought to over 200 degrees for several days before coming to you. Usually cleaner than seasoned wood. A premium product.

Debarked/Barkless
Cut and split firewood that has no bark on it. This is typically very clean wood, and it dries faster without the bark. Usually contains ash, beech, birch, and other woods with a thin bark (not usually oak).

Compressed Firelog
Sawdust that is compressed into a "log" and held together with a type of resin. This is not "real firewood" per say. Characterized by its packaging, this product can absolutely not get wet or it will fall apart. These logs give off more heat than typical firewood, but not many of the other "cozy" characteristics. Very expensive.

Firewood Performance

Performance can differ from species to species. The type of tree you use for burning can vary widely in heat content, burning characteristics, and overall quality. I have created a table that presents several important burning characteristics for many species used in North America. The chart ranks each tree species by its density which is a good indicator of overall heating effectiveness.


Wood Characteristics Influencing Quality Heating and Ignition

Density of Wood - density is the amount of space a volume or mass of firewood occupies. The denser the wood, the less space it's given mass takes up and the greater a particular volume of firewood weighs. For an example, hickory is about twice as dense as aspen, so a cubic foot of hickory weighs approximately 50 pounds while a cubic foot of aspen weighs only about 25 pounds.

Green Vs. Dry Wood
Firewood should be dried (seasoned) to 10% to 20% moisture content for best burning performance. Much of the energy generated from burning green firewood actually goes toward evaporating the water held in the wood. Green firewood only gives off about 40% of the energy of dry firewood. To get the most heat production out of your firewood, you should season it by first cutting into short log bolts. Split these bolts and stack in a dry, well-ventilated area for at least six months before burning. Available Heat by Wood Species - Available heat is a measure of the heat given off when wood is burnt and measured in million British Thermal Units. Hardwood trees give off more energy in BTUs than a comparable volume of softwood because it is denser. It should be noted that the volatile oils in some softwoods can increase the heat output of some species but only for a short time.

Ease of Splitting
Wood with a straight grain is easier to split than wood with a tighter more complex grain. Knots, branches, and other defects can also increase the difficulty of splitting firewood. Remember that dry wood is generally easier to split than green wood. Ease of Igniting Firewood - Ignition ability is an important factor wood factor. Low-density wood is easier to light than denser wood. Woods with higher levels of volatile chemicals in their structure, such as conifers, will ignite and burn more readily than those with less volatile chemicals. These woods should be used to start fires where dry high-density woods will provide the heat.


Definitions of Chart Terms

Density:
wood's dry weight per unit volume. Denser or heavier wood contains more heat per volume. Note that hickory ranks at the top of the list.
Green Weight:
the weight in pounds of a cord of freshly cut wood before drying.
mmBTUs:
million British Thermal Units. The wood's actual available heat measured in BTUs.
Coaling:
wood that forms long-lasting coals are good to use in wood stoves because they allow a fire to be carried over a longer period effectively.

 

Wood Heating Values Chart

Common Name

Density-lbs/cu.ft.

Pounds/cd. (green)

Million BTUs/cd.

Coaling

Hickory

50

4,327

27.7

good

Osage-orange

50

5,120

32.9

excellent

Black locust

44

4,616

27.9

excellent

White oak

44

5,573

29.1

excellent

Red oak

41

4,888

24.6

excellent

White ash

40

3,952

24.2

good

Sugar maple

42

4,685

25.5

excellent

Elm

35

4,456

20.0

excellent

Beech

41

NA

27.5

excellent

Yellow birch

42

4,312

20.8

good

Black walnut

35

4,584

22.2

good

Sycamore

34

5,096

19.5

good

Silver maple

32

3,904

19.0

excellent

Hemlock

27

NA

19.3

poor

Cherry

33

3,696

20.4

excellent

Cottonwood

27

4,640

15.8

good

Willow

35

4,320

17.6

poor

Aspen

25

NA

18.2

good

Basswood

25

4,404

13.8

poor

White pine

23

NA

15.9

poor

Ponderosa Pine

NA

3,600

16.2

fair

Eastern Red Cedar

31

2,950

18.2

poor