Tag Archives: wood

18 Need-to-Know Facts about storing firewood

firewood

There’s a lot to know in how to purchase, season and store firewood, not only to keep you safe but to save money. This is the third post in a series of three that will explain how to purchase, season and store your firewood.

1) Cut firewood to the proper size logs you will be using. A typical length of wood for most fireplaces and stoves is 16″.

2) Cut firewood at least 3″ shorter than the firebox width. It is better to have wood too short than too long.

3) Always split the wood before storing it to reduce the time to season the wood.

4) Split firewood in various sizes for a variety of uses–as kindling to start a fire or larger in diameter for maintaining the fire. Cut wood in a range between 3″ to 6″ in diameter.

5) If possible, split the wood into triangles. The wood stacks better and won’t roll off like they would with round logs.

6) Stack firewood away from the house to reduce the chance of insects, mice, rats and other critters from your home. Ideally, the wood stack should be at least thirty feet away from your home.

7) Do not expose firewood to the rain or snow or it will “re-hydrate” and will no longer be seasoned. When there’s the threat of rain or snow, cover the wood with a large tarp or plastic sheets or old steel roofing.

8) Firewood will not season if it is continuously and completely covered all the time. Adequate airflow is critical to allow wood to season. Wind and sun will help to season the wood. Put the wood stack in an area with the most amount of exposure to the wind and sun.

9) When the moisture leaves the wood, the firewood may shrink as much as 6%-8%.

10) Do not stack firewood taller than four feet high or the stack will become unstable. In addition, stacking wood exactly four feet high makes it easier to determine how many cords you have.

11) Stack firewood with the bark side up. In case of rain, the bark will help to drain off the water from the wood.

12) Arrange firewood so it is neatly stacked, parallel and aligned.

13) Do not stack firewood directly on the ground because the wood will absorb moisture from the ground covering, will create rot and/or mold, and will decrease airflow. Instead, raise the wood off the ground, as on pallets or railroad ties.

14) Place your wood stacks on relatively level ground if possible to reduce the chances of collapse. Support each side of the wood stack to avoid accidents from falling wood. If you don’t use a wood rack, you can support one side of the stack with a tree on one side and posts on the other side.

Tinder kindling firewood
Photo credit: outsidedads.com

15) Wood can be divided into three sizes for wood burning: Tinder (about the size of a pencil lead), kindling (no thicker than your thumb), and fuel, about as thick as your wrist. Stack your woodpile into all three of these sizes.

16) Tinder consists of the dead twigs from the lower branches of trees and shrubs. It should snap off easily when bent and should be no shorter than your outstretched hand and enough to fill a circle made with your hands for one night’s fire.

17) Look for kindling from branches that are dead or down. Kindling should be about as long as from your elbow to your fingertips fire and you should have enough for a generous armload for one-night’s fire.

18) Fuel should be about as long as your arm and you should have a stack about as high as your knee for one night’s fire.


BONUS TIP: A little-known but efficient way to burn a fire is called an “Upside Down Burn.” This may take a little more time to set up but will give you a longer burning and cleaner burning fire. This method places larger pieces at the bottom and smaller wood pieces on top, placing just kindling at the very top. Each layer of wood is smaller than the layer below it. An added benefit is that this fire burning method will also create less creosote buildup in your chimney. [Video credit to the Chimney Safety Institute of America]

14 Need-to-Know Facts about Seasoning Firewood

Firewood that has been seasonedHere are some interesting facts that will help you season your firewood for your fireplace or stove.  Seasoning your wood is critical not only for safer fires, but to reduce creosote buildup in your fireplace or stove flue pipe and to reduce pollutants into the atmosphere.  This is the second post in a series of three that will explain how to purchase, season and store your firewood.

1) Only burn seasoned firewood. Wood should be aged at least six to twelve months and sometimes longer, depending on the density of the wood, species of wood, and climate.  Soft woods only need six months whereas hard woods can sometimes take up to two years.

2) The moisture content of wood should be between 15%-20%, never to exceed 25%. Homeowners can purchase moisture meters from most hardware stores.

3) Freshly-cut wood has a moisture content of about 50%.

4) Seasoned wood will create a clear hollow sound when knocking two pieces of wood together. Non-seasoned wood will create more of a dull thud sound.

5) Moisture in the wood is held in by the bark. Removing the bark before seasoning the wood will reduce the time to age it.

6) Aged wood will be lighter in weight than regular wood because there’s less moisture.

7) Seasoned firewood will change colors. Instead of a lighter color in new wood, the seasoned firewood will appear gray or dark brown.

8) You will notice the center of the wood will crack as it ages.

9) When burning wood that hasn’t been aged long enough, not as much heat will be produced because of the loss of heat due to evaporation of moisture.

10) Don’t trust a wood supplier to be honest with how long the firewood has been aged. Firewood that hasn’t been split and/or has been just thrown into a large woodpile will not be seasoned properly.

11) Experienced wood burners will purchase firewood at least six months ahead of the season to guarantee that the wood has been aged long enough. It’s always best to buy your wood in the off-season when it will be cheaper and firewood is more plentiful.

12) Burning firewood that isn’t aged long enough will be harder to start, will create a smokier fire, will produce less heat and will create a faster build-up of creosote in the chimney flue.

13) Anytime you burn wood, creosote is created.  We chimney sweeps divide creosote buildup into three categories–Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3.  Stage 1 and Stage 2 creosotes are easily removable with a normal chimney sweeping whereas Stage 3 is far more difficult to remove. Stage 3 creosote is also known as “Glazed Creosote” because of its shiny appearance and it is highly flammable and more likely to cause a chimney fire.  Glazed creosote is much more expensive to get rid of from your chimney flue lining due to the difficulty of removal.  The chances of creating Stage 3 creosote is much higher when burning unseasoned wood.

14) Seasoned wood produces less smoke and increases efficiency; therefore less pollutants into the atmosphere.


Have your chimney inspected on an annual basis and sweep if needed before using your fireplace. The best way to find a qualified chimney sweep is to go through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

10 Things to Never Burn in a Fireplace

Gas can pouring gas inside fireplaceTrue story: When I was growing up, we lived next door to some wonderful neighbors. John (not his real name) was a California Highway Patrolman and we highly respected him. His wife became best friends with my mother. My brothers and I became friends with their four sons. One winter, John was trying to get a fire started with green wood. Because the wood had a high moisture content, he couldn’t get the fire started. John went and got a gas can and poured some gas on the wood, not knowing that there was smoldering wood below the grate from the previous night’s fire. The fire instantly exploded. John jumped back and spilled the gas can on top of himself which instantly lit him on fire. John was burned over 75% of his body and almost died. He was in the hospital for months recovering and he suffered a great deal of pain from those burns for the remaining 45 years of his life. This event had a major impact on me and every time I see or hear about someone pouring gas on a fire to get it started, I instantly think of John. If this doesn’t inspire you to be careful and watch out with gas cans, I don’t think anything will.

Burning a fire in your fireplace is one of the simple pleasures in life but there are certain items that should never be burned in your fireplace.

Paper

Rolled up newspaper used in priming the flueJunk mail, newspapers, magazines, and trash (such as cardboard, pizza boxes and Styrofoam) may contain plastic, chemicals, glues as well as ink that can be toxic when burned.

Identity fraud is rampant, leading people to burn credit card statements and other documents that could create a nightmare if it gets in the wrong hands. Buy a paper shredder instead. Fly-away embers from burning paper can plug up a chimney cap or, even worse, if a cap isn’t present, these embers can land on your roof or on your neighbor’s roof. Using a few pages of newspaper to start a fire is fine but avoid using the colored advertising slicks.

Green wood

Wood should be aged at least six months, but better a year. To get around this, order your wood from the wood seller in the spring, have it split and stacked ready to go for when the cold season starts. Don’t trust the wood lot when they say that the wood has been aged. The moisture content in the wood should be between 15%-20%. Green wood will give you a smokier fire, will smell bad and will create more creosote build-up in the flue, setting you up for a dangerous flue fire.

Fuel Accelerants – Gasoline, lighter fluid, kerosene

In addition to the reason demonstrated above, accelerant fluids can produce a fire that can quickly get out of control and will produce a toxic odor that can damage your lungs.

Pressure-treated wood

Construction scraps or wood that has been chemically treated, painted or stained such as plywood, paneling or particleboard can be toxic when burned. This also includes furniture and the old wood from that deck or fence you removed from the backyard last summer.

Christmas trees

While the Christmas tree may seem like it’s dried out, it contains resins that may explode when burned. It can quickly create a fire that is out of control.

Christmas wrapping paper


The ink from Christmas wrapping paper can be toxic when burned. Also, the flyaway embers can either clog up the chimney cap if you have a chimney cap, or if you don’t have a cap, the embers can land on your roof or your neighbor’s roof and start a fire.

Plastics

Burning plastic can create cancer-causing dioxins, a highly toxic chemical that builds up in human tissue. It also produces fumes that are harmful to your throat and lungs. The smoke can create damage to the environment.

Synthetic fabrics

For the same reason as burning plastic, synthetic fabrics should not be burned due to the toxic chemicals produced.

Coal or charcoal products

These products are only intended for outside use because of charcoal-induced carbon monoxide poisoning that can be caused. Leave the charcoal to your outside barbecue.

Certain Plants

Smoke from plants that contain urushiol, such as poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac, can create a serious allergic reaction to the nasal passages, throat and lungs if the smoke is inhaled.


Remember that your fireplace is not an incinerator. Buy a shredder for your paperwork and dispose of your garbage and any processed or treated wood properly. Have fires in the fireplace in a responsible way for the safety of you, your family and the environment, and stick to burning properly-aged wood in your fireplace. Don’t take unnecessary chances!

50 Tips For Enjoying Your Fireplace

There’s nothing better than a warm fireplace on a cold evening. If you haven’t got one yet you are most definitely missing out!  Here are 50 quick and simple tips that will help you safely enjoy that cozy fire even more.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIPS

1. For an open fireplace, the glass doors must be in a fully open position. Once the fire has died out, close the glass doors before you go to bed at night.

2. Always make sure that the fire screen in front of the fireplace is closed when the fireplace is in use. Even when the fireplace is not in use, keep the fire screen closed to discourage pets from going into the firebox. (Cats have been known to use the fireplace as a litter box.)

3. Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, especially when children and pets are present.

Carbon monoxide detector4. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially close to the fireplace as well as near bedrooms and in the kitchen. Make sure to test them at least twice a year.

5. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, homes should have a minimum of two 5 lb ABC fire extinguishers. There should be one fire extinguisher per floor of a house and the fire extinguishers should be visible and accessible. A fire extinguisher should be close at hand when the fireplace is in use.

6. Never use kerosene, lighter fluid or gasoline to start your fire.

7. Keep combustible materials (like knickknacks, newspapers, firewood and Christmas trees) away from the firebox opening. This includes items hung from the mantel, like Christmas stockings and garland.

8. Inspect your landscaping near the chimney. Trees and vines should be kept a minimum of 10 feet away from the top of the chimney.

FIREWOOD AND ARTIFICIAL FIRE LOGS (SUCH AS DURAFLAME)

9. Be sure your firewood is aged and kept dry from the rain or snow.

Pile of firewood10. Hardwoods should be aged a minimum of one year while softwoods should be aged a minimum of six months. The moisture in firewood should be between 15%-20%. Aged and dried wood will provide you with more efficient fires, fewer smoking problems, and less flammable creosote build-up in the chimney.

11. Do not burn construction scraps or wood that have been chemically treated, such as plywood, paneling or particleboard. In addition, don’t burn paper with colored ink, cardboard, Christmas wrapping paper, plastics, fabrics made from synthetic materials, or junk mail. The chemicals can be toxic when burned.

12. To easily start a fire, use fat wood or fire starters if you don’t have a log lighter.

13. Buy your wood in the spring or summer to allow it to dry out before the burning season.

14. A cord of wood is 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet. A rick of wood is one third the volume of a cord of wood. A truck-load of wood would be dependent on the size of the truck bed and is not an easy way to determine how much wood you’re actually buying. A truck-load could mean anything from a short-bed pick-up truck holding 1/5 cord to a pulpwood truck that can hold four cords.

15. A cord of wood is a legal unit of measure. If you buy a cord of wood, have the wood cut to burning length, split and stacked and not just dumped in your driveway. Although you may pay more, you will know for certain that you weren’t cheated and that the wood will be aged in time for the burning season.

16. Stack wood on top of a pallet instead of directly on the ground to avoid pests and mold in your firewood.

Duraflame log and firestarter17. If you’re burning artificial fire logs (like Duraflame), do not place wood on top or below the artificial fire log.

18. Never poke or break open an artificial fire log while it’s burning.

19. Only burn one artificial fire log at a time.

20. Do not cook food over artificial fire logs because of the chemicals in this product.

21. Never burn artificial fire logs in free-standing stoves or stove inserts.

SMOKING PROBLEMS

22. During cold weather, always prime your flue before lighting your fire to prevent smoking problems, especially if you commonly have a smoking problem at the beginning of a fire.

23. Airtight homes are more prone to smoking problems. This is especially true in newer homes or homes that have been retrofitted with new windows. If this is the case, crack open a window close to the fireplace.

24. Avoid having the heater/furnace or air conditioning on at the same time as the fireplace especially if the air intake register for the furnace is close to or in the same room as the fireplace. During a fire, you may lose the draw on the fireplace because the furnace can pull smoke and gases down the chimney and back into the living area.

25. Always use a fire grate in the fireplace. This allows airflow under the fire to help in the combustion process and will give you a better fire.

26. Place your firewood on the fire grate close to the back wall to prevent smoking problems.

DAMPER

27. Always check to make sure your damper is fully open before you light the fire.

28. Do you always forget which way your damper is open? Put a note on the underside of your mantel that says which way the damper is open. If you don’t remember which way the damper opens, you’ll remember where to look to find out!

29. Close your damper when you’re not using your fireplace so you won’t lose heat during the winter and air conditioning during the summer. An open damper is like having an open window.

30. If your existing damper is broken or non-existent, and if you burn wood, consider installing a top sealing damper to prevent heat loss from the home.

31. If you have gas logs in an open fireplace, the damper must be locked in a fully open position.

CLEANING OUT THE FIREPLACE

32. You don’t have to clean out the fireplace after every use. In fact, a healthy bed of ashes below the grate can actually be beneficial. Once the ashes reach the bottom of the grate, the ashes should be spread out or removed since it’s important to have good airflow from under the grate.

33. Wait at least 72 hours after your last fire before cleaning out the ashes in your firebox.

34. When you’re cleaning out the ash and debris from the fireplace, spread slightly damp, used coffee grounds over the ashes before you clean it out. It’ll prevent the ash from becoming airborne and make it easier to clean out.

35. Wear a mask while cleaning out the firebox to avoid breathing fly-away soot and ash.

36. Don’t use your home vacuum cleaner to vacuum the ashes from your fireplace. You stand the chance of ruining your vacuum cleaner. Also, household vacuum cleaners and shop vacs don’t have good enough filters so you run the risk of “dusting” your living room.  Instead, use a small whisk broom and dustpan to remove the ashes from the fireplace.

37. Place ashes in a metal can with a lid. Make sure the can is not placed on a wood deck or patio afterward.

38. If you have artificial gas logs, it’s common to have a light sooting on the logs where the flames lick up over the logs. This is not a safety issue and is totally natural. Simply use a soft bristle brush (like a paintbrush) to dust off the soot. Never wash or scrub the artificial gas logs or you will remove the paint from the logs.

39. Don’t throw away used ashes. They have many beneficial uses, such as: providing necessary nutrients to gardens, composting, insect deterrents (snails and slugs), de-skunking a pet, shining your silver, controlling pond algae, melting ice, and even making soap.

CHIMNEY CAPS

black chimney cap40. A chimney cap serves three main purposes: 1) will prevent embers from landing on your roof, your neighbor’s roof, your solar panels, your car and your landscaping ; 2) will prevent birds and other critters from entering your home through the chimney; and 3) can prevent water intrusion into your chimney which will deteriorate your chimney prematurely and will also extend the life of your damper.

41. If your home is located off of a canyon or hillside, your chimney may be more prone to smoking problems. A specially-designed windcap can minimize smoking problems in this case.

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO KNOW

42. Pre-fab fireplaces, typically in condos and homes built after the 1980s, are intended more for ambiance and romance than for heat. In this type of fireplace, you should not have a fire any larger than what you would get if you are burning one artificial fire log, like Duraflame. Having large or overly hot fires in pre-fab fireplaces may cause damage to the fragile refractory panels inside the firebox and those panels are expensive to replace.

43. Consider a heat shield or fireback to protect the backwall of your fireplace. It will extend the life of the firebox.

44. Odor problems, or as I like to say “stinky chimneys,” can be caused by smoking problems, animals in the chimney, a dirty chimney, the type of fuel you’re burning (especially wood that is wet or not aged), the pressurization in your home, or rainwater in your chimney.

45. Reconsider mounting a TV above your fireplace. Heat and dust particulates aren’t good for electronics and doing this may void the TV manufacturer’s warranty.

46. If you’re buying a new home, have your chimney inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep during the inspection period. If you have just bought a home, have the chimney inspected before using it for the first time. You never know what or how much the previous owner burned.

47. If you have a masonry chimney and you live in a region with a lot of rain or snow, consider weather sealing the masonry to prevent spalling and deterioration of the bricks and to avoid expensive masonry repairs later on.

48. Only use a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to inspect or sweep your chimney. To find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, go to the website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

49. According to the National Fire Protection Association, chimneys should be inspected on an annual basis and swept if necessary.

50. To save money, do this important maintenance in the spring and summer when the rates are the lowest and when the schedule is less impacted.


Fireplaces are the best part of winter. Following these simple hints will give you the most enjoyment from a cozy fire.