There are a few factors to consider when selecting and preparing firewood for your burning season. It may seem like any wood (or anything that will burn) should do the trick for starting and maintaining a safe fire, but this is not the case. Following certain guidelines will help your fire burn as efficiently as possible, saving you time and money, as well as ensure your family’s safety.

Moisture Content

The less amount of moisture in a piece of firewood, the better it will burn. If you cut your own wood, allow it six months to one year to dry out before putting it to use. When you attempt to build a fire with freshly cut wood, a lot of energy will be spent drying it out before it properly lights. In the end, this will cause the fire to produce much less heat than it normally would have and will cause the newly created acidic water to remain in your chimney.

If you are purchasing wood, look out for these signs that will show it has been well-seasoned and is okay to use in your fire at home.

  • Short in length: If a log is cut into short lengths, there is more wood exposed, allowing more surface area for the sun to hit and dry out. This enables the drying process to move quicker and increases the chance that the wood is ready for use.
  • Darkened ends: Darker wood indicates that it is not freshly cut and has been sitting for some time, assuring you that it is well-seasoned.
  • Cracks: If a piece of wood is cracked, there are more opportunities for sunlight to get in and dry out any excess moisture.
  • Lightweight: Fresh cut wood tends to be fairly heavy, as the water still remains inside of it. Try to get lighter-weight wood, as this will indicate that it has been seasoned and is ready for use.

Storing Firewood

The best way to ensure that your wood is properly seasoned and that you are not getting scammed into purchasing wood that is not efficient for burning is to season it yourself. Follow these storage tips to keep your fuel in the best possible condition.

  • 20 percent moisture: Aim for a moisture level of 20 percent or lower. There are moisture meters designed to help you check this. Simply put it in a split piece of wood and see how it reads.
  • Cut it short and split it: Cut the wood so that it will fit properly in your fireplace when you go to use it. Then, split the wood. Both of these steps make it easier to store and allow the wood more of an opportunity to dry out before your burning season begins.
  • Store off the ground: Try to keep your woodpile at least six inches off of the ground to reduce the amount of moisture it is exposed to. This way, your entire stack will stay dry, rather than just the top portion.
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