Watching the dancing flames in your fireplace or wood stove can be a relaxing, mind clearing experience. A fireplace with an insert or a wood burning stove can become a source of auxiliary heat in addition to adding great ambience. But does it matter what kind of wood you use? Yes, it does matter.
The simple answer is “seasoned” wood. Seasoned wood burns slower and hotter because it is thoroughly dried. Properly seasoned wood will be split and stacked outside so the sun and air can dry it for one to two years; hard wood, like oak, takes longer to season. You can recognize thoroughly seasoned wood from its appearance – dark (gray) with cracks – and from how it sounds when you bang two cut logs together – the seasoned long will sound hallow. The bark is loose on seasoned wood, and seasoned wood, through its loss of moisture, is lighter than green wood.
By using seasoned, your fire will burn hotter, without smoldering, and with the least creosote, just opposite of UNseasoned wood. Because of the moisture in UNseasoned wood, it does not produce much heat and tends to smolder, adding creosote to your chimney.
The ultimate woods for that romantic, warming fire are oak, madrone, walnut, and eucalyptus. On the other hand, these hardwoods tend to create more than soft woods, like fir or pine. Hard woods are the best choice for creating a heat-generating fire, giving you the most value for your dollar. In fact, if you are using a wood stove or fireplace insert to generate heat for your home, seasoned hard wood is the way to go.
For that delightful aroma, particularly pleasurable at Christmas time, go with fir. As a soft wood, fire will season in about a year and makes great kindling. However, soft woods do not last as long as hard woods.
Seasoned wood burns cleaner than green wood and hard wood burns longer than soft wood. Seasoned wood costs more than green wood, so plan ahead, buy green wood, and season it yourself. Because seasoned wood burns hotter and longer than green wood, you will use less.
Save money and buy green wood, cut it, and stack it in a criss-cross pattern to commence drying. Wood will dry faster where it’s hit by the sun and gets good air circulation. Use of a tarp to cover the wood stack is handy pre-rain fall to reduce the chance of the wood regaining moisture already lost, but a tarp should not be used continuously as it prohibits the air circulation needing for drying.
FYI: Wood cut for fireplace use is measured by the cord. A cord measures 8 feet long, 4 feet high, and 4 feet deep.