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A really great grate fire -- good wood is the key

The type of firewood you burn in your fireplace or stove next winter can mean the difference between having a slow-burning, heat-efficient fire or one that goes up the chimney in wasted energy dollars.

Here are some general guidelines:

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* Choose dense wood for long-burning fires and good heat output. Hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and ash are high-density woods.

* Never get green wood for immediate use. Freshly cut wood is loaded with moisture, and much of the heat generated will escape as steam up the chimney. Also, green wood has a high creosote content, which coats chimneys and often leads to fires.

* Select firewood that has been air-dried for about a year. To determine if wood has been aged, look at the ends of the log. If the end or cut face is solid, the wood is green. But if the cut face is cracked, the wood is older and has been drying for a while.

* Use softwoods, such as pine, fir, and spruce, for kindling and not for heating. The danger of flammable resin buildup on chimneys is much greater with softwoods than with hardwoods.

* Know the measurement for wood. A cord is equal to a stack of 8-foot-long pieces piled 4 feet high and 4 feet across.

Instead of standard cords, consumers may receive face cords,m in which the wood has been cut to fireplace size, 16 to 24 inches long. A face cord amounts to about half the volume of a standard cord.

* Save on costs by cutting and gathering your own wood. Check with the national Forest Service or your state forestry department about gathering downed wood from public lands.

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