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How to Pick the Perfect Firewood


Most fireplace aficionados know that one of the main secrets to a wonderfully robust, long and evenly burning fire is using seasoned firewood. But what does that really mean? The answer is quite simple: seasoned wood is dry.

The dangers of burning wet firewood

If you’ve ever tried lighting a fire with wet wood – and who hasn’t – you probably understand. If you’ve succeeded in lighting a fire with wet wood, you understand something more: burning wet wood can be dangerous. In addition to the occasional explosions of steam that can send burning embers jettisoning across the room, as wet logs burn a dark filmy smoke is emitted. This is due to the production of a highly flammable oily wood-tar called creosote, which in turn rises to saturate the interior of your chimney.

Why aged wood?

Unlike wet wood, seasoned wood will not burn or singe. Instead, it will produce the long lasting smolder that all fireplace lovers prize. A freshly cut log has a moisture content of approximately 50%. The optimal moisture content for logs to be burned as firewood is 20%. That’s why the general standard for seasoned wood is logs that have aged at least six months to a year after being cut. This provides time for water and moisture contained within living wood to sufficiently evaporate.

Test for seasoning before you buy

Of course, unless you cut and season your own wood, it can seem impossible to determine whether or not the wood you are about to purchase has been appropriately seasoned. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to test for adequate firewood seasoning.

The Moisture Meter

The first is especially fun for those who love handy little gadgets. A moisture meter, which can be found at most hardware and home improvement stores, is your best bet for an accurate, exacting result. This handy instrument will tell you the exact moisture percentage remaining within the wood, and quickly.

A simple, tried & true test

If you prefer to save your pennies and go the old-fashioned, tried and true route, begin with a simple visual assessment. Seasoned wood should appear to be greying with age, with a drier, brittle texture. Next, strike two pieces of the wood together. Wood that creates a dull, thudding sound is a sure sign of wet wood, not yet fit for your fireplace. On the other hand, wood that resounds with a clear, hollow, ringing sound is ripe to produce that rip-roaring fire you’ve been dreaming of.

Additional Tips

  • CHOOSE HARDWOODS: Such as Cedar, Maple, Oak and Walnut for best results. Pine is acceptable, but not as preferable the higher density, lower sap hardwoods. Certain woods, particularly some softwoods, burn too unpredictably for safe indoor burning.
  • IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: The best firewood is locally hewn, as it reduces the likelihood of wood-eating beetles setting in. This is a serious issue that has led some states to require that firewood only be sold in the county in which it was produced. Always exercise close inspection of the firewood for evidence of these or other pests before agreeing to purchase.
  • FIND A DISTRIBUTOR YOU TRUST: If you plan to use your fireplace regularly, pay attention to area sources offering firewood for sale. Find the local dealer consistently offering the best quality firewood, well seasoned and stored properly in a dry, ventilated place during seasoning, and stick with them.       

We love fireplace season!

Contact Chimney Quest today to have our skilled chimney technicians provide Nashville chimney cleaning and inspection. If you need chimney repair or upgrades, we can help with that also. To schedule your appointment, call Chimney Quest at 615-292-7411. Here’s to another safe and fulfilling fireplace season!