Many homeowners come into our stores looking to purchase a wood stove or insert. Burning wood has been a part of our “human nature” since the dawn of time. And since that time, humans have known one simple fact about burning wood: dry wood burns better!
However, freshly cut wood can contain as much as 50% – 80% moisture by weight. If you have ever seen wood “spitting” and steaming when thrown into the fire, that’s an indication that the wood is still wet. In fact, when the wood is wet (>35% moisture content), over 1/2 the energy content of the wood is lost boiling the water out of the wood itself. This means that you have to burn twice as much wood as necessary to generate the desired heat. In addition, burning wet wood results in a COLD draft in the chimney since the energy lost in boiling the water out of the wood is not available to heat the draft. This results in stoves that are difficult to light, back “puff” into the home, and substantial creosote being generated in the chimney.
Buying Cord Wood to Burn
Whenever you see hardwood or cord wood advertised for sale, it always states that it is “Seasoned”. Unfortunately, that’s frequently not true. Since seasoning cord wood takes approximately 9-18 months, the amount of physical space required to store 500+ cords of wood (typical for a good scale wood sales operation) is simply not economically feasible for most people selling hard wood to access. Simply put, companies selling “seasoned” wood just don’t have the physical space necessary to truly season the wood. So what do they do? They sell wood that is 3 – 6 months old, and call it “seasoned”.
So how do you make sure that your cord wood is seasoned?
The only sure way is to season it yourself. How do you do this? Simple enough – do it yourself!
Cut to length (16″ typically – longer for larger stoves)
Stacked off the ground in the open air, with the top (but not sides) covered with plywood or a tarp
Let sit for 12+ months before burning
From a practical sense, this means that if you burn 2 cords of wood each season, you need to have space to store 4 cords – 2 to burn this season, and 2 that are seasoning for the next season.
When purchasing cord wood, I will call in the Spring (when no one is calling) and ask for green-split wood…and ask for the best price, since I don’t expect it to be seasoned. Then I stack it and let it season for around 18 months.
If you follow this method, you will never have issues with wet wood.