Get Ready For The Firwood Season

The firewood season requires more preparation than just buying wood and striking a match. It begins with knowing how to buy, store, and stack the firewood for those fires that'll last throughout the fall and winter season.

Since there is no law regulating wood quality, you can buy wood, sound or rotten, dry or green (wet), with or without bark. It's best not to pay for a load of firewood until it has been delivered, inspected and stacked (unless you know the reliability of your wood dealer).


1) Measure log lengths. If they're consistently 2-3 inches too short, you're not getting what you paid for. (Standard cord measures 4' X 4' X 8' = 128 cubic feet.) Also, measure log length to be sure it fits into your fireplace. Many new homes are now equipped with smaller insert fireplaces.

2) Logs can be piled in numerous ways to increase the height of a wood stack. A tree stump, or wood piled in a criss-cross pattern, will stack more loosely than logs piled with the grain in one direction. Knots and branches also increase height. Tip: mice or squirrels should be able to pass through the pile, but anything larger and you're just buying air.

3) Watch for rotten or decayed logs (usually piled on the bottom of a wood stack).

4) Avoid loads which consist only of softwood (pine) or hardwood (oak). Look for a mixture of both. Softwoods are quick starting, high-heat fires. They contain 15% resin - a highly flammable material that generates creosote soot build-up in the flue. Hardwoods are long lasting, uniform fires, but are difficult to start. Look for a combination of both.

5) Watch for green wood. It can contain 65% water. Green wood looks wet and shiny (when split), and is noticeably heavier. Dry wood is dull and lighter.

After buying good quality wood, storing and stacking is of the utmost importance. These are some basic tips to keep in mind:

1) Split wood before stacking. Drying of wood occurs more rapidly along the grain.

2) Keep wood off the damp ground. This helps prevent the entire bottom layer of your wood from rotting. Use two wood stringers (2-3 inches in diameter) running the length of the pile. Or, if it's available, stack the wood on concrete.

3) Don't pile wood next to the home, under a porch or eaves. This could be a fire hazard and cause an insect invasion of your home. The exterior of your house walls also cut down on air circulation which speeds the drying process.

4) Avoid storing firewood in damp places or depressions where water collects. Wood piles should be free-standing with maximum exposure to the air and sunlight.

5) Split wood should be stacked bark side up. The bark acts as a shield against the elements. Use a weighted, heavy-gauged plastic sheet to cover the top of the wood stack, and partly cover the sides. Covering completely traps moisture that slows down the drying process.

6) Store wood inside only if it's split and free of all insects.

7) If wood is decayed or buggy, bring it in just before burning it.

By following these simple tips you can be sure that you'll have a long and warm firewood season. And that's the core of it all.