Now that it’s starting to cool off with the official start of the autumn, many of us are starting to think about preparing for the colder weather that’s coming. One of those things is buying firewood for our wood burning fireplaces and woodstoves. However, before you say yes to the guy in the pickup truck with a load of what looks to be good firewood, let’s take a look at the top three things you need to look for before you buy it and get it home.

Number one is the age of the firewood. We see a lot of green wood being burned each year that leads to above average buildup of creosote. Creosote is the substance that is prone to catch fire in the chimney system if left untouched to build up over time. The more moisture in the wood the greener it is considered to be. Firewood that is not seasoned or allowed to dry out for at least six months under a tarp or covered and protected area may not be optimum to burn.

One of the best ways to tell what the moisture content is in the firewood is to purchase a moisture meter at your local hardware store. It will have a probe that you place on the surface of the wood and it can give you a reading. Everyone has a little bit different opinion about the perfect reading and most agree anything below the 30% mark is good. Of course, if you are buying the wood earlier in the season and have a place to store it that is covered and protected, you can buy it a bit green and continue to dry it out before use.

The second thing to look for is infestations of insects in the wood, the most notable to be termites. Insects break down the consistency of the wood pulp to something that is reminiscent of powder. This wood burns very quickly as it breaks down. The other danger is you may be introducing termites and other insects into your home, which can result in some very expensive treatments in the future.

It’s just best to stay away from any wood that looks to be infested. Break into a few pieces and examine it for holes and places that looked bored into. If the wood is easily separated it can be an indication of this condition as well.

The third thing to look for when purchasing firewood is wood type because you really should make sure you are getting hardwood. One of the ways you can remember this is to get firewood in the same types of wood that you would want your furniture made. Oak, cherry and maple are all American hardwoods. Softwoods in the US include fir, hemlock, pine, redwood, spruce and cypress and if you look closely, they all have needles, which is a good way to remember them. Softwoods will burn, but they will do so with less heat. They also produce more creosote.

So to sum it up; the three things to look for when buying firewood are;

  • The age of the firewood.
  • The condition of the firewood
  • The type of firewood


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