Tips on firewood
October 5, 2011
Firewood season is here, so as I do most years I am writing this letter to hopefully prevent firewood buyers from getting taken advantage of.
Unfortunately there are quite a few firewood sellers out there who try to take advantage of uneducated firewood consumers – some do it intentionally, some out of ignorance. So before you go out and buy firewood, do some research and familiarize yourself with the terminology and products. The Internet has plenty of good information, most of which is accurate.
Firewood volume is measured by the cord. A cord is 128 cubic feet of stacked wood; if the wood is not stacked, the volume must be at least another 25 percent, or 160 cubic feet. In most states wood can only be sold by the cord or the fraction of a cord. A face cord is a common term, but in reality does not represent an actual volume, rather it simply means a stack of wood 4 feet tall by 8 feet long, or any equivalent stack.
A face cord of 12-inch-long pieces is one-quarter of a cord; 16-inch pieces equals one-third of a cord; 24-inch pieces is a half cord. Some commonly found wood in order of heat value: alpine fir, spruce, cottonwood, aspen, pine, Douglas fir, pinon, juniper, oak apple.
Wood generally needs to be cut and split far in advance of when it is needed. It is common for people to think that beetle-kill pine is already dry; sometimes it is, but most times it is not. It, too, needs time to dry, just like any other wood. Logs cut and split in the winter time often are not dry, and frozen wood will not dry. Wood-cut green needs an entire summer or longer to fully dry. Apple is about as good as firewood gets, but peach or apricot are not apple.
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When buying, ask your supplier what volume of a cord his face cord is, ask how long the wood has been cut and split or even the moisture content. Most firewood sellers have no idea what the moisture content is, but they should. Firewood should be 12 percent to 15 percent but absolutely no higher than 20 percent moisture. When ordering a large volume of wood, measure the truck and figure out the volume yourself. Length by width by height measured in feet, 128 cubic feet stacked, 160 cubic feet loose, is a cord.
To keep dry wood dry it should be stacked; it is best if it is under cover but has air circulation. Keep rain and snow from draining down into the pile, but it is best not to wrap the entire pile in a tarp. Sunlight and air circulation will get your wood dry and keep it dry.
There are some questionable sellers out there, usually the trick is to short the load and most people will not know the difference. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.