Burning firewood to heat our homes has been around since our ancestors first discovered fire. But in case you’re new to this heating alternative, here’s some general information and tips on using and storing firewood you might like to know from somebody who’s cut, sold, and burned firewood all of his life.
Types of Firewood/Cost
Firewood prices can vary, depending on where you live and your winter climate. Not all wood burns the same, and because of this they put out different amounts of BTUs (British Thermal Units). The more BTUs, the higher the price will be. Hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, and hard maple burn slowly and generally produce a lot of heat. They’re also more dense, and thus heavier than softwoods. Oak is one of the more popular types, and it can be found almost everywhere in the U.S. One of the drawbacks to hardwoods is they can be hard to start.
Softwoods like pine and fir are readily available in Northern climates, and although they tend to burn faster and produce less heat, they are easier to split and start. Lodgepole Pine and Douglas Fir are very popular softwoods where I’m from in the higher elevations of northern California near the Oregon border.
Whatever type of firewood you choose, softwood or hardwood, they both should be well seasoned for at least a year. Seasoned firewood will have cracks in the ends and appear dull grey, but should be white on the inside when split.
Try to buy your firewood in the spring or early summer when it’s most available. Prices will increase dramatically as winter approaches and the supply becomes limited, or God forbid, non-existent!
Firewood is usually sold in cords. A standard cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet, and can be easily measured in a neatly stacked pile that’s 4 feet wide, 4 feet high, and 8 feet long. You can also buy a face cord of wood, where the length and height is typically the same as a cord, (4 feet high x 8 feet long) but the depth is 16″, a good fit for your home fireplace.
All firewood should be stacked off the ground to prevent bug infestation and decay from mold and rot. Wooden pallets, which are available practically everywhere, work well for this.
It’s a good idea to stack your firewood close to your house for easy access during the winter months, but you’ll also want it to be in a well-ventilated area to allow for air circulation while it seasons. Having a roof over it is preferable to keep the wood dry from rain and snow.
How Much Will You Need
Again, this depends on your location and climate. If you live in an area that’s prone to harsh winters and you depend on your fireplace to supply you with approximately 50% of your heat, then you might want to have a minimum of 2 or three cords of wood on hand. But if you live somewhere with milder winters and you’ll only be using your fireplace a few times a week, then you might be able to get by with only a cord.
But speaking from personal experience and having lived in both climates, I can say that if you have a fireplace, you can never have too much firewood.