With much of the country looking to return to traditional family values and therefore, spending more family time together, the fireplace has once again gained popularity. A fire offers a family the chance to interact with each other in the warm glow and heat that it provides without the intrusion of television or radio.
With the popularity of home fireplaces comes some re-learning that must be done. Because the fireplace was replaced with the furnace as the main source of home heat, many people do not know how to stack firewood. While this may sound like a simple task, there are some fundamental rules which should be followed in order to utilize both the space and firewood available.
Before you can correctly stack firewood, there are a few measurements that you must know. Firewood is measured by the 'cord', or the amount of firewood that will fit into a 8' x 4' x 4' space. While the actual volume of this is 128 cubic feet, because of the shapes and irregularities of the individual pieces of wood, the space will more likely fit about 80 cubic feet when you stack firewood. When firewood is carefully stacked, this same space can hold upwards of 100 cubic foot, compared to random stacking, which would yield closer to 60 cubic foot of firewood in the same space.
The best way to get the maximum of 100 cubic foot in to the cord space is to start with relatively uniform pieces of wood. While sorting the firewood prior to stacking may be time consuming, it will pay off in space that is saved. It is important to stack firewood as close together as possible to avoid large gaps, however, some gaps are necessary to allow the wood to continue its drying process.
The best place to stack firewood is inside of a wood room, shed or garage. This keeps the wood out of the elements and allows it to stay dry. However, if these spaces are not available, it is advisable to stack firewood on a platform that is at least 6 inches off of the ground and to cover the stack with a tarp.
When setting about to stack firewood, the main thing to remember is to keep it dry. Almost everyone who burns wood can tell stories of a smoke filled house because their firewood got wet, don't let one of those people be you.
Drying firewood properly is important. If the wood you use for your fire is 'green', that is, not dry enough, or seasoned; then your fire will be less efficient since the moisture will have to be burned out of the wood. This process also makes for a smoky fire, and may even release toxic gases and particulate matter.
You can easily avoid those problems by drying firewood thoroughly before using it. Drying firewood requires either an apparatus such as a kiln for quick drying, or just good old fashioned time, to let the wood dry naturally.
For drying firewood naturally, the first thing you must do is split the wood so one side is free from bark. This will allow the air to reach the wood and the moisture to evaporate. Next, select a place to stack your woodpile. Care must be taken to ensure the pile will receive plenty of sunshine and air circulation. It is best if you don't start the woodpile directly on the ground because the wood on the bottom will retain moisture and start to rot. Instead, lay down metal poles first if you have them or even wooden beams. Space them so air can circulate through them and then start stacking your firewood on top.
Stack it loosely to allow air flow and if you are stacking against a house or shed, make sure the firewood isn't flush against the building. Maintaining plenty of cracks in your firewood pile is important for allowing air and light to circulate through. When drying firewood, you can place a tarp on top of your pile to keep the rain off if you want, just don't tuck in the sides or that might block air circulation. When stacking, be sure to keep the bark side down except for the top layer. You can place that on your pile with the bark on top to form a self made roof to help shield your firewood from the elements.
Drying firewood can take from 3-6 months or up to a year. The drier your wood is, the more efficiently it will burn.
Seasoning your firewood is important to reduce its water content. Firewood that is too wet will burn less efficiently or worse, won't burn at all.
Freshly cut firewood can contain up to 45% water. With proper seasoning this amount can be reduced to 20% or so. Different species season at different rates, and some parts of the country season firewood faster than others. You should season your firewood for at least 6 months before using it, though a full year is recommended.
You can speed up firewood seasoning by splitting it as soon as possible and by making your firewood in the shortest lengths possible. If you don't have a year or two to wait for natural seasoning, cut your logs no longer than 12" and split them so that no piece is larger than 4" in either hieght or width. Lay them out (bark side down) in the sun for as many days as possible but be sure to cover them when it rains. This can be labor intensive but you will be rewarded with a dryer log and better burning efficiency.
To enjoy your winter fire you need seasoned firewood. If your firewood is not seasoned properly then it will take time to catch fire and let out a lot of smoke. When you use wet wood, you will see the water bubble out with oozing noise from the wood while burning. What does seasoning firewood mean? Seasoning firewood means reducing the water content of the freshly chopped wood. When you cut a tree it will be very heavy and 50% of it is water. By seasoning firewood we reduce this to about 15% or 20%.
Do not store your unseasoned firewood indoors. Make sure you store it outside where it will see lot of sun and air. While storing it outside you need to be careful that the firewood does not get wet by rains or the rain water seep into the wood. Do not lay it directly on the ground elevate the stacks by half a feet so that there can be free airflow underneath. Also remember not to stack it close to the wall touching the surfaces of the wall.
When the tree is alive, the moisture content of the tree is protected by the barks. The barks continue to perform the same function even after the tree is felled. To help the seasoning process the wood should be split. When you see drops of water at the cut edges then the wood is still damp and it needs time to dry out and be ready for burning. When it is fully dried you will see cracks on the ends of the wood. During winters you must make sure that you shift the firewood from outdoors to a shed that has good air circulation and dry.
Some trees take even up to 2 years to be seasoned. It is one of the reasons that seasoned wood is much more expensive than fresh wood.
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