Firewood Facts

We don’t just sell firewood, we heat our building with the same wood we sell.We know how important it is to use and sell quality firewood. We know that better wood means a warmer building, less wood used, less wood moved, less money spent, less maintenance and safer burning. We cover our firewood stacks because we know this makes our wood better for burning and a better value for our customers.
We know there can be a difference of millions of BTUs between oak and maple — and millions of BTUs difference between red oak and white oak. We know that inferior or moist wood not only means less heat, but a potentially dangerous creosote buildup in our chimney.

A couple of years ago, I received a phone call from a woman asking about firewood prices. I urged her to also ask about the types of wood being sold, and how it was stored. I took time to try and explain the difference to her — and told her that the wood we had at the time was all oak. She replied that they used their stove for heating — they burned too much wood to worry about what kind it was — and they were going for the best price.

She was very wrong.

To burn wood and not take the time to learn about it is not only very costly, it is irresponsible and dangerous. Taking a few minutes to read this email can save you money, work, and worries.

 

Firewood is a wonderful, clean, renewable resource if you know how to choose, store, and burn it properly. Our stove at Canterbury Creek Gardens qualified for an energy saving tax credit because of it’s efficiency and clean burning. No matter how cold the temperatures are outside, a minute or two in front of our wood stove and you are thoroughly warmed. And during power outages, a wood fire will continue to keep your home and your family warm.

But maybe the best thing about a wood fire is that just looking into it becomes a meditative experience — it gives you time to think. This is exactly what we need today in our world of constant interruptions and fast paced lives — a little reflection about where we have come from and where we are going — what is really important — and what kind of world we are leaving to those that will follow.

Here are a few firewood facts.

The heating potential of wood is proportional to the dry weight of the wood.

Therefore, a ton of cardboard and a ton of oak have the same BTU content — but — wood is sold by volume and not by weight. Also, cardboard and oak, like different types of wood, release heat with different efficiencies when they burn.

Hardwood weights can vary from less than 2000 lbs per cord to over

4500 lbs per cord.

The average woodstove gets about 6000 BTU/lb from firewood.

One stack of hardwood can have 300% of the BTU content of another stack of hardwood. Better wood will also burn longer, cleaner, and safer.

Firewood types, and how it is stored, are just as important — often even more important — than firewood costs.
The dry weight of wood determines the amount of heat released from the wood — and — the length of time the wood burns.
So, here are some numbers to consider.
Hardwood A Hardwood B
Difference
Weight
4,500 lbs/cord 2,000 lbs/cord 2,500 lbs/cord
Dry BTUs
27,000,000 BTU/cord 12,000,000 BTU/cord 15,000,000 BTU/cord
Wet BTUs
21,600,000 BTU/cord 9,600,000 BTU/cord 12,000,000 BTU/cord

You can see from these numbers that buying inferior wood, or burning wet wood, can cost you a lot of money — and there is an even bigger safety and pollution concern.

Always avoid burning wet wood
When burning wet wood, energy is lost by burning off

Cracks like this are drying or check cracks — an indication of dry wood. But, they can swell shut if rain or snow gets the log wet.

excess moisture in the form of steam. This is the same heat needed to boil water — and it can be a 20% – 25% potential heat loss from the wood.

This steam also combines with ash particles in the chimney to form creosote. Beside less heat, more moisture also means spending more money (or time) cleaning your chimney, or a potential chimney fire.

Note: Creosote buildup is mostly about moisture content and burning efficiency. Low quality hardwoods, and moist or unseasoned wood, can all cause excessive creosote forming in your chimney.

Buying Tips

To get the most for your money when buying firewood —
  • Buy high quality, dry wood
  • Buy it early
  • Keep it dry
  • When stacking mixed hardwoods, separate lighter weight logs like maple or poplar for starting fires because they light easier
Buying early helps to ensure drier wood — and gives you more control over how it is stored.
It is also easier to move wood in pleasant weather now, rather than bad weather later.

Often, people decide to buy wood on a cold, rainy or snowy day — and then take it home and want to burn it that night. When they see steam coming out of the logs, they assume it was not properly “seasoned” — when it was simply wet. Even though logs might be dead for several years, they will still absorb moisture when rained on.

We cover our stacks and try not to deliver wood on rainy days because a pile of firewood in a truck or in a driveway, when raining, can absorb a lot of water very quickly.

Wood Storage
The best place to store firewood is off the ground in an open, well ventilated area — protected from rain and snow (moisture). It is best to cover the top of the stack but leave the sides open. Porches and open sheds are very practical storage areas.

Leave as much space as possible around each stack to prevent and eliminate moisture buildup in the logs. Stacks should be no more than about 4 feet tall and never more than 1 log-length deep.

If  your wood is moist and you store it in an area with poor ventilation, tightly covered, orin a moist area like a garage, it may take several weeks, or even months, to dry out. If you store wood in a garage, keep it a few inches away from any wall to allow for better air circulation. You can also put a fan on it — but remember a garage can be very humid from water, ice, and snow dripping off cars.

Bring some firewood inside and put it in the fireplace a few

Cross stacking firewood increases airflow and is good for storing wood — but not buying wood. Firewood measurements are for tightly stacked wood, and cross stacked wood means paying for air.

days prior to burning to make sure it is drier and warmer, making it easier to start. Firewood has to reach a combustion temperature to ignite. If you bring in wood that has been kept outside at below freezing, even if it is dry, will not ignite as easily.

We keep a week’s supply in our building and restock it when the weather outside has been dry for a few days. This avoids bringing in wet wood — but we still want it inside in the drier, warmer air for a week and sometimes put a fan on it.

Seasoning firewood
“Seasoning” wood is a very misunderstood term. It is simply drying wood to an ideal moisture content. The time it takes to do this can vary between 24 hours to 2 years depending on the drying methods used. Properly seasoned firewood has been dried to a moisture content of about 15 to 20 percent of its weight.

This is important because the moisture content in the wood — and the oxygen supply –regulate the combustion process. This determines how efficiently wood is burned.

Most firewood today starts as big (6′ to 10′) logs that were cut anywhere from 2 years to 8 months prior to sale. Logs cut later will often be cut more quickly into 16″ lengths for splitting. These shorter logs will dry out much faster than those left in longer pieces. The logs are left in piles to dry until it is time to cut and/or split them. Old, freshly split logs will still have moisture in them, but this usually dries out in a few days to couple of weeks depending on the weather conditions and the wood quality. Warm dry weather and frigid cold temperatures with low humidity levels can dry wood very quickly. Cool and damp weather dries wood more slowly. 

Getting the most for your money.
Airtight wood stoves extract heat from wood in two ways. The first source of heat from wood is the initial, or primary combustion of the wood. This is the fire you see first, a few gases volatilizing from the log. The secondary source of heat is the combustion of the gases which are released but unburned by the primary fire. This secondary gas is loaded with usable fuel. An efficient stove, or insert, can ignite and burn this secondary flue gas before it goes up the chimney. This can double or triple the heat output of a stove or fireplace!

Excess moisture in the wood cools down the firebox. Cooler burning temperatures also prevent secondary combustion and increase unburned gases.

Poor quality or softer hardwoods are a problem because of BTU content and burning efficiency. Not only do you end up using a lot more wood (as much as 2-3 times more) to get the same heat and burn time — you burn less efficiently, and again, increase unburned gases.

Even in an open fireplace, you can still burn much more efficiently and make your firewood purchases a better value. A hotter fire burning better, denser and drier wood is also burning more efficiently. Once again, inefficient burning means unburned gases, and wasted money.

Unburned gases are not only a waste of energy and money, they are a pollution source, and a potential safety problem. The way to minimize them is to burn efficiently, never too slow — but also not too fast.

From the California Environmental Protection Agency Wood Burning Handbook, “Warning: Kiln-Dried Lumber vaporizes too rapidly, causing creosote buildup”. Kiln dried wood (sold by mass merchants in bundles) is extremely dry (under 10%). A stove full of extremely dry wood releases volatile gases faster than the air supplies of stoves can provide oxygen for combustion — so again unburned gases are lost up the chimney. If you could supply enough air for full combustion, you would produce intense heat that can damage the stove’s innards. If you have some very dry firewood, like kiln-dried boards, mix them with regular firewood to raise the moisture content of the full load.

Correctly balancing the wood moisture content and oxygen supply is the key to efficient burning. Too much moisture and the fire cools which prevents the gases from burning. Too little moisture releases volatile gases faster than air can be supplied.

Ideal moisture content of firewood is 15% to 20% because this is what stoves are designed to provide oxygen for. This is achieved best by open storage of firewood with good air circulation, and covering the tops of the stacks (see photos of our stacks).  

Measure

The only legal measure for firewood in Ohio is a cord, or a fraction of a cord. Anyone selling ricks or face cords is supposed to be reported to the county auditor’s office because these are undefined quantities. A rick simply means a pile of wood. A cord is a tightlystacked pile of wood 4 ft. high by 4 ft. wide by 8 ft. long. Our cords are three 4’x8′ stacks since the log lengths are about 16 inches. Two 4’x8′ stacks with spacing may be good for storage — but this is not a cord. Because of practical considerations in log length, our cords are usually about 5 feet wide. Our stacks are 1/18 of a cord.

Packaged wood is always much more expensive than stacked wood because bundle packaging laws don’t require labeling that allows easy comparison with bulk firewood. Big retailers know they don’t have to worry about shoppers comparing prices with bulk wood.

Our racks are open on the sides, and covered on top. However, the covers are several inches above the firewood to allow for more air flow.

We do the best we can to provide you with high quality, dry hardwoods — the same high quality wood we heat our building with.

Our firewood quality is important to us — and it should be important to you.
Dry, quality hardwoods always give you the best value.

Our firewood is all locally sourced, high

quality, clean and as dry as possible.

Covering our stacks makes our wood an even a better value for you.
Come on in and feel it for yourself — we’ll have a fire going for you.

Our Firewood Prices
mixed hardwoods
debarked hardwoods
all oak
1/54 cord (mini stack)
$         12.99
1/18 cord (stack)
$         29.99
$       34.99
$   39.99
1/6 cord
$         75.00
$       90.00
$ 105.00
1/3 cord
$       139.00
$     170.00
$ 194.00
1/2 cord
$       199.00
$     240.00
2/3 cord
$       259.00
$     340.00
1 cord
$       379.00
$     460.00
Starting fires
I start a fire almost every day, all winter, so I keep it simple and inexpensive. I’d rather spend money on better wood than on fire starters. I use one small piece of crumpled paper to light a few pieces of corrugated cardboard which lights a piece or two of good hardwood kindling. Use smaller diameter and less dense, or lighter weight, logs to get things going. Once you get some hot coals going, start putting on denser logs.
You may have trouble with smoke getting into your house when starting a fire. This is from a draft coming down the cold chimney (a downdraft) and is more common with a tall chimney. Barb and I open a nearby door slightly for a couple of minutes to get the air rising up the chimney. This has eliminated our downdraft problems. You can also light some rolled up newspaper and hold it into the chimney to get heat rising from the fireplace and start the draft going upwards.

  1. Starting a fire with one half sheet of crumpled newspaper, 4 small pieces of cardboard (2″ x 6″), and 1 or 2 pieces of hardwood kindling.
  2. Even though the firebox is not yet hot, the dry wood ignites quickly and easily. Within minutes, gases from the wood are beginning to burn. This is primary combustion. Notice how the flames are like candles burning.
  3. In this picture the firebox is totally engulfed with flames, almost every inch. This is secondary combustion. A very high percentage of the combustible gases are being burned here — getting more heat out of each log.
  4. Seconds after the door was opened, the chamber cooled enough to prevent the secondary combustion. The fire is still extremely hot however, and you can see the gases burning as they are pouring out of the logs. Even without full secondary combustion, gases are coming out faster and are more fully combusted than in picture 2.
The above fire went from match to secondary combustion in less than 10 minutes.