Tips for Choosing the Best Firewood.
Whether you have a traditional fireplace or a wood-burning stove, before you purchase firewood, be sure you know the best firewood to use. The following guide will explain the different types of wood, their uses, and why certain wood should be avoided.
Hardwood versus Softwood: Understanding the Differences
In general, the different wood species commonly used for burning are separated into two categories: hardwood and softwood. Understanding the primary differences between these two categories can be extremely helpful.
● Hardwood is heavier than softwood because it is denser on a cellular level.
● Hardwood is more difficult to cut than softwood.
● Softwood trees have needles (i.e. pine, fir, hemlock, spruce, cedar); whereas hardwood trees bare leaves in the Fall and go dormant during the winter months (oak, maple, cherry, sycamore, birch, walnut).
● Hardwood trees mature slower than softwood species.
● Softwood trees grow tall and straight while hardwood trees don branches in every direction.
● Softwood trees produce resin, which causes a tar-like buildup in chimneys.
Differences Between Seasoned and Kiln-dried Wood
Regardless of whether you burn softwood or hardwood, it must be dried rather than green and wet. This is important because burning green or wet wood not only produces a lot of smoke, the end result is very little heat production.
● Seasoned Wood - The more traditional drying process is referred to as “seasoning” which involves storing chopped and cut wood in a dry, sheltered area until its water content is reduced from 60% to 20%. This natural process can take anywhere from 6 months to a year depending on the wood type and your local climate.
● Kiln-dried Wood – Drying wood in a kiln is much faster in comparison to seasoning wood naturally. This process is done in a controlled environment and makes it possible to meet high-volume demands. For instance, kiln-dried lumber is used in construction and this method also produces wood bundles for campers and wood-fired oven restaurants.
What to Use in Your Fireplace or Wood Stove
Without question, it’s best to use hardwood in your wood-burning fireplace or stove. Not only does it burn slower and more steady, but it also produces more heat than softwood. Hardwood also creates less soot and chimney buildup than softwood.
Some of the most popular hardwoods readily available in Albany and Saratoga, NY include Maple, Ash, Cherry, Apple, Oak, Hickory, and Hawthorn. While all of these are great choices, oak is considered one of the best because when dried properly, it produces high heat, a pleasant aroma, and is easy to light.
Woods to Avoid Burning In Your Home
For several reasons, you should avoid burning softwood in your home. Although it’s possible to purchase cords and bundles of softwoods like pine, cedar, eucalyptus, spruce, and fir, they should be reserved for your fire pit and grill.
Oftentimes, people opt for softwoods because they usually cost less and produce a wonderful smell. However, burning softwoods in your fireplace or woodstove will result in more problems down the road. These wood species burn quickly and are more likely to produce sparks and ash which can lead to house fires. Likewise, softwoods produce much less heat than hardwood. Also, the resin contained in softwood produces a sticky residue in the fireplace and chimney, which is highly flammable.
Bottom line, enjoy burning these aromatic, crackling softwoods outdoors. They work great for adding flavor to grilled foods and creating a cozy outdoor fire. If your home has a fireplace or stove, be sure to have it inspected annually before lighting a fire. Albany Chimney Inspections will provide an expert assessment and detailed report that will help ensure your family’s safety. Plus, while other chimney inspection companies offer repairs, we strictly offer chimney inspections, ensuring that your report is always honest.
Adam C Clark
Owner & Operator,
Shield Guard Home Inspections LLC
45 Parkwood St Albany NY, 12208
NYS LICENSE #16000091657
NYS MOLD # 0321