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Frequently Asked Questions - Firewood Quality

FAQs - Firewood Quality

Things related to the quality of firewood.

 

 

It is wood that has been processed for use in residential, recreational, or commercial wood-burning fireplace oven or appliance. This first definition does not take into account any measure of quality or local variations in what is available. These local variations can be so vast that it brings new meaning to the saying “What is one man's trash can be another's treasure”. The point is with a large amount of mature tree species available then the attention turns to firewood qualities to narrow the selection of what is considered firewood. When you look at what some people burn in other places of the world as firewood it is a very different material and very substandard for anyone in this area since that is all that is available in these other areas. Desert or semi desert areas of the world have little or no wood to burn for a fire. In many places there are no large trees and almost no hard words available so their firewood is more like brush from the tops of trees that we do not use in New England. Or it can be evergreens with a lot of sap and are that would accelerate creosote buildup in the chimney and not burn evenly.

 

  • First consideration before preparation is selection the species of wood for burning prior to processing
  • Second consideration would be the right size to fit in the fireplace or stove. The total thickness relates to if it is a log and very large so that is needs to be split to burn well.
  • Third the moisture content of the wood the wetter the wood the slower it burns and the less heat is given off.
 

Refers to the fact that it has been recently harvested. Within the definition is the moisture content of the wood. The high moisture content means that it does not burn as well as dried wood and it does not provide as much heat since the fires heat has to drive out the water before it can burn. So it released fewer total BTU’s in the process. The moisture content of the wood can be evaluated by a number of tests. There are moisture meters to test the electrical conductivity in wood that relates to the moisture content of the wood. An easier test it to measure a similar amount of wood that is dry compared to dried wood. Different trees when cut down have moisture content that can range from as high as 120% to 60%.

An example of why you would not want to buy wood be weight is if the seller is not ethical they could wet it down. The other issue is it is just too variable. A cord of wood can weight 4,600 lbs when it is just cut down or green then after being dried it can be 3,300 lbs. These number are highly variable based on what source you look at. This number is just an example because each species of wood is different and the definition of dry is variable also. So you can start to see buying firewood and getting quality firewood is not based on all firewood is alike.

This term indicates air drying firewood over time to remove moisture from the wood so it will light and burn better. So wood that was cut last year has gone through a wood burning season.  There is no set standard for what is called seasoned wood. This gray area of time is a reflection of how long it takes to dry the wood and what the seller fells is an acceptable moisture content achieved to sell the wood for burning.  Often this is also applied to wood cut in the spring. There is no correlation to the moisture content of the wood. We do know of whole sale suppliers that report some retailers are buying wood that was cut less than a month or two ago and selling it as seasoned. As with other measures of firewood this term is not a scientific one. It usually refers to calendar time from when the wood was cut

There is not a set definition or specification for moisture content in seasoned firewood. Some suppliers sell a very green wood as seasoned leaving the customer with very poor burning fires. But the range of moisture in well-seasoned wood may be 25 percent to 40 percent moisture content. There should not be a lot of dirt, mud or debris on the wood. A lot of this is based on if the wood is stored on pavement or not.

This is a variable measure but the need to keep repeat customers with a great burning firewood. We provide hardwood that is dried to a moisture content on average of 15 to 20 percent. Size of each piece of wood and species of wood causes these variables in moisture content.

Seasoned firewood is naturally dried in the air over time to reduce the moisture content of the wood.  It is often covered but exposed to rain and snow. Seasoned firewood that is stored inside will naturally be drier. We do not know suppliers who do dry their wood inside. If done long enough and done right seasoned quality hard wood can approach the quality and moisture content of kiln dried firewood.  The problem is you cannot look at the wood and tell how dry it is.

Kiln dried wood is processed then put in a large oven called a kiln. The heat and airflow around the wood is used to dry the natural wood moisture content in the wood. The same as lumber is dried for construction purposes but in this case the use of a firewood kiln is to reduce the moisture content of the firewood. It is easier to light since there is less moisture in the wood. It allows the wood to burn better. It burns hotter produces more heat (BTU’s).  It produces less creosote in the chimney. We also make sure the wood is high quality hardwoods for a lasting fire with a balanced moisture content.

Kiln dried firewood can produce the same amount of heat with one piece of wood that it takes 3 pieces of wet logs produce. Even though kiln dried firewood costs more you can start to see the warmth, ambiance and economics of burning kiln dried wood. Kiln dried hardwoods being denser and dry burn hot, slowly and cleanly.

It is a measure of free water and chemically bonded water in another material. Different industries have different views of moisture content based on what the application is. In soil science it is the study of water and what is available to the plant before it wilts.  So they are looking at water availability. In drying wood there is the largest volume of water that is called free water and it is in the cells and fiber of the wood. The other water is chemically bound to the hydrogen in wood cellulose. This water is harder to remove.

In wood it is the amount of water in the wood both free and chemically bonded. The way to determine moisture content is to measure the change in weight. After heating and driving out the water a second measurement is taken and the resulting weight change is the amount of water removed from the wood. Think of it as a paper towel. When dry the moisture content is almost zero and when picking up a spill the product is designed to be able to go to 200% moisture content. Wood holds less but is strong, paper holds more but loses its strength when wet.

Without testing the moisture content or measureing the weight of the log it is very hard. Some signs are the bark comes off easily. There are different signs but none is definitive. Seasoned wood has been out in the weather for a while so it develops darkened ends to the wood. It often has splitting or cracks at the ends from the wood shrinkage as it dries with cracks or splits visible

A tree is a moisture conductor from the roots to the leaves to keep the tree alive. When wood dries 3 forces are at work. When a tree is first cut down the fibers in the wood are saturated with water and varies by species.

Capillary action is the movement of free water with in the wood from one place of concentration to a dryer section of wood. There is also a term called partial pressure of water that helps move the moisture along.

Moisture content differences the moisture seeks to reach equilibrium with its environment. In the kiln circulates warm air around the wood the gradient of drier air caused the water to come out of the wood.

Moisture movement refers to the direction of how the moisture tends to flow in the wood. Since it is a tree that is built to draw water up to the leaves the wood. When being dried the water tends to flow laterally through the wood. The other factor is drying the wood is how much the wood is split. Smaller pieces have more exposed surface area so it also gains by drying tangentially.

We sell a mix of native New England Hardwoods that are sourced from the logging industry and cannot be used for other purposes. The logging companies benefit by minimizing their waste wood and find a higher value use of the wood. Logs do not have much value below a 12” diameter. So the tops of trees smaller than 12” are a source for firewood as well as the need to thin the forest for better production and healthier trees. check our page on Forest to Fireplace

We feel that ours is as good or better than anyone else’s firewood. The reason being is the wood is kiln dried hardwoods and we deliver it, stack it for you and it consistently burns well

An example of to show the difference in dried firewood with a moderate water content of 25% is as follows. One log with a moisture content of seasoned wood will generate the same heat output as 3 green pieces of firewood.  With kiln dried wood there is less moisture so a more efficient burn happens. The wood will also last well. See our link on burning wood.

Yes, it does, hardwood is denser and has a 65% higher BTU value. The mix of wood supplied by us is a mix of New England hardwoods.  The density of the wood denotes the amount of total fuel available within the wood. The additional consideration is the moisture content of the wood. With the lower the moisture content the better the wood will produce more BTU’s.  There is a finite range to go to in being dry. If the wood is to dry it will not be a lasting fire so as with anything else everything is a balance.