Seasoned Firewood VS Kiln Dried Firewood
Dry Seasoned Firewood
Ever since wood has been burned here in Massachusetts from a primitive man that burned wood to eat and heat. Now today's man wants a romantic fire to relax by. In all cases, anyone trying to light a fire would look for dry wood since after one or two fires everybody gets to know drier is better. Pretty soon you get firewood connoisseurs that appreciate a good "firewood concierge"!
The question about moisture is a pivotal one regarding getting good wood that will burn well. The term seasoned wood can be applied to firewood that is excellent for burning in the fireplace and a firewood product that can be like burning a wet sponge. In the firewood industry, a new term has been coined called "Semi Seasoned". The reason for this is many firewood suppliers cannot keep up with the "seasonal" nature of firewood. With a surge in firewood requests over the winter dealers offer wood that is not really ready to be burned and has not been cut and split for 4 plus seasons as it should be to naturally dry out to a low moisture content. So in this industry, there is just a huge gray area as to what it really means when people refer to seasoned wood. It is important to be aware of these variations as a consumer. For a side by side comparison on seasoned firewood compared to kiln dried firewood we have a page that shows that.
Indicators of Firewood Moisture
If you have trouble starting your fire or have trouble keeping your fire going, you are probably using recently-cut green wood, meaning that it is neither kiln-dried nor seasoned. If firewood is not properly dried, it will be hard to light. The moisture content of freshly-cut wood can be in the range of 70 percent in oak and Sycamore has been tested to be all the way up to 114 percent. Kiln-dried wood is in the range of 20 percent moisture. Quantifying it like this, you can imagine how unseasoned wood will keep going out. It will smolder; it won't put out heat; it just burns poorly and inefficiently. The heat of the fire is taken up by drying out the water in the wood. The species of wood also affects how it burns. Trees that are classified as hardwoods are very dense and they have more BTU's (= heat) per volume as compared to softwoods. They tend to be more difficult to start but will burn longer and release a good amount of heat. For all practical purposes, kiln-dried hardwoods are the best choice for firewood.
How Seasoned Firewood is Made
The concept is very simple cut the wood to length, split the wood, stack the wood, give it air circulation, protect it from rain snow and fog so the wood will dry out over time. It is not rocket science that good old catchphrase. The science is creating a moisture gradient that is lower outside of the wood so that the moisture over time is pulled out of the wood. It is a simple concept but everybody has an opinion on what is the best way to go about handling wood so that it will be a "good" seasoned wood. By "good" seasoned wood we mean a wood that when ready it is put in the fireplace it lights and burns well and then burns completely to the end of the fire. The opinions on how to stack the wood and patterns people use for seasoning wood is fascinating. Big piles that are piled high with no air able to circulate can create a mold to build upon the wood. Stacked wood with the sun on the face of the stack helps prevent molding but some kind of loose cover on top helps to shed water on the pile away from it as it is drying. Stacked firewood can be a real work of art to look at that would make a great portfolio of pictures.
Why it is Hard to get Good Seasoned firewood
It is a Question of Time and Space
There is no time machine that can transport firewood back from the future and not rocket ship hauling firewood. What we mean is the time to produce a high-quality firewood is just plain long. Specifically 12 to 18 months in low humidity conditions. The same as wood can be dried out it also will absorb moisture back into the wood if in high humidity. There is no way to honestly speed up the process other than adding heat by kiln drying. To put it another way, in Banking there is truth in lending but in firewood, there is no regulation in truth in drying. That's why there is so much discussion about it.
Because it takes so much time to dry the space needed to dry firewood is large. The total dollars and profit potential are not real large to afford space that only generates revenue for a 3 to 4 month period. The equation does not work. The labor is high and the space needed is large. Urban firewood is just hard to do. I would be so much different out around Lee Ma with space and room.
Here is the next collision with facts. Boston real estate is expensive and going up every day a new corporation moves to the area. So Space Firewood is really bulky especially when you start to consider the volumes of wood needed to supply firewood users in Boston and its suburbs. It is just too darn expensive to have firewood stored in a ground level lot that would take at least an acres of space any place close to Boston with the size of what is needed.
Trucking to overcome the space issue is a natural way to overcome the need for space by bringing it in from other places. Simple to say but the cost of loading and handling any bulk material is expensive every time you handle it.Then the cost and availability of trucks are getting all out of whack.
Kiln Drying Firewood Overcomes the Need for Time
Borrowing from the technology to dry lumber for building purposes now companies have set up kilns to dry firewood. Wood from forestry projects that would have gotten ground up or used some other way no goes to make firewood. A tree can be cut down and in less than 7 days that same piece of wood can be at 12% moisture content that burns better than seasoned wood. Well dried seasoned wood can get down to 20 to 30% moisture and customers who have tried both will not accept firewood with 25% moisture content as a good burning firewood.
How to tell if your firewood is dry
Seasoned and kiln-dried firewood has a dark color or gray when compared to freshly-cut green wood. To test the difference, split a piece of seasoned wood. You will see that it is a white color inside. The wood splinters are less flexible or brittle compared to fresh-cut firewood since the moisture content is reduced. The wood will have cracks running through each piece and a lot of little cracks on the inner rings. These cracks are caused by the drying creating shrinkage in the wood itself. Unseasoned wood has a wet, fresh-looking center and is lighter than the dried wood near the edges or ends which have been exposed since cutting. Comparing the same species of wood will make the differences between dry wood and green wood very clear. Another fast way to spot if firewood is very fresh, the bark will be very tightly attached. With drying, the two different layers pull apart.
Since water in the wood prevents the wood from burning it also adds weight to the wood. After picking up a lot of wood you get used to the "Feel" of dry wood. We know it from experience but the average person would not be able to tell. The difference in one piece of wood the same size can be one third less. Some people have put the wood in the oven to heat it up and measure the weight of the wood before and after it is dried. The difference is wood weight.
One of the other ways to check a load of wood after it is delivered is to pick up two pieces of wood that are the same size and bang them together and listen to the sound it makes. If the wood clapped together makes a dull thud then the wood is wet. The water in the wood muffles the sound from resonating in the wood. Doing the same thing with two pieces of well-dried firewood you will get a sharp cracking sound like a wood baseball bat hitting a home run. If you are not real familiar with the sound we have a video where you can hear what it sounds like when pieces of dry wood are hit together.
Testing Firewood For Moisture Content
There are ways to test if the firewood is dry. Some of it is covered above by looking for the right things. There are battery-operated testers that give a digital readout after you put the prongs in the wood. For a homeowner, this probably does not make a lot of sense. Buy from a reputable company that handles quality wood. A very accurate test is to take two pieces of wood and bang them together. The sound it makes tells you if the wood is dry. A wood with a high moisture content will produce a dull thud. Dry wood knocked together will have more of a ring to it. The concept is simple but very effective.
Firewood with a high moisture content has been proven to cause creosote to build up at an accelerated rate in the chimney. So, buying less expensive wood will be heavier to carry and handle, will burn poorly and be a cause of chimney fires. One fresh-cut cord of oak may contain enough water to nearly fill six 55-gallon drums. The water content in the wood determines how much heat the fire puts out and how much creosote will build up in your chimney.
Avoid these hassles at all costs! When you get cold, you'll be miserable if your firewood does not produce the heat you need. Well-seasoned, kiln-dried firewood produces pleasant, trouble-free heat. We both take the water out of the wood and the hassle out of getting the amount you want to be placed right where you want it when you want it.
Call The Firewood Concierge at 781-254-2773 to get your wood today.