Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Finding the Best Firewood for Sale

How to Choose the Right Firewood for a Fireplace or Wood Burning Stove

firewood
I was raised in the country, and one of the first chores I was assigned as a kid was to maintain our wood burning stove. My responsibilities would start earnestly in the Fall with the first delivery of wood, stacking log after log from the dumped pile at the end of the driveway. In the winter, I scavenged for kindling from the pines and birches surrounding the house, collecting branches to dry in the wooden apple crate by the back door. Each morning I stoked the fire and at the end of the day would close the iron doors of our modern Franklin stove to let the embers smolder over night. It's safe to say that over the years, I learned a thing or two about quality wood.

Where to Buy Firewood
 
In New Hampshire, it can be surprisingly difficult to find a reliable source for firewood by the cord without a bit of know-how. Plenty of people have it for sale, but some of it isn't worth a nickle. A cord is the standard measurement for firewood, and is identified by volume: if the wood is stacked, it should be an equivalent to 4 feet deep, 4 feet high, and 8 feet long. One source for the first-time buyer to locate wood for sale would be MapMuse's firewood locator. The website is linked in with Google maps, so by entering a location, several suppliers pop up with contact information. Once a list is made of suppliers, it's simply a matter of researching customer feedback on sites like Angie's List. This is how I found my supplier a few years back when I moved away from the Seacoast.

What Types of Wood Burn Best?
 
This question has a simple answer. Most domestic hardwood species will suffice, but for the best burn, look for heavy, dense, seasoned wood. According to Mastersweep.com, madrone is the top of the heap. The wood is a slow growth species with packed rings, and therefore extremely dense and will burn for a long time - the two main qualities to look for when heating a home. Next on the list comes oak, eucalyptus, and walnut. However, someone in need of firewood may not necessarily be relying on it to heat their home. In cases where a more decorative fireplace is used for just the holidays or occasional gatherings, a softer wood such as pine or birch is just as handy and will cost less.

Differences Between Soft and Hard Woods
 
To begin with, all wood must be dried, also called seasoning, before it can be burned efficiently. Simply taking a chainsaw to the poplar tree in the front yard isn't going to do someone any good. In order to provide a clean burn, wood must be seasoned so that the water inside the fibers has evaporated away. Most hardwoods need at least a year to accomplish this, and in the best scenarios, two years. To put this into perspective, the denser the wood is, the longer the drying time. Softer woods don't need as long to dry as they are less dense and evaporate water faster. In terms of efficiency, hardwoods burn longer and put out a steadier heat as there is more wood pulp and less sap within the plant fibers. Soft woods such as pine and fir burn hotter for a shorter time, as once the water is gone a thick sap remains that acts like rocket fuel when the wood is torched.

Tips on Buying Wood
 
Unless someone has their own heavy-duty truck, delivery is a must. Most places that sell firewood offer this service and often the cost is already factored into the cost per cord. Next, identify what types of wood are part of the order. Prices are based on volume per species, so if oak is being purchased, make sure the order is all oak, as it costs quite a bit more than a cord of pine. Expect to pay a premium for seasoned wood, and make sure it truly is seasoned. Aged wood will be splitting, cracked, and look gray on the inside. However, green wood is a great way to save money if it can be stored for at least a year. Green wood is easy to spot as it looks and smells as if it were cut down just the other day, and the bark is still firmly and uniformly attached.


Here's to a warm and cozy winter. Cheers!