According to the EPA, there are an estimated 10.1 million woodstoves and 17.5 million fireplaces in the United States. On top of that, it has become increasingly common for households to have a backyard fire pit.
There are a number of proven health benefits to spending time by a fire, whether it’s indoors in the hearth, in your yard around the fire bowl, or when you’re camping. These include decreasing blood pressure and reducing stress.
However, there are also dangers associated with burning firewood. There is a lot that you will want to learn before you start heating your home with wood or before having a campfire with friends.
Let’s take a look at 10 things to know about burning firewood so that your experience will be pleasant, stress-free, and oh-so-cozy.
1. Learn the Best Types of Firewood
Density and water content are the reason that some types of firewood burn better than others. The drier and denser firewood is, the more heat it will produce and be better it will burn.
Hardwoods are usually better firewood than softwoods because of their comparatively low levels of pitch or sap as well as their density.
2. Understand the Importance of Using Properly Seasoned Wood
Properly seasoning wood is an important part of having an efficient, pleasant, and safe fire. If there is steam hissing and bubbling out of the end grain, it means that the wood is “green” or wet. Before burning, it needs to be seasoned longer.
Firewood that is well-seasoned will have visible splits or cracks and darkened ends. It will be much lighter than wet wood and will make a very distinctive clinking noise when two dry pieces of wood hit one another.
Consider buying kiln-dried wood so you never have to worry about whether your firewood was seasoned properly. Check out https://www.buyfirewooddirect.co.uk/product/standard-crate-kiln-dried-mixed-hardwoods/ to purchase kiln-dried mixed hardwood logs in the UK.
3. Buy Local Firewood
The best types of firewood are always from local sources. In many places it is frowned upon to move firewood from elsewhere. This is particularly true across state lines.
In some places, it is illegal to transport firewood over a certain distance. This is because it can lead to the spread of invasive diseases and pests. For this reason, you should always purchase your firewood from a local source and never bring your own firewood to a faraway campsite.
4. Learn How to Burn Firewood Safely
There is something so lovely about having a nice fire, but it’s important to do so safely. Here are some guidelines to help you operate wood-burning appliances safely in your home:
- Never burn unseasoned wood
- Keep any flammable items like newspapers, curtains, books, and furniture away from the appliance
- Build hot fires as smoldering fires are neither efficient nor safe
- Regularly remove assets from your appliance and put them in a metal container with a cover before storing them outside
- Only use dry kindling, newspaper, and organic or all-natural fire starters
- Never use kerosene, gasoline, or charcoal starter in an indoor fireplace or woodstove
- Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby
- Unless you are unloading or stoking the fire, always keep the doors of your appliance closed
Here are some safety tips for having an outdoor campfire:
- Always know what the rules are at the wilderness area or campground that you are planning on building a fire
- Either use the provided fire pit at a campsite or dig a fire pit in a safe location if allowed
- Use local firewood
- Always have water handy
- Pay attention to the wind
- Keep anything flammable upwind and at least 15 feet away
- Be aware of pets and children when having a fire
- Always extinguish the fire properly by dumping water on it, stirring the ashes, and then adding more water
- Never leave a campfire without anyone watching it
The last thing you want is for your peaceful firewood burning experience to become scary or even dangerous. Always remember how powerful fire can be and how easily it can get out of control when not properly minded.
5. Purchase the Right Size Wood
It’s important to find out whether or not be firewood you are purchasing comes in split logs. If they don’t, you might consider asking how much it would cost to have been split the logs for you. You can do this yourself, but it takes quite a bit of time and is a skill you have to develop to get efficient at it.
You will want to ask the length of the firewood when you are purchasing it. Most of it is roughly 16 inches long, but it’s a good idea to ask rather than assume. Firewood should usually be split at 3 to 6 inches wide, as thicker logs will take too long to season and thinner firewood will burn too quickly.
6. Learn How to Store Firewood Properly
It is important to store firewood properly for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes you should avoid when storing firewood.
Firstly, don’t store firewood against the exterior of your home. While it might seem like the perfect spot, firewood stacks tend to attract a wide variety of pests, including spiders, centipedes, termites, and roaches. For this reason, it is a good idea to store your firewood at least 20 feet away from your house.
It’s also important to keep your firewood off the ground. This is because it will absorb moisture from the soil which is antithetical to your seasoning hopes. It is better to use something like a wooden pallet to keep your firewood at least a few inches off of the ground.
You also should not leave your firewood uncovered outside. It needs some kind of cover or shelter. While firewood can be stored outside without any issues, it needs to be protected from the elements so that it doesn’t become wet. Wet wood produces less heat and more smoke, and can lead to creosote buildup in your chimney.
You also never want to treat your firewood with pesticides. When you do that, it means that the chemicals you sprayed your wood with are released as toxic fumes when you have a fire.
Airflow is also essential when you are storing firewood. You want to stack your wood so that there is space through which air can flow. If you don’t do this, your firewood won’t dry out as effectively or efficiently.
Lastly, it’s important to understand just how long it takes to season wood.
How long does it take for firewood to dry, you ask? It depends on a number of factors including the weather, climate, type of wood, method of storage, and more. In general, it can take anywhere between six months and two years for firewood to dry.
When you burn firewood that is not seasoned, it can lead to a smoky fire that does not produce much heat. When you use firewood like this in your wood-burning appliance, it can lead to creosote buildup which can lead to a chimney fire.
7. Learn How to Build a Proper Fire
To build a proper campfire, there are a number of steps you will want to take.
First, you’ll want to create your fire bed. Safety should always be your first concern, and you should be aware of whether or not your campsite has rules or a designated fire area.
If you are at a more remote campsite that does not have fire pits, you can make your own if the rules allow. You’ll want to select a site that is far away from bushes, trees, and any plant material.
Your fire bed should not be on grass and particularly not dead grass. Instead, build it on bare earth. If you cant locate an area that is bare, you can rake and dig away plant material.
Next, you will gather your wood, which includes tinder, kindling, and fuelwood. You want to find dry wood that snaps and breaks easily rather than greenwood.
There are a number of different fire laying strategies, that include the lean-to, teepee, and log cabin. Before you head out for your camping trip, consider learning these different styles.
When you put out your fire, realize that it actually can take a while for a fire to completely go out. Starts putting your fire out about 20 minutes before you plan on going to bed.
To build a fire in a fireplace, the steps are as follows:
- Always start with a fireplace that is safe and a chimney that has a grate and a spark screen
- Gather the tinder, kindling, and logs
- Open the damper
- Use the upside-down fire method to set up the tinder, kindling, and logs
- Light the kindling
- Start to add wood logs that are seasoned
- Stay attentive to the fire
Building a fire is an art just as much as it is a science. As you become more comfortable with building fires, you will start to develop a sense of the process that makes it easier and more enjoyable.
8. You Should Have Your Chimney Inspected and Cleaned Annually
It is a good idea to have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year. This helps to ensure that your wood-burning system is as safe as possible. A chimney fire can occur when creosote builds up, so it is important to regularly inspect and clean your chimney.
9. Fires Should Be Hot and Efficient
If you are worried about fire and safety, your instinct might be to keep a cooler fire. Actually, though, it is much safer to have a hot and efficient fire rather than a cool and smoky fire. When you keep a fire burning hot, it means there are fewer harmful emissions and the combustion chamber never cools down.
Add more logs periodically when the fire is hot rather than waiting for it to cool down. This decreases the amount of wood you need to use, increases heating efficiency, and dramatically decreases harmful pollution.
10. Know What Not to Burn
There are a number of materials that can release harmful or toxic chemicals when they are burned. Burning the wrong types of material can also damage your appliance. Examples of materials you should never burn include:
- Pressure-treated wood or wood that is coated and painted
- Household trash, including plastics, cardboard, wrappers, boxes, magazines, and foam
- Rubber, plastic, asbestos, animal remains, and manure
- Wet, diseased, moldy, or rotted wood
- Plywood, ocean driftwood, any wood with glue on it, or particleboard
Additionally, as mentioned before, don’t use firewood that was sourced from more than 50 miles away. Also, you should be very careful with artificial logs as they are not suitable for all wood-burning appliances. It is important to always burn well seasoned, safe, dry, quality firewood.
Burning Firewood Can Be So Cozy, But It’s Important to Do It Right
There is something so cozy and relaxing about having a fire in your fireplace, wood stove, or fire pit. However, the quality of the experience can be seriously diminished when you don’t know how to burn firewood properly. On top of that, it can pose some serious safety hazards to improperly enjoy a fire.
Enjoying a campfire can help to lower your blood pressure and offers a wonderful opportunity for socializing with friends and family. The last thing you want in that circumstance is to be dealing with a fire that won’t light properly because you are using the wrong wood or unseasoned wood or even the emergence of a dangerous situation because you did not take the proper steps to have a safe fire.
Did you find this article about burning firewood interesting? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more fascinating and informative content!