Know your heating goals before investing in firewood

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Many Kentuckians burn firewood as their main source of heat during the winter.  Others use it to supplement their heating sources.

For many families, that means purchasing wood.  To gain the most from your investment, pay attention to the seasoning, density and quantity of firewood.

Seasoning is an important consideration when purchasing firewood. Ask if the firewood has been seasoned. Wood that is seasoned, or cured, was properly cut, split, and stacked for about six months to remove enough moisture to allow it to burn efficiently this season. Properly seasoned firewood has a gray, weathered appearance and large cracks in the log ends.

Burning unseasoned wood produces a smoldering fire that creates a potentially dangerous creosote buildup in the chimney. Inefficient burning also can lead to a poor draft, causing smoke to bellow into the room instead of flowing up the chimney.

Different wood species have different heat values, so consider what you want to accomplish with a fire before buying firewood.

Softwoods like pines ignite easily and produce a hot flame. Because pines contain so much resin, they burn out quickly. You will need to watch the fire closely and add more wood to keep it going.

Softwoods and lighter hardwoods, such as yellow poplar, have a place in your firewood buying plan.  They are a good choice when you want a quick, warming fire or if your goal is a short fire that will burn out before you leave the house or retire to bed.

By contrast, more dense hardwoods produce a longer-lasting fire because they burn less vigorously.  Hickory, black locust, oaks and ashes are among the more desirable and plentiful hardwoods. They also are easy to split.

Because wood species produce different heat values, you can combine softwoods and hardwoods to produce a fire that is both easy to ignite and long-lasting. Add some fruit or nut woods to produce a pleasing aroma.

Burning woods of fruit trees, such as apple or cherry, and nut trees like beech and hickory, provide a pleasant, often nostalgic aroma that resembles the fragrances of the fruits or nuts they produce. These woods produce a steady flame, but usually cost more than those with greater heating values.

The cost of firewood depends on the volume of wood you purchase and the availability of firewood in your area.

The most common firewood measurement is a “face cord,” which is four feet high and eight feet long.  A “face cord” usually costs about $50 in areas where firewood is plentiful and up to $200 or more in locations where firewood is scarce.  As with most other purchases, firewood prices are negotiable.

Firewood comes in various widths, so be sure to buy a width that will fit your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

Buying properly seasoned firewood in an amount that fits your needs will ensure that you have a warm, long-burning fire, rather than seeing your investment go up in smoke.

For more information about firewood, contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.


Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.