One of my favourites is burning wood for warmth. It’s traditional and cozy and most importantly, effective, and there’s something about the smell of a log on the fire and the heat it gives off that embodies the very essence of home. Yes, wood-burning has been improved upon, through the introduction of Environmental Protection Agency Certification and the Canadian Standards Association Code B415, both of which exist to significantly minimize the health risks of wood burning for you and the environment, while also ensuring the most efficient and safe heating possible. But the gist of it remains the same—tried and true and homey.
One of the most important considerations for wood heating in your home is the type(s) of wood you burn. There are so many types of wood and while in many ways they are chemically similar, their properties will determine things like how long and how hot the burn will be, and how long that wood will need to prepare or “season” before it’s ready to be used.
Wood heating has a myriad of benefits. For one thing, firewood almost always comes from local suppliers (something you can verify before purchasing your wood), and also, it does not release carbon the way burning fossil fuels like oil and coal do (yes, it does emit some carbon, but this is part of the cycle since the tree pulled carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and released oxygen).
As an added effort for helping the environment, I recommend confirming that your supplier gets the wood in an eco-friendly and sustainable way, meaning the provider employs proper clearing and resting techniques designed to most benefit the trees, ecosystems, and environment. Supporting your local economy while helping the environment? That sounds like a win-win to me!
So you’ve found your local, green-practicing wood-supplier—now what? First you need to know what type of wood they offer, because that’s going to influence how long it takes for the wood to season. The harder the wood, the longer it will take before it burns well.
For example, you should give oak as long as a full year to dry out, whereas maple or pine should definitely be ready in six months or less. The flipside to this is that harder woods tend to burn more efficiently, meaning they burn hotter for longer. Your supplier will be able to advise the wood type and recommend a period of time for drying-out.
You need to pay attention to the size your wood is cut to. It should be a minimum of 3 inches shorter than the stove or furnace you’re going to burn it in, as this is safer, easier to set-up and maintain, and will offer you a better burn. In terms of diameter, it’s best to have some smaller pieces of wood (roughly 3 inches in diameter) to start your fire, then varying sizes going up to 6 inches. This will ensure you have the best results for your money (a better, more energy-efficient burn) and offers optimal drying proportions.
How you store your wood to season is important. For starters, your wood should not be directly on the ground. Wooden pallets are the best foundation for your wood pile because it allows air underneath while keeping your fuel wood off the damp ground. You also should not let your wood lay in a jumbled pile for more than a couple of days before properly stacking it or mould can set in. When you burn mouldy wood, the spores are released into your home during the burn—definitely not something you want!
Stack your wood in a line, log beside log but not tightly packed together, with logs stacked similarly on top. There should be no logs directly behind it (your rows should only be 1 log deep) because this prevents air circulation, which allows rot and mould, and prevents your wood from properly seasoning.
Your pile needs to be in a place that sunshine and wind can reach it to really dry out your wood for burning. Spring is the ideal time to purchase your wood for the following fall and winter as it gives the wood lots of time to dry in the summer sunshine and air.
There is debate about whether it should be covered, but if you do prefer to cover it, only do so on top of the pile—the sides need to remain open. A tarp is great for this as it keeps the rain off and is easy to set-up.
There are different ways to check your wood to ensure that it’s ready for burning. You can purchase a wood moisture meter, but there are also telltale signs that your wood is probably ready.
For one thing, dried wood weighs less than wet wood. It also tends to be darker. Take a sample piece from the middle of your pile and split it down the middle—if the newly exposed wood is dry, then your wood is ready to burn! Do a test burn with a couple of pieces even. Once you start burning it, you’ll know right away also, as wet wood is hard to ignite, and it will sizzle and hiss, whereas properly seasoned wood will burn easily.
Once your wood is ready for burning, it should be moved to a winter storage place, somewhere that is dry and offers full shelter from the snow and damp. You should only keep a limited supply actually in your home—this is for safety reasons. You don’t want an enormous pile of highly flammable fuel sitting in your basement, and you also don’t want to bring any mold that may be growing in the wood into your house.
Having enough for a couple of days or so, depending on the weather and immediate forecast, is your best bet. Your wood’s winter storage should be near enough to your house that you can access it, even when our Nova Scotia snowdrifts arrive. You’ll want to keep a clear pathway shoveled to your wood all winter-long.
As with most tried and true methods, talking to an experienced professional with hands-on expertise about wood burning is the best way to really be knowledgeable about this form of heating, and to ensure you’ll be warm and cozy all winter long!
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.