With fuel prices steadily on the rise, home heating
bills are going up with them. Electricity costs as well as LP gas producers just pass the extra cost of production on to the consumer. This has also affected the cost of seasoned wood in my area and probably yours too. In the rural south I’ve noticed more and more people cutting firewood for sale in the last couple of seasons. A full size pick up loaded level with the top of the body brings at least forty or fifty dollars to the cutter, which is pretty good spare cash.
I grew up in a house with several fireplaces and have always had one in my own home. Not just for the heat but for the ambiance it gives to a home. Nothing is more cheerful than an open fire on a cold and dreary day. Backing up to a heating vent in the floor leaves something to be desired also. With power outages possible, an emergency heat source is as close as your woodpile.
If you live in a rural area it’s possible to get wood free for the cutting just by asking around. Farmers frequently clear undergrowth and woodland for irrigation expansion or other use. They will often let people cut the wood just to get rid of it. Even in urban areas trees blown down by storms or those that people want removed can be had for free. I often see ads in the paper for people wanting to give away the tree for removal. Some will furnish the wood for halves too.
Hardwoods are the best choice to use in your fireplace or stove. These include; hickory, the various types of oak, black gum, pecan, and maple. There may be some left out in this list but ask around about the availability of the local types of wood. While large unsplit logs will burn fine after a coal bed is established, they take longer to season than split wood because of the bark covering. For this reason, splitting at least some of the wood is recommended for getting the coal base started.
Cutting the wood in the winter or spring before it’s expected use is preferable if possible. This allows plenty of time for the moisture to escape from the wood, which is the purpose of the seasoning process. If possible stack the wood up off of the ground. Treated wood, brick, or any handy buffer between the ground will do. Stack the wood in a cross hatch or log cabin pattern as high as three or four feet. This allows air to circulate between the pieces of wood which will increase drying efficiency. Cover the stacks of wood with sheets of tin or any waterproof material until needed.
If you can’t cut your wood in the previous season there is another way to make the wood dry faster. Stack the wood using the same cross hatch pattern making the rows three deep and as much as twenty feet long. Cover the entire pile with plastic, weighing down the sides, but leaving the ends open. On sunny warm days a window fan can be placed at one end of the row allowing the dry air to go through the stack while the moist air exits the other end. This should only be done on warm sunny days and not at night. Leave the ends open always to prevent ground moisture from collecting.
By using this method the wood can be used in as little as six weeks depending on the weather in your area. Burning dry wood is one of the most important things involved in good efficient heating procedures. Enjoy this ancient and still effective heating source and save a few bucks too. Share the warmth.