Winter is on its way, and with a chill in the air, there’s nothing more inviting than a nice warm fire to keep us warm and save on utility bills. Many of us use our hearth to heat our home throughout the winter, and we’re always on the lookout for firewood. So what is the best firewood for your fireplace insert or wood-burning stove? The answer is ANY wood is fine, as long as it is DRY!
All wood is basically similar in chemical content, regardless of the species. Density and moisture content are what make different types of wood burn hotter or quicker. Hardwoods like oak and maple produce longer lasting fires and release more heat, while softer woods like pine and spruce burn faster and do not leave a long-lasting coal bed.
Won’t Pine cause creosote in my chimney?
Many people say you must burn hardwoods and you can’t burn pine or other less dense woods because they will leave creosote in the chimney. This is simply not the case. Whether you use soft woods or hard woods, and no matter how you burn your firewood, particulate matter and gasses are released into the air and through the chimney. There is no avoiding this, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a creosote build-up. Creosote is formed when wood is incompletely burned, and is an indication of a poor wood stove design, improper use, or poor installation. Here are some tips to keep your chimney creosote-free, regardless of which wood you burn.
If the firewood has been aged one full season (April – November) it should be perfect for burning. If you’re uncertain, stop by Sierra Hearth & Home and pick up a moisture meter. You just stick the prong into the end of a log and if it measures below 20% it is dry enough to burn in your hearth.
What about burning wood from trees that have been killed by Pine Beetles?
If you have lost trees to the pine beetles, you must be careful to cure and handle your wood properly. Here is a good article from CalFire on controlling bark beetles in wood residue and firewood. It explains how to cut, stack, and tarp your wood so you can safely use the wood without spreading the infestation.
Living in the foothills, there’s plenty of firewood available should you wish to cut your own. You may have trees on your own property or on the property of your friends. The devastating Butte Fire left acres of burned trees that can still be useful as firewood. All of the burned land is either private or BLM, so you must obtain permission of the property owners before cutting.
In the El Dorado National Forest (Amador County), and Stanislaus National Forest (Calaveras County), wood cutting is allowable by permit. Please check with the following National Forest Ranger Stations for proper permits and regulations:
El Dorado National Forest
26820 Silver Drive
Pioneer, CA 95666
Permits: $15/cord – 2 cord minimum
Stanislaus National Forest
5519 Highway 4
Hathaway Pines, CA
Permits: $10/cord – 2 ½ cord minimum, 10 cord maximum
Here’s a great article from Stihl USA on how to select, split, stack and store your firewood: http://www.stihlusa.com/information/how-to-guides/firewood-tips/
Buy it / Cut it where you burn it
Taking your firewood out of the region, or bringing firewood in from other areas can move invasive pests to new locations, and create new infestations. The USDA Forest Service recommits you use firewood from local sources. Read more here
Stop by Sierra Hearth & Home and talk to the experts! We love to share our knowledge with you!