Don’t get burned choosing, storing firewood

Published 8:07 pm Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homeowners have several options for winter heating. Oil heats the entire house but is expensive when diesel prices are high. Wood fires are inexpensive, but wood must be collected, split and seasoned. More than one source of heat is ideal (e.g., electric heat pump and liquid propane furnace). Having a third source — a fireplace or woodstove — is even better, especially if the power fails.
Firewood comes in a “standard cord” (two rows of stacked sticks, 8 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet — 128 cubic feet), but the actual amount of wood in a cord is only about 80 cubic feet, depending on stacker skill and straightness and size of the sticks. A “rack” or “face cord” is an 8-foot-by-4-foot row of stacked sticks. A truckload is about one-fifth of a cord for a pickup truck and up to four cords for a dump truck.
Good firewood is inexpensive, emits many BTUs (British thermal units), splits easily, seasons well and produces long-lasting coals, little smoke and few sparks.
Poor choices include cottonwood and willow, which don’t produce much heat (15.9m BTU/cord) or long-lasting coals but make good kindling because they split well and are easy to light.
Moderately good firewoods are sycamore and American elm (24.1m BTU/cord), which coal well but are hard to split. Red maple produces slightly less heat but is easier to split. Loblolly pine produces good heat (22.0m BTU/cord) and is easy to split but doesn’t produce good coals.
Good firewood (white oak, red oak, white ash and sugar maple) produces around 24.3m BTU/cord of heat, splits well and produces good coals, few sparks and light to moderate smoke.
The best firewood (black locust, hickory and pecan) has excellent coaling qualities and heat values (28.5m BTU/cord), splits somewhat easily, produces few sparks, has a slight fragrance and produces little smoke.
Firewood should be stacked under a shelter (or at least with bark-side up) and raised off the ground to dry and “season,” which takes about a year. Place firewood away from the house to avoid insect problems. It takes about seven hours to cut, split and stack a cord of wood.
The information for this article is given courtesy of the Beaufort County Master Gardener Volunteers. If you have a gardening question, please contact the Beaufort Master Gardener hotline at 946-0111 or email your question to: