How to Buy and Burn Firewood Like a Pro!

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There are not many things that I like about cold weather, however snuggling-up to a roaring fire with my honey tops the list! Bring on the marshmallows, hot chocolate and some chestnuts to roast, fires bring out the kid in all of us.

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, you’re all set. Otherwise, outdoor areas can be easily converted to a fire pit. A circle of small boulders, bricks or just an area cleared of burnable material will work just fine.

Folks often ask, “What’s the best type of wood to burn?” There’s no one answer. Everyone has a favorite firewood, just as everyone has a different way of lighting and running a fire.

Pound for pound, all varieties of wood have approximately the same heat content, which is about 6400 BTU. The heat created by burning firewood is essentially the energy of the sun, the ultimate source of all energy on planet Earth. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees are able to store solar energy as chemical energy. Burning wood is just the quick reversal of this process, liberating the suns heat when we need to keep warm.

Although the heat content may be the same, woods do burn differently because of differences in density. Firewood is classified into two categories. Soft woods include pine, juniper, spruce, poplar and cedar. These burn easily and quickly, providing a hot fire, although it won’t last long. Hardwoods are denser and burn quite slowly, producing less immediate heat but a fire that lasts longer. Hardwoods include maple, oak, ash, birch and hickory.

firewood list 1 firewood list 2

Found this great firewood chart from Utah State University

Another consideration of energy release is that the size of the firewood pieces affects the rate of combustion. Larger pieces ignite and release their energy slower than small pieces. Smaller pieces are better for short, hot fires (cooking) while larger pieces are a better choice for extended burning (warmth).

When shopping for firewood, many times tree trimming companies are your better bet for a good buy. Pretty easy to figure out why… They get paid to prune or remove trees and then get to paid again selling it as firewood. Double payday! Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture (here in Illinois at least) do pay visits to these locations looking for emerald ash borer and other pests that can be transferred via firewood. Many times mulching the wood destroys the insect and it can be sold as such.

If possible, try to visit the location where you will be buying your wood. Many times, the wood will already be stacked in the quantities sold. Bundles can be any amount, mainly bought by campers needing only enough wood for a camping weekend. Otherwise, the only legal unit measurement of firewood is the CORD, defined as, “a loosely stacked pile of split firewood measuring 4 ft. wide x 4 ft. high x 8 ft. long.” equal to about 128 cubic feet. There is no legal standard for the “Face Cord”, but it should be about 45 cubic feet = 1/3 cord. Face Cords should be multiplied times three to determine you’re getting a good price.

Some quick notes on types of campfires:

Campfire types

This is probably the most basic of fire designs. It is often used as a starter upon which bigger, longer-lasting fires are founded. This fire uses mostly kindling, but larger tee-pees can be created by adding larger logs vertically to the fire.

This fire consists of a foundation framework of large logs laid side by side to form a solid base. These can be used to cook on very easily. It can provide quick warmth and be the start of any number of larger blazes.

A star fire, or Indian fire, is the fire design often depicted as the campfire of the old West. Imagine five or six logs laid out like the spokes of a wheel (star shaped). A fire is started at the “hub” and each log is pushed towards the center as the ends are consumed. It’s another fire that can be kept burning all night long with little maintenance and where firewood is at a premium.

This is a great fire during windy days. Be sure to check wind direction before set-up.

When you get your wood delivered, stack it in neat loose piles off the ground in a sunlit location away from buildings. Plastic sheeting or closer stacking of top pieces will protect firewood from rain and snow. Firewood put in a shady corner near buildings or surrounded by shrubs deteriorates faster than wood stored in an open, sunlit location, reducing the fuel value.

Don’t treat firewood with pesticides. Storing firewood away from the house and bringing in only a day or two’s worth at a time should prevent dormant or pupating insects from warming up and emerging to become pests inside your home.


I wish I could credit these photos correctly, however they are overshared across the net


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

27 thoughts on “How to Buy and Burn Firewood Like a Pro!

  1. thanks for a lot of great informations! we have sh*twood this year, it’s oak but it’s too fresh :o( my mom bought pressed wood in a store, but she had no clue that this stuff is as heavy as a rock. she placed 4 packs on tiop of each other (while the sales guy tried not to laugh) and she really thought she can carry that 4 packs away… she removed one pack=same result (sales guy showed his back and tried to be serious)… with two packs she waddled away with huffing and puffing (sales guy laughed his a$$off).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have plenty of cold days but not enough to include a fireplace when we built our retirement home. I chose a built in cabinet and bookcase for the slot instead. 🙂
    On those chilly days we just up the heat a wee bit. wee wee wee bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Growing up cutting wood for the winter in Minnesota it was hard to not look at sitting in front of the fireplace with disdain. Now, well I love to sit in front of the fire and sip hot tea…The wood pile art is pretty spectacular.


  4. Excellent post. People with a fireplace should read it. I closed my huge fireplace off 4 years ago. I could not deal with the work of carrying in the wood and taking out the ashes. It sure could produce a wonderful fire. I miss the warmth but not the extra work.


  5. Great post! We have a self-seeded ash wood. It’s a wonderful wood to burn but when you cut it you have to split it immediately or it is impossible – picture axe bouncing back at you 😉 Too hard to chip in your average chipper too.


Time to fire-up the chair-to-keyboard interface!!!

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