Good Wood: What You Need To Know About Firewood

Firewood is no light subject when it comes to the cabin having the best wood available is worth the time and money invested for the comfort and enjoyment gained.

The variety of wood available to you will depend on your cabin’s location on the island. Obviously those located in Central Newfoundland and west of Central will have more variety, hardwood and large yields available. However, even on the Avalon, you can find what you are looking for at a reasonable price, or, if you’re the do-it-yourselfer, with an acceptable amount of elbow grease.

Wood is a renewable source of heat energy and a great ambient addition to a cabin. When choosing what to burn to get the most bang for your buck and/or effort, there are two factors to consider.

Moisture Content

The moisture content of wood has the greatest effect on its BTU (British Thermal Units) and therefore the heat it can produce. Wet wood – more commonly referred to as green wood – can have a 60 to 70 per cent moisture content and uses up energy that would have been heat in your cabin to dry out the wood before it can even burn. Burning wet or green wood also produces more smoke and creosote, resulting in build-up in your chimney and increasing your likelihood of chimney fires as this creosote build-up can catch fire. This high moisture content must be reduced to approximately 20 per cent to burn efficiently. Well-seasoned firewood that has been stored to dry for six to eight months after being cut can potentially have twice the BTU of green wood.

Density of Wood

There are hardwoods and softwoods in the land of timber, and you want to have a mixture of both. Hardwoods, such as birch (which is the hardwood you will have access to in this province), produce high heat and burn for longer. Softwoods, such as spruce and fir, are easy to light and create fast fire, but produce less heat and burn up quickly. Hardwood also has great coal qualities, so you can work with what’s left in the morning to keep your heat-source pumping.

How much?

The amount of wood you will need for a season depends on whether wood is your main source of heat, how often you visit your cabin, whether you use your cabin year-round and how efficient your wood and woodstove are.

When you’re purchasing or cutting wood, think about how much you will need and then double that amount. It’s better to have too much than not enough.

Choose hardwoods for the majority of your stock, but keep a healthy supply of softwood for starting your fires.

Wood storage

Drying your wood and keeping it dry is a very important part of the process. This is where careful planning will pay off. Tossing your truckloads into a pile and pulling from that pile as you need it can result in mouldy wood that is difficult to burn.

A handy fact to start with is that wood dries through the wood grains, so the more cut and split your firewood is, the more wood grains that are exposed and therefore the faster it will dry.

Prim Applin, who has used wood to heat his home and shed his whole life, cuts his own firewood in the spring and says the wood is seasoned and ready for use by late fall. He says leaving wood to season any longer than that and it’s referred to as dead wood. “You don’t get the same amount of heat from it.” He says the sap dries up so a large source of the heat fuel is gone.

The ground is rarely parched in this province, so storing your firewood directly on the ground will not aid in the drying process. If you don’t have a woodshed or a similar sheltered structure, try using pallets to form a base for your woodpile. Use posts at either end to hold the stack in place and neatly stack your wood one or two stacks deep to maximize airflow.

“Cover the top with a tarp so the snow and rain can’t get on it,” says Applin. “Keep the sides open so the wind can blow through it or it will mold and not season.”

And as aesthetically pleasing as tight stacks of wood might be, it is important to stack your green wood loosely to allow for more airflow. The higher the surface area of your stack that is exposed to the air, the quicker your wood will season.