COLUMN: Get the most from your firewood investment

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By Bryce Roberts

Many Kentuckians burn firewood as their main source of heat during the winter. Others use it to supplement their heating sources. For many families that means purchasing wood. To gain the most from your investment, pay attention to the seasoning, density and quantity of firewood.
Seasoning is an important consideration when purchasing firewood. Ask if the firewood has been seasoned. Wood that is seasoned, or cured, was properly cut, split and stacked for about six months to remove enough moisture so it will burn efficiently this season. Properly seasoned firewood has a gray, weathered appearance and large cracks in the log ends.
Burning unseasoned wood produces a smoldering fire that creates a potentially dangerous creosote buildup in the chimney. This inefficient burning also can lead to a poor draft, causing smoke to bellow into the room instead of flowing up the chimney.
Different wood species have different heat values, so consider what you want to accomplish with a fire before buying firewood.
Softwoods like pines ignite easily and produce a hot flame. Because pines contain so much resin, they burn out quickly. You’ll need to watch the fire closely and add more wood to keep it going.
Softwoods and lighter hardwoods like yellow-poplar have a place in your firewood buying plan. They are a good choice when you want a quick, warming fire or if your goal is a short fire that will burn out before you leave the house.
By contrast, more dense hardwoods produce a longer-lasting fire because they burn less vigorously.  Hickory, black locust, oaks and ashes are among the more desirable and plentiful hardwoods. They also are easy to split.
Since wood species produce different heat values, you can combine softwoods and hardwoods to produce a fire that’s both easy to ignite and long lasting. Then you can add some fruit or nut woods to produce a pleasing aroma.
Burning woods of fruit trees, such as apple or cherry, and nut trees like beech and hickory provide a pleasant, often nostalgic aroma that resembles the fragrances of their fruits or nuts. These woods produce a steady flame, but usually cost more than those with greater heating values.
The cost of firewood depends on the volume of wood you purchase and the availability of firewood in your area.
The most common firewood measurement is a “face cord,” which is 4 feet high and 8 feet long. A “face cord” usually costs about $50 in areas where firewood is plentiful and up to $200 or more in locations where firewood is scarce.  As with most other purchases, firewood prices are negotiable.
Firewood comes in various widths, so be sure to buy a width that will fit your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
Buying properly seasoned firewood in an amount that fits your needs will ensure that you have a warm, long-burning fire, rather than seeing your investment go up in smoke.
Feel free to contact me at your Spencer County Cooperative Extension Service at 477-2217 or you can email me at broberts@uky.edu.  You can visit the Spencer County Extension Services’ website at www.spencerextension.com.
Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.