GUEST COLUMN: Know how to pick the perfect firewood for those cold, wintry nights

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By Bryce Roberts

Every winter we look forward to the pleasures of warming our hands and feet by a blazing fire, mesmerized by the dancing flames.

When buying firewood two factors will determine just how hot your fire is—seasoning and the kind of wood.

Wood is made up of air and cellulose (wood fiber). The more air space that wood has, the less there is to burn. Buying wood with the heaviest/densest per unit volume will keep you toasty.

Osage orange, hickory, black locust, all of the oaks, sugar maple and ash produce hot fires; plus they are easy to split.

Yellow poplar, silver maple and red maple provide much less heat per log but are good for kindling because they catch fire quickly.

Avoid elm, sycamore and sweet gum because they are not as warm, and their fibers are so interlaced they will not split.

The good firewood species are found in Kentucky, although suppliers sometimes will identify their stock only as “hardwoods” without specifying the species. Be sure to ask what kind of wood you are buying.

The second thing to look for when buying firewood is how much water is in the wood. Since wood comes from a living plant, it contains water. The more water in the wood, the less heat it generates when it burns.

Ask the vendor if the wood is seasoned. Wood is 50 percent moisture and needs six months to a year to dry out enough to burn efficiently. Dry or seasoned wood has splits in the ends of the logs and a gray appearance.

Firewood is sold in a variety of measures. A cord measures 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long. Often this is too much for the occasional user, as most homeowners are. Many vendors will price their firewood by the pickup truckload.

For the warmest fires at the best price, do some comparative shopping before you buy.

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.