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Choosing the Best Firewood for a Wood Stove (And Curing It)

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I recently bought a new home, my retirement home, which, to my delight, came equipped with a Huntsman, Model 241, wood heater. So, all I have to do is learn two important things: (1) How to operate that wood stove properly and (2) How to acquire firewood.

The best firewood for a wood stove is any hardwood that is not pine. The best place to get it is either from deadfall on your own property or from a local sawmill, which usually has spare rough pieces of lumber with bark on it that they will often give away or sell cheap.

My research into the proper operation of a wood heater led me to the indisputable fact that I can’t just go into the woods, chop down a tree, cut it into firewood, and right away use that firewood to build a great roaring fire in my new-to-me wood heater. So along with the two important questions listed above, I have to answer the questions: (1) Does firewood have to be cured or seasoned? And, if so, (2) How to cure or season firewood.

With my work cut out for me, my research led me to follow these steps: 

  • Talked to people I know who have a wood heater. 
  • Read articles on all the above-mentioned topics.
  • Watched YouTube videos on everything to do with firewood.
  • Acquired a copy of “Instructions for Installation and Operation of a Model 241 Huntsman Wood Burning Heater.”

From all the sources that I just mentioned, the following information covers breaks down and explains all the things I learned about firewood, from start to finish.

Where Can I Get Firewood for a Wood Stove?

Jelly Grandmas Wood Burning Stove Heater While Not Burning
Hmm looks like I better restock my supply

There are quite a few options. I will list them in order of preference. If necessary, you may want to use several of these sources.

Best Places to Get Firewood for a Wood Stove:

  1. Gather firewood from your own property- Either previously felled trees can be harvested or new trees cut.
  2. Make a trip to the local sawmill- They usually have rough pieces of lumber with bark on it that can’t be sold as a quality product, but can either be obtained for a low price or for free.
  3. Begin collecting pallets to use as firewood- Some companies, including some trucking companies, are happy to part with pallets that they no longer need. These can be taken apart and used as firewood unless they have been treated with chemicals. Just be sure to remove all nails before using for firewood.
  4. Call the local tree trimmer or tree removal service- They sometimes give away free firewood, or at least sell it at a very reasonable cost.
  5. Look for someone local with firewood for sale- Quite often you will see signs posted in your community by people with firewood for sale.
  6. Purchase bundles of firewood from local grocery or building supply stores- These can usually be found just outside the front door of those businesses.

Can I Use Any Kind of Firewood in My Wood Heater?

You can use any kind of firewood in a wood heater. However, I recommend avoiding pine. Even though it makes a great firestarter and a fantastic outdoor fire, it does not make the best firewood for indoor fires.

What Kind of Wood You Should Not Burn in a Wood Stove?

Pine trees, or any tree with a lot of sap, rank low on the list of good firewood for an indoor fireplace or wood heater because of the following reasons:

  1. Excessive amounts of sap and resin in the wood make it messy to work with.
  2. Burning pinewood causes a buildup of creosote in your chimney.
  3. Pinewood burns quickly and does not produce as much heat as hardwoods, resulting in needing more wood than if using hardwoods.

Having said that, if pinewood is what you have and you have a good supply of it, by all means, use the pinewood as firewood, as long as you employ the right safety precautions. Pinewood does have the advantages of:

  • Seasoning faster than hardwood.
  • Starting a fire is faster.
  • Has a pleasant odor when burning.
  • Is usually cheaper than hardwood.
  • The logs are easier to split because it is a soft wood.

How Do I Gather Firewood From My Own Property?

Deadfall Downed Trees in Backyard
Look at that perfect firewood just lying there in my backyard

Deadfall limbs are a good option for firewood on your own property, if you have an abundant supply lying around. Otherwise, it is best to harvest felled trees and use an ax or chainsaw to them up. Cut up the trunk and larger limbs and stack them in a dry place to season. Gather the smaller pieces for kindling.

Does Firewood for Wood Stoves Have to Be Cured or Seasoned?

Green or freshly cut wood is up to 50% water and will not burn. It must be seasoned or dried to reduce the amount of moisture in the wood to somewhere between 10 and 20% before it can be used as firewood. 

Green wood smolders but does not provide much heat, so curing or seasoning your firewood is essential to providing firewood that will efficiently keep your fire going and your home or campsite warm and cozy throughout the winter months. To dry your firewood, all you need is the sun and wind to dry and prepare your firewood to build a great, blazing fire. 

What Are the Best Ways to Cure or Season Firewood?

The best way to cure or season firewood is to know what type of firewood you have and season it accordingly. Softwoods like pine will season more quickly than hardwoods and will be ready to use between 6 months and 1 year. Hardwoods, however, will usually take a minimum of 1 year to dry, and as long as 2 years.

I recommend starting at the best time of the year to make sure your firewood will be ready in the fall when you need it. For softwoods like pine, starting the process of seasoning in the early spring so that it has time to dry before the late fall when you are likely to need firewood would be the best plan. For hardwoods, starting the seasoning process on your firewood this summer will ensure you have firewood for next year’s winter fires. 

Here are some firewood seasoning tips:

  1. Cut your firewood into pieces that are similar in size and length so that it stacks well for the curing process and will fit easily into your fireplace or wood heater. The standard size for firewood is 6-8” in diameter with a length of 16”.
  2. Store your firewood in an area where it will get the maximum amount of sun.
  3. If you have very large pieces of the green wood that are hard to split, they may split easier if you place them with the uncut side down for a few weeks.
  4. Leave the wood uncovered unless it is raining or snowing.
  5. Season your wood outdoors as it will dry out faster when left in contact with the sun and wind. Leaving the firewood outdoors will also avoid bringing termites into your home. Store firewood at least 20 feet from your home.
  6. Be sure to stack the firewood correctly so that it gets plenty of sunlight and airflow. It should be stacked off the ground by using some sort of rack like this one available at Amazon that comes with a cover. If, however, you only build a fire on special occasions and don’t need a very large supply of firewood, this basic firewood rack to use with a tarp as a cover should fill the bill.
  7. Bring firewood in a day or two before it is needed so that it has a chance to start drying out before it is used.

How to Tell Whether Your Firewood Is Dry?

  1. Look for radial cracks in the ends of the pieces of wood which indicate dryness.
  2. Dry wood is darker than green wood.
  3. When you hit two pieces of dry wood together, they will make a hollow sound.
  4. Dry wood doesn’t weigh as much as green wood.
  5. If you try building a fire with wood that isn’t yet seasoned, it will smoke.
  6. If there is any green color visible or the bark is hard to peel, the wood is not yet dry.

How to Build a Fire in a Wood Heater?

  1. Put a layer of large logs on the floor of the heater’s firebox.
  2. Put a 2nd layer of medium sized logs turned in a crisscross pattern on top of the 1st layer.
  3. Put a 3rd layer of small logs on top of the 2nd layer turned the same way as the bottom layer.
  4. Place kindling or newspaper knots on top of the 3rd layer.
  5. Be sure the damper is open and set fire to the newspaper.

Final Thoughts

Deadfall and Tree Stump in Backyard
Perfect size for a wood stove just waiting to be picked up

Unless you go to the expense of buying a drying kiln, the best way to season your firewood in the shortest amount of time is to follow the steps of the seasoning process exactly. How carefully you follow those steps will determine how fast your firewood becomes usable.

So be sure you cut the firewood to the proper size and stack it properly on a rack of some sort to keep it off the ground in an area where it can get the maximum amount of sun daily with the maximum amount of airflow possible and cover the wood only when it is either raining or snowing. That firewood may be labor-intensive to obtain and prepare, but it is going to keep you cozy and warm when the weather turns cold and blustery!

Thanks for stoppin’ by.

For more, don’t miss Is It Ok for Firewood to Get Rained on? | Storage Tips.

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