Who doesn’t love that rich aroma (and heat) that you get from a nice warm fire on those cold, winter nights? In order to get both of those, there are certain things that must be taken into consideration when choosing what kind of wood you will burn. When building a campfire, any wood will do just as long as it can be found before it gets dark. The smell doesn’t make much of a difference when you’re outside. However, when that smell is going to be in your home, then the aroma of the wood should be taken into consideration. Also, you will want to use only dried, seasoned wood for your fireplace.
Seasoned wood simply refers to wood that has been cut and left to dry for a year or more. It has been through all of the seasons and is now ready to burn. The reason for using dry, seasoned wood is that it will burn hotter than moist, unseasoned wood. The reason for this is that so much of the heat goes toward evaporating all of that water. This means that you are not getting the maximum amount of heat from your fireplace; just extra smoke. The extra smoke can cause smoke to leak into your home, especially in chimneys with draft issues. There will also be heavier creosote buildup from burning wet wood.
So, now that you know that the wood you burn should be seasoned for at least a year, you must now choose the type of wood that you will be chopping and stacking. It is recommended, for regular wood burners, that hard woods such as oak or walnut be used. However, it is also suggested that a good supply of soft woods, such as pine, be on hand as well as they make great kindling for getting a good, hot fire going. Once the fire is going, adding some chunks of hardwood will create greater heat and warm the room even more.
If you are concerned about the aroma that the burning wood will give off, then some woods will be better for you than others. Cedar, for instance gives off a strong aroma while it burns and many people find it pleasing in their homes. Cedar is also easy to burn, though it does not give off a lot of heat and is known to throw some sparks. It is probably not a great idea to only burn cedar in a fire. However, to get the rich aroma that cedar gives off; throwing one or two pieces into a good, hot fire can accomplish this.
Soft woods are usually easier to light and, therefore, make great kindling. However, they can give off quite a few sparks and will burn more quickly than harder woods. With many factors taken into consideration, some of the best woods to burn are: white ash, oak (red and white) beech and blue beech. These woods will burn hotter and more evenly and are generally easy to light in a fire that has already been started with softer kindling.
If you are just simply concerned with getting a fire going, then the one thing that really matters is that the wood is seasoned. If you are getting free fire wood from someone who has fell some hardwood trees on their property, then it really doesn’t matter what kind of wood it is because is FREE! Just be sure to season it before use.
How to Season Wood
In order to get the best fire in your fireplace that will effectively heat your home, you must first season the wood. Seasoned wood has a great deal less moisture within it, will burn hotter and give off less smoke and other pollutants.
Leaving a fallen tree in the woods as it is for a year or two does not mean that you can simply cut up that tree and use it right away. The way the logs lose their moisture is through the cuts on either end of the log. Therefore, a fallen tree in the woods will still hold a lot of moisture. In order to season the wood correctly, the ends should be cut and the wood should be stacked in a single stack in a place where sufficient air can get to it. Some kind of shelter from rain and snow is preferable for it will prevent extra moisture from getting into the wood that you are trying to dry out. Note, however, that you should never stack wood within a few feet of your home or any other structure, for termites that may be present in the cut wood can find their way into your home. It is best to stack the wood between two trees in order to support the stack and far away from your house. After about a year like this, the wood will be seasoned and significantly drier and ready to burn.