Tips when buying firewood

January 22, 2001

Tips when buying firewood


Those who heat with firewood should burn safely and buy wisely this winter, said Don Schwartz, an extension agent for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

It's especially important to inspect chimneys before using wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, Schwartz said.

"Every winter we lose homes and we lose people because of carelessness," he said.

People who heat with wood should also use caution when purchasing their winter fuel supplies, Schwartz said.

A reputable dealer should be able to answer the following questions:

- Are you measuring a full cord or a face cord? When neatly stacked and rowed, a cord of wood equals 128 cubic feet. This stack measures 4-feet-tall by 4-feet-wide by 8-feet-long. A face cord measures 4-feet-tall by 8-feet-long but is only as wide as one piece of wood, Schwartz said.

- What species of wood is in the stack? Ask for specifics, i.e. "hard maple."


- When was the wood cut?

- If the wood was cut recently, was it cut from seasoned, or mostly dry, wood?

Maryland law requires individuals selling firewood to disclose the cord measurement, type of wood and whether the wood is seasoned or green. The seller must also provide the buyer with a delivery receipt, according to standards set forth by the Maryland Administration for Weights and Measures.

Wood must be stacked to be measured accurately, Schwartz said.

Not all woods make good heat sources, he said.

A cord of white oak will produce twice as much heat as a a cord of good quality pine, Schwartz said.

Hardwoods such as oak burn hot and split easily, but oak tends to be expensive. Other high-quality but less pricey woods found in this area include hickory, locust and ash, he said.

Firewood should be seasoned to produce optimum heat.

The energy it takes to burn the water out of unseasoned, or green, wood should be used to warm your home, Schwartz said. Generally, the dryer the wood the higher the cost.

Seasoned wood might look gray and have peeling bark and split ends. Dry wood is lighter than green wood, and has a resonant sound when knocked against another piece of wood, Schwartz said.

Green wood may feel moist on the ends and will make a dull thud when knocked against another piece of wood, he said.

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