How to Choose the Right Firewood for Your Wood Stove

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How to Choose the Right Firewood for Your Wood Stove

Megan Schetzsle of The Cabin Diary shares with us her insider tips for choosing the right firewood for your wood stove.

Written by Megan Schetzsle
Photography by Megan Schetzsle
 
 
Why does the wood you choose matter? It's about more than keeping your cabin warm in winter. The wood you choose has safety and efficiency implications as well. How do you know if the wood you're using isn't the best choice for your cabin? Here are a few symptoms of using the wrong wood: 
 
  • Inefficient fires
  • Creosote buildup
  • Ventilation issues
  • Chimney fires 
 
Wood stoves are wonderful in winter — they’re one of the best ways to heat your cabin and they keep you cozy on the coldest, snowy days. And with the right firewood, you can avoid the above problems, using your stove as it’s designed. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about firewood for your wood stove: different types of wood, how to choose & season wood, and how to store it.
 

Types of Firewood For Your Wood Stove

There are 2 types of firewood: hardwood and softwood.

  • Hardwood is denser, and burns longer. Examples of hardwoods include maple, birch, and oak.
  • Softwood includes conifers such as pine, fir, and cedar. 
 
Ideally, hardwood is best for wood stoves. It creates more heat over a longer period of time. However, depending on where you live, softwood may be more readily available. And if this is the case, softwood is fine to burn too. If you use softwood it will burn quicker and hotter than hardwood. 
 
In summary: hardwood is best for your wood stove; but if it’s not available, softwood works fine too.  
 
 

Seasoning Firewood for Your Wood Stove 

Just as important as the type of wood you buy is seasoning your wood. If firewood has been ‘seasoned’ it means that the wood has been dried out over the course of a year or two. Seasoning wood is important because it reduces the amount of moisture contained in the wood.
 
When wood is first chopped down, it has a high moisture content. After drying it out (seasoning it) the moisture level drops, ideally to around 20%. Perfect for burning. 
 
Burning wet or unseasoned wood is problematic for a few reasons. Wet wood will burn less efficiently and contribute to creosote build up. Creosote is a black, tar-like substance that builds up in chimneys. In serious cases, it can combust to cause a chimney fire.
 

How Do You Know If Your Wood Has Been Seasoned? 

So how do you know if your wood has been seasoned? If you’re buying it from a supplier, you can ask them. If you are chopping the wood down yourself, wait to use it. Season it for a year or two before burning it. 
 
Generally, seasoning can take up to six to eight months for softwood and up to two to three years for hardwood. To season your wood, leave it outside in an area with good airflow, making sure to leave the wood uncovered as much as possible. You can also split the wood prior to seasoning it in order to speed up the process. 
 
 

Storing Firewood for Your Wood Stove 

Now that you know how to choose the right firewood, there’s one more step to making sure it gets you through the winter: storing it.  You can have the best firewood available, but if you don’t store it properly, then it won’t burn right. And there’s another consequence of improperly stored wood: it can attract critters to your cabin
 

Here are a few best practices for storing your wood:

 
  • Keep it dry: keep your wood dry so that it’s ready to burn when you need it. Invest in a tarp to protect your wood from wet weather, preferably one that has some built-in ventilation. 
  • Don’t store it on bare ground: storing wood on the ground can cause it to deteriorate or rot. Instead, store it on wood, pallets, stones, or in a firewood rack. 
  • Don’t store it too close to your house: keep your large piles of firewood at least five feet from your house. Storing it closer risks attracting critters who will be drawn to the wood for shelter and then may find their way into your home.

Wood stoves are one of the best parts of cabin life in winter. They’re able to keep us cozy, filling our homes with a strong warmth that comes from a wood-burning fire. And with the right firewood, you’ll be sure to have fires that last and a wood stove that works efficiently for years to come.
 
 

 

About Megan

Megan lives with her husband and son in an 800-square-foot log cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. In search of a simpler pace of life, Megan and her husband took a leap of faith to pursue their own cabin dreams: they quit their jobs, sold what they own, and moved across the country from downtown Austin, TX to their mountainside cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. 

Megan runs her blog The Cabin Diary (www.thecabindiary.com), and can be found sharing day-to-day cabin life through social media (@thecabindiary).