Gathering before a wood fire can be an especially sweet time for family and friends, but the firewood you choose can determine whether you have the soft-glow of a warm fire or a hissing, smoky mess.
Hard, dense wood is better than soft wood, and properly seasoned, dried wood is a must for a decent fire.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says it takes 12 months for firewood to be air-dried and fully seasoned. Green wood, that is, wood that is not sufficiently seasoned, will not burn efficiently, producing less heat and more smoke.
Seasoned wood is grayish in color. One sure sign that it’s fully dried and ready for the fireplace is that the bark is peeling away. Also, look for cracking in the ends of the split logs.
The woods that make excellent firewood include ash, red oak, beech, birch and hickory. Firewood regarded as fair-to-poor quality include elm, sweet gum, white pine and spruce.
Some woods are easier to split and burn than others and some provide sufficient heat, while others don’t.
The hard, dense woods such as ash and hickory kick off a high amount of heat, while spruce, basswood and yellow poplar produce a low amount of heat.
Firewood is typically sold by the cord. Dealers might offer half or quarter cords in addition to full cords. However, a stacked a cord of wood should measure 4-feet tall, by 4-feet wide, by 8-feet long.