There’s nothing like a nice crackling fire in the middle of winter. It’s a warm embrace that creates a cozy, welcoming feeling in your home.
But, there’s also nothing worse than a smoke-filled room from wood that’s not burning as smoothly as you’d have hoped.
Ideally, the wood you burn should be seasoned. Seasoned wood is firewood that has been dried out so that the wood will burn smoothly. Depending on the variety of firewood you’re using, you may also be able to keep smoke to a minimum by seasoning the wood.
In this article, I’ll outline some rules about burning seasoned and unseasoned firewood.
How to identify if your wood is seasoned or unseasoned
When you buy wood (usually in cords, half-cords or face cords), the wood may or may not be fully seasoned. Many retailers will sell firewood with the expectation that you season the wood yourself (especially if you buy it in early spring time).
Key signs that wood is unseasoned include:
- A green tinge. This indicates the wood is still fresh and has only been cut down recently.
- It’s heavy. Unseasoned wood holds more water in it than seasoned wood, increasing its weight.
- There are no cracks in the ends. Many varieties of hardwood begin to split and crack when seasoned.
Alternatively, seasoned firewood will likely be cracked on the ends and have a light tan or even grey tinge to it. It’s also a lot less glossy than unseasoned wood.
Of course, one prime way to see if wood is seasoned is to burn it! If it burns cleanly and smoothly, chances are it’s had some time to season. If you see sap bubbling, excessive smoke, or notice the wood struggling to burn, it may be too wet.
I’d recommend letting your wood sit in the elements (wind and sunshine preferably) for a full spring and summer season to allow it to fully ‘season’ and provide the best burn.
But if all you’ve got to work with is unseasoned wood, here’s some steps you can take to ensure it burns as well as possible.
How to burn Unseasoned Wood
Burning unseasoned wood in a fireplace is very challenging because it contains moisture that makes it harder to burn. But every problem has a solution. Let’s go through the steps to burn some unseasoned woods.
Ensure open ventilation
Unseasoned firewood contains water and so when you light the fire, the moisture creates a lot of excess smoke. This means, if your fireplace is in a closed room then chances are it’ll get a bit smokey.
Note that different types of wood are more smoky than others, but unseasoned wood can cause more smoke in general.
While it’s dangerous to have a fire in windy conditions, a ventilated area (with windows, chimneys, etc.) can be useful. It helps smoke to escape.
Similarly, you want to make sure the wood itself has good access to oxygen to allow it to burn well. For example, raise the wood using a fireplace grate to allow for ventilation under the wood to encourage it to burn.
Burn the wood in small pieces
The best way to burn unseasoned wood is to cut it into small pieces that will be maximum 3 inches in diameter. This can be time-consuming but cutting the wood into small pieces will allow it to dry out faster and reach optimal burn more quickly.
One Piece at a Time
Now that you’ve cut down your wood into small pieces don’t try to burn all of it at once. You would want to create a hot environment at your fireplace but burning too many pieces of unseasoned firewood at the same time will make it harder to sustain the fire.
To balance the fireplace, try to burn up to five small pieces of unseasoned wood at the same time to keep the place warm. As the unseasoned wood in the fireplace dries out and the fire’s intensity increases, add more pieces.
Add Supportive Materials
Unseasoned wood can rarely burn alone unless the fire is very hot. It usually needs support to keep the fire going.
If you’ve got a mix of seasoned and unseasoned wood, try to mix them together so the seasoned wood can support the fire and dry out the unseasoned wood.
Add some paper, kindling and dry seasoned wood to help the unseasoned wood to burn.
Why you should choose Seasoned wood over Unseasoned wood
Here’s why it’s better to use seasoned wood and avoid unseasoned wood.
Seasoned wood is dry and contains very little moisture so it doesn’t create as much smoke. This obviously depends on the type of wood as some do burn smokier than others (check out this chart for a comparison of the smokiness of different types of wood).
Easy to Light
There’s nothing worse than wasting two or three boxes of matches and half the gas of your lighter just to light up your fire. Seasoned wood is way drier than unseasoned wood which makes it much faster to burn.
It Burns Hotter
You would definitely want to keep your fireplace warm during the winter and seasoned wood will do just that. Unseasoned wood takes time to burn and produces less warmth but seasoned wood is the complete opposite.
Seasoned wood contains less moisture and burns hotter, which creates a warm environment giving you a satisfying experience.
Unseasoned firewood is about 50% wet and 50% dry. This moisture makes it very hard to light the fire.
Unseasoned wood also takes too much time to light up. Once it starts burning it creates a lot of smoke and doesn’t produce much heat.
So, can you burn unseasoned wood in your fireplace? Yes, you can. With the right heat, airflow and supporting fuels, seasoned woods can dry out inside the fire and begin to burn with some tender love and care. But it’s best to avoid that situation because in general seasoned wood burns best.
To avoid this situation, buy your firewood in early spring and season it over the summer months so it’s dry and ready to burn come wintertime.