Firewood is a type of natural fuel that is used to start fires in fireplaces, wood burning stoves and BBQ grills. Firewood can be bought pre-cut and by the cord from stores, or the homeowner can chop up the firewood themselves. Below are some common terms associated with firewood.
Seasoning – The natural process of drying out, or seasoning, the firewood. Since green wood has a high moisture content it is more difficult to burn on the stove. Seasoning the wood allows it to dry out naturally by storing the cut wood outdoors on a rack.
Softwood – Lumber that comes from evergreen trees. Southern Pine, Douglas Fir and Cedar trees are some types of softwoods that have good firewood ratings.
Hardwood – Lumber that comes from deciduous trees. Oak, Birch and Hickory trees are some examples of hardwoods with high firewood ratings.
Cord - A unit of measurement for wood. It is equal to a stacked woodpile 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long. The name likely comes from the old process of using a cord or rope to measure the height of the pile.
Split – The job of cutting a log into halves or quarters. Before being seasoned, firewood must be properly split to allow it to dry out. This is accomplished by using a machine like a log splitter, or by chopping the old fashioned way with an ax.
Chips – Small pieces of wood usually left over the splitting process. Chips are excellent sources of fuel for BBQ grills and smokers. Popular kinds of chips that BBQ enthusiasts claim gives extra flavor and aroma to the meat are apple, hickory and cherry hardwoods.
Wood has been used as a fuel for a very long time indeed. Wood burning stoves were invented in the 17th century, and are still in use today. However, burning natural wood in stoves and fireplaces has declined recently. There are other fuels that are generally considered to be cleaner and better.
Many of those who still use wood in their stove or furnace are able to gather their own firewood. Others, however, may be obliged to purchase it. Firewood is commonly sold at supermarkets, especially in rural areas. It is usually sold by the cord and is generally cut and the bark is removed. In some cases logs with the bark on may be sold for decorative purposes.
Firewood is a by-product of the timber industry, generally consisting of wood that is too small to be of use as lumber. It can also be produced by trimming of trees and other forest management techniques. Because of this it can come from a variety of trees. Hardwood such as oak or ash is the best firewood, as it burns well and produces more heat. Cedar and mesquite are more valuable as chips for smoking and BBQ. Softwoods such as pine, fir, and spruce are best used as kindling. In some rural areas firewood may be delivered.
It is essential that firewood be properly seasoned and dry. It is generally bundled and stored on racks. Most of the time it comes from small logs which are cut down and then split. Once dry, it is corded and stacked.
Wood is not as efficient a fuel as coal or gas. The heat from a wood fireplace is notorious for going out of the chimney rather than into the room. Many fireplaces are used for ambiance rather than heat.