JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — You see the ads in the newspaper, along roadsides and just about everywhere else at this time of year: Firewood for sale.
Knowing where your firewood comes from can keep you from making some costly mistakes, said Duane Friend, is a University of Illinois Extension educator in environmental and energy stewardship.
He is the co-author of U of I Extension’s new “Firewood in Illinois” website, http://web.extension.illinois.edu/firewood.
Friend offered a few tips for people who are in the market for firewood:
- Ask the seller where the wood came from and what kind of wood it is. Oak, hickory and ash are some of the best firewood. All woods produce the same amount of heat per pound of weight, but some woods are denser than others. The denser woods provide more heat by volume.
- Find out how long the wood has been seasoned, allowed to dry. Firewood should be seasoned for six to nine months prior to burning to remove moisture that sacrifices energy and produces smoke. Small cracks in the ends of the wood pieces are a sign that the wood has been seasoned.
- Be sure the length of the wood pieces will fit your fireplace or stove.
- Check the diameter of the logs. Splitting larger-diameter pieces may be necessary, and many homeowners do not have the tools they would need to split larger pieces of wood.
- When storing firewood, keep the pile covered and off the ground and avoid direct contact with buildings. It is easier to start a fire with some types of wood than others, and some woods produce more sparks than others. For example, Osage orange wood creates many sparks as it burns, so it may not be the best choice for use in a home fireplace.
The website includes a chart that shows which woods ignite more readily and which ones tend to produce a lot of sparks.
Dave Shiley, local food systems and small farms educator with U of I Extension, helped co-author the firewood website.
“It is not always easy for people to tell how much wood they are actually buying or selling,” Shiley said.
Most firewood is sold by the cord, but Shiley said few people know exactly what that means. A standard cord contains 128 cubic feet of wood, but buyers may be getting closer to 80 to 90 cubic feet due to the space between pieces.
“Both buyers and sellers sometimes use the words ‘rick’ or ‘facecord’ interchangeably with ‘cord.’ Sometimes we find that people who buy a rick or a facecord don’t actually get a full cord of wood.”
Some buyers — and even some sellers — find it difficult to visualize how much wood is in a cord. Shiley said the website includes information that firewood sellers will find useful, too.
A standard-size pickup truck with wood randomly thrown into the top of the bed will equal about one-third of a cord, Shiley said.
If the wood is neatly stacked, the amount of wood will be closer to half of a cord. Buyers can determine the volume by multiplying the wood pile’s length by width by height.
“But that only gives you an accurate measure if the wood is neatly stacked without a lot of excess space between pieces,” Shiley said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean people should avoid buying a truckload of locally sourced wood that isn’t neatly stacked. They just need to understand what they’re buying.”