Softwood or hardwood? Maple or pine? According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the type of firewood isn’t nearly as important as its age. It needs to be dry – very dry.
Freshly cut wood can be up to 45 percent water – and water, as you know, doesn’t burn too well. Good firewood should be well seasoned, cut in short logs (preferably split) from six months to a year in advance, and properly stored. A good plan is to buy or cut in the spring and use the following fall or winter.
If you’re buying wood from a vendor, look for signs of well-seasoned wood. Darkened ends with cracks or splits and a light weight are good signs; green wood is generally very heavy, the ends look fresher, and pieces knocked together make a dull ‘thud” when struck – rather than a nice, clear “clunk.”
If you decide to burn green wood – or have no option – be aware that it will deliver lots of smoke, little heat and large quantities of gooey black creosote, requiring extra cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires.