Ruth Correll: Avoid unseasoned, non-native wood

Ruth Correll • Updated Dec 13, 2017 at 2:00 PM

It is time to stockpile wood for burning in your fireplace for a cheery holiday setting or for heating your home with a wood stove during winter. Wayne Clatterbuck, professor of forest management and silviculture with University of Tennessee Extension, reminded homeowners to purchase seasoned wood for best results.

Unseasoned, freshly cut wood, also known as green wood, should not be purchased now for use in the next few months. Green wood can easily contain close to half its weight in water. Clatterbuck said wood usually takes from four to six months to dry out, so wood you plan to use in the next few months should have been cut much earlier in the year.

How can you tell if the wood is properly seasoned? Green wood tends to smolder, smoke and create more creosote for chimneys as moisture is forced from the wood than seasoned wood, which burns more efficiently with greater heat content. Consumers should look for these tell-tale signs of seasoned wood:

• bark that is loose or practically falls off when you handle the log.

• cracks and checks throughout the log.

• logs that are relatively light in weight. Seasoned wood weighs less than an unseasoned piece of the same size because it contains less moisture.

The species of tree that produced the wood can also make a difference in terms of the wood’s heating potential, the expert said. All species of wood have similar energy contents per unit of weight, but wood is not purchased based on its weight. It’s purchased on a volume basis – usually a rick or cord. A cord of seasoned, less-dense poplar or pine will yield far less warmth than a cord of red oak of the same unit volume.  The higher density woods to use for firewood include oaks, beech, black locust, hickories and sugar maple.

Firewood storage is also important. Firewood pieces should be stacked prior to use perpendicular to each other so air can pass through freely. Stack firewood at least 10 feet from the exterior of your home as the closer the firewood is to the house, the greater the chance that insects will invade your home.

If purchasing firewood, always purchase close to home because of the possibility of spreading emerald ash borer, an invasive insect pest that is threatening the state’s ash tree populations, consumers should purchase their wood from local sources and avoid taking wood from outside locations, including across county lines. The pest has been detected in almost half of the counties in the state, mostly in East and Middle Tennessee.

For more information, contact the UT-TSU Extension Office in Wilson County at 615-444-9584. Ruth Correll, UT Extension-TSU Cooperative Extension agent in Wilson County, may be reached at 615-444-9584 or [email protected]


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