Firewood - Tree Quality Does Matter

Don't Get Burned by Firewood hazardous trees

Winter is coming. And if you own a wood-burning fireplace chances are you’re looking forward to spending some relaxing nights at home in front of the warm glow of an evening fire. Although most Florida homeowners use less than 1/2 of a cord of wood a year due to our mild winters, there are still plenty of days when it’s cold enough to use a wood-burning fireplace. But before you stock up on firewood, here are some key considerations.

Firewood Selection
All seasoned wood will burn, but naturally some wood is more suitable than others. I like oak the best, because it’s clean burning, lasts for a long time and is readily available in Florida.There are other hardwoods available in our area such as pecan,hickory and citrus that are okay to burn.

There are some woods you should avoid. Most pines contain a lot of sap which can coat the inside of your chimney,catch on fire and burn your home down.Australian pine does not contain the sticky sap like most pines,burns clean,splits easy and is a wood I do recommend to use. Most soft woods will pop,rapidly burn and coat the inside of your chimney making it a bad deal at any cost. Cherry laurel, which is plentiful in Florida, is an even worse choice because it can emit toxic fumes when burned.It is a good idea to have a chimney sweep business inspect and clean your chimney on a regular basis.

Procuring Firewood
There are two main ways to procure firewood. If you own a pickup truck and chainsaw and don’t mind a little hard work, you can go to one of the many locations that have logs available for cutting. Although it may initially seem like this method would save money, give some thought as to whether you want to invest the time, effort and expense necessary to cut and haul your own wood.

A much simpler way is to contact a reputable local company that sells wood that is already cut, split and seasoned . I would recommend that you demand 100% oak and make sure they guarantee it is seasoned (dry & ready to burn). I hear all to often people getting wet wood and or mixed loads (poor quality wood mixed in with good wood). If you buy it on the side of the road chances are you will have no recourse if your sold bad wood. Buyer beware.

Splitting Your Own Wood
They say wood warms you twice,splitting your own wood is great exercise and an even better stress reliever. My tool of choice is the six-pound wood splitter's maul. The maul can efficiently split most logs into usable sections,a ax is much more likely to get stuck in the wood..If you have a lot of wood to split a hydraulic wood splitter is the way to go and available at most rental stores. Storing Wood
How you store your firewood is vitally important, not only because unseasoned wood needs to dry out before it can be used, but because improper wood storage can create other problems. Storing wood too close to your house can draw termites and storing it too close to living trees can be dangerous as well. Recently I had to remove three large pine trees that had become infested with wood boring insects. The source of these insects was from free pine firewood that our customer unfortunately chose to store near live, healthy pine trees. The “free” firewood ended up costing him thousands of dollars to have the trees removed and replaced.

To season and store your firewood, stack the wood in a single row, off the ground and away from your house. In Florida, wood will take about six months to season. For best results make sure the wood is stacked in an area that gets plenty of sun and wind, so that the wood has a chance to dry.
Jon Wilbur is an ISA Certified Arborist and co-owner of Pinellas Tree Service, in Clearwater.

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Jon Wilbur