By John Stonaker, Feb 10 2020 07:01PM
We are often asked by property owners if they can use the trees we cut as firewood. The answer depends on the tree species and the condition of the wood.
Best trees for burning
Hardwood trees burn best, because they burn longer and hotter and leave behind little ash. They include species like oak, apple, hickory, maple, beech, and cherry. Softwoods contain more resin or sap and are less dense, burning less efficiently and producing more waste. These include cedar, spruce, pine, yew, basswood, cottonwood, and redwood.
What wood to avoid burning
Be careful about burning wood that has been infested with insects. Do not bring into your house any wood that has termites or ants, and never transport out of your local area any wood that has been infected with the ash borer. It’s best to allow your tree service to dispose of these properly.
Wood that is already dead may be used for burning if it hasn’t started to rot. Ask your tree specialist, and never try to cut down a standing dead tree yourself, as you cannot be sure which way the dead wood will crack or fall. Leave that to the specialists.
How to make good firewood
Cut logs into pieces about 16” long, then split into wedges about 3-5” wide. Even though it takes longer to cut, smaller logs dry faster and more evenly. Stack the logs in a manner that allows air circulation, off the ground and covered.
Allow the wood to dry out, or season. Fresh cut wood is about 80% water. You want to season it until it’s about 20-25% water, which could take 6-10 months. Don’t skip this step. Wet wood burns poorly, smokes heavily, and puts out more creosote, which builds up in chimneys and creates a fire hazard. You will know if your wood is still too green if it looks moist or if it hisses and bubbles when lit.
The best wood has dried for a year. It will generally look dark or gray, with a white interior and fine cracks in the wood, indicating dryness. Ideally, use wood within 4-5 years, after which it begins to deteriorate.
Don’t try to take down a tree by yourself, whether the tree is living or dead. Your tree specialist has the training and the specialized tools, as well as the insurance coverage in case anyone is hurt or any damage is done to your property. Of course, there are also hacks out there, so before hiring a tree service, make sure you ask them what training they have and what insurance they carry.
Contact us here at Stonaker in Central New Jersey to see how we can help you.