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Firewood: 5 Tips for Choosing Logs

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Firewood: 5 Tips for Choosing Logs

December 3, 2013

If Pinterest is any indication of these things (and it is), we think it’s safe to declare that the onset of winter inspires a love affair with piles of stacked wood. Stacked artistically inside houses, piled up alongside country barns, covered in snow, and tumbling out of wood boxes, we like wood piles in any form we can get them. If the endgame of all of this stacking is an eventual roarer in the fireplace, all of the beautiful photographs of woodpiles have gotten us thinking: what’s the best kind of wood to burn? Is there a secret to the crackling, brilliant fires we’re all dreaming of?

Yes: here are five tips for choosing and storing firewood.

For more of this project, see Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine. Photograph by Matthew Cunningham.
Above: For more of this project, see Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine. Photograph by Matthew Cunningham.

1. Choose hardwoods: Oak, hickory, and maple are trusty choices. They might be slightly more costly than other options, but they’ll burn slower and longer, ultimately giving you more bang for your buck. Pine is abundant in many parts of the US, but it burns very quickly and will likely spark and pop more than you might be comfortable with. Looking for a sweet smelling fire? Burn apple wood.

Photograph by Art Gray. For more of this project, see
Above: Photograph by Art Gray. For more of this project, see

2. Consider seasoning: Wood burns best when it’s been allowed to dry out first. For best results, cut your wood from six to eight months prior to burning (some hardwoods might require more time to properly season). A good rule of thumb? If you knock two pieces of well-seasoned wood together, you should hear a hollow sound, not a dull thud (which indicates that there’s still lots of moisture inside).

Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.
Above: Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.

3. Split your logs: Round logs look awfully pretty in photos, but splitting your logs into wedges will get you firewood that burns more efficiently: split wood seasons faster and ignites more quickly.

Above: For more, see 10 Easy Pieces: Firewood and Log Storage.

4. Store thoughtfully: Firewood should be stored in a dry place, elevated a few inches off the ground. If you store your wood outside, make sure to cover it with a water-resistant tarp to avoid seasoned wood from getting damp.

For more of this project, see Restaurant Visit: Baja Transported, in Mexico City. Photograph by Luis Gallardo courtesy of Estudio Atemporal.
Above: For more of this project, see Restaurant Visit: Baja Transported, in Mexico City. Photograph by Luis Gallardo courtesy of Estudio Atemporal.

5. Know your measurements: Firewood is generally measured in cords: a full cord is 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet high (making a volume of 128 cubic feet). Before you invest in a big load of firewood, make sure that the logs have been cut to a size that fits your fireplace or stove.

In the market for an axe this holiday season? See Best Made Co. at 36 White Street.

Like the look of split wood so much that you’d like to incorporate into the architecture? See A Copper-Clad Modernist Gem in the Big Woods.  

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