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Old 10/15/06, 10:09 PM
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Seasoning Wood - Settle This

Settle this for me. It's a little debate DH and I began today while splitting umptyzillion logs. We rented a splitter (need to buy one!), worked all day and still only got about half of what's in our yard split. I'll be splitting logs in my sleep. But anyway...

As we split this one pile of logs, from a huge tree that had been dead for some time before we bought our place, he said "that's ready to burn," and I just nodded and said "OK" because gosh, the man's strong as an ox and impressed me with his log-hefting abilities. I didn't want to discourage him.

So later, I asked him to get me a cart full of SEASONED wood so I could start a fire in our stove/insert. He comes back with a load from the aforementioned pile instead of the obviously seasoned wood way in the back corner that we also split today. It's been piled up against the fence for years - long enough to rot half of it, but some is still fine. The rest we'll burn in the fire pit outside. But that pile was farther away.

And...um...that wood would NOT burn. I hated to break the news, but if we were to save heating oil tonight, one of us needed to take it back out and get the good stuff. Guess who got stuck with that chore?

Okay...this is a long winded way of asking the question -- does "tree's been dead for a year before it was cut down" equal "seasoned firewood"?

I believe the wood has to be actually split and let sit for at least 3 months first, preferably more, depending on the kind of tree, even if the tree's been dead for a while. Even if the tree's been cut down in sections for a while, sitting in the middle of the yard.

I guess that's what I'll be doing all day tomorrow...stacking green firewood. (sigh) Piles and piles and piles of the stuff....

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Old 10/15/06, 10:16 PM
 
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We have Dutch Elm Disease. Those elms die & stand there, bark falls off.

Can cut those down, split them, & burn them in about 3 days - good good firewood.

But, that is a special case, a healthy hard wood tree that is totally killed off on the stump.

Many trees die is stages, and so part is rotten, part is still green, and some in the middle is fairly dry.

These could use a little bit of seasoning, and likely is what you have. I'd say a month or so would get them good to go tho?

--->Paul

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Old 10/15/06, 10:27 PM
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Others will give a better answer, I am sure.

I can tell you we have oak that sat for 18 months. It was only a 6 foot log, but it was 30 to 36 iches wide. I cut off 2, 12 inch disks, and split them by hand.

I tried to build a fire with brittle kindling, but the oak would not burn.

It would not even burn when doused with flamables that I cannot recommend on a family web-site.

Also, you can judge by how easily the splinters pull off of the split pieces of firewood.

Rick

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Old 10/15/06, 10:53 PM
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The trees in question are ash, cottonwood and *I think* elm. It's hard to ID a dead tree. We do have other elms in the yard, so who knows?

I prefer splitting ash trees - they just pop in pieces so easily - and that's a good thing, because thanks to that stupid borer bug we're going to be cutting a lot of it.

The tree with the logs that wouldn't burn was HARD to split. The splitter was really straining to get through the biggest pieces. And the tree guys who cut it down had a hard time sawing through it too - very hard wood.

Another kind of wood was stringy - you'd split it and all these pieces just stuck together, making it twice as hard to separate. DH said that was the cottonwood, but we had cottonwood at our old house and it wasn't nearly that hard to split.

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Old 10/15/06, 11:47 PM
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you will probably get a ton of answers/opinions. green wood needs to season. sometimes seasoned wood needs to dry out. to me, seasoned wood is wood that is dead and has been so for quite sometime. sometimes seasoned wood gets wet and needs to dry out.

sometimes i cut trees that are "RTB" ready to burn. some standing dead oaks or locusts can be like that. other times, i will cut a standing dead oak that is dry in the limbs and wet in the trunk. fi i split one of those and leave it dry out for a few weeks it is fine.

if i cut green wood, i know i need to leave it "season" for upwards of a year depending on the wood. i cut some green silver maple in the spring and it is bone dry now. i cut a half green black locust (nearly totally dead) and i can burn it after only a few months. i cut a standing dead red oak last year and it hung up until i finished cutting it a month ago. the limb wood was great but the trunk was a bit wet and needed to dry out for two weeks. i also cut a bunch of limb wood from a green red oak that fell in june and it will not be "seasoned" until late winter at the earliest.

i guess IMHO green wood needs to season for almost a year and wet standing dead wood needs a month or so. sometimes you get lucky with standing dead wood and it is RTB.

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  #6  
Old 10/16/06, 12:11 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edayna
The trees in question are ash, cottonwood and *I think* elm. It's hard to ID a dead tree. We do have other elms in the yard, so who knows?

I prefer splitting ash trees - they just pop in pieces so easily - and that's a good thing, because thanks to that stupid borer bug we're going to be cutting a lot of it.

The tree with the logs that wouldn't burn was HARD to split. The splitter was really straining to get through the biggest pieces. And the tree guys who cut it down had a hard time sawing through it too - very hard wood.

Another kind of wood was stringy - you'd split it and all these pieces just stuck together, making it twice as hard to separate. DH said that was the cottonwood, but we had cottonwood at our old house and it wasn't nearly that hard to split.

Stringy, very very hard to split wood is the elm. Good solid wood, but _very_ stringy. Takes a bit to dry out if green wood, and is _miserable_ to split, but real good hardwood for heating.

Cottonwood is pretty soft, has alomst no grain, and tends to rot quicker than you can get to burning it. It almost would rather mush than split. Not much heat in it either. I'll bet this is what you got into, softer damp cottonwood. But - you say it was hard wood??????

Ash you can burn wet or dry, it's great firewood, looks a lot like oak, should split quite easily with a 'pop' to it. Probably one of the best woods for heat.

--->Paul
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Old 10/16/06, 05:20 AM
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Wood doesn't dry out very well from the ends. If you really want it to "season" or dry properly, it has to be split. Unsplit rounds under 2-3 inches will dry on their own, but if you want to get the most heat out of your wood, split it. I've cut and split (spliting maul) 30 to 40 face cords each year fo the past 30 years. I have a hot water boiler that doesn't like wet wood. The kitchen stove has to be started before each meal, so it has to have nice dry wood, too.I end up with some pieces I can't split, but not much. Even a big knotty piece I try to get an edge or two split off before I give up.I generally donate those un-splitables to some campers that stay nearby. Thise big chunks will keep their camp fire going thru the night.
Those outside wood burners that are getting popular will take 3-4 foot chunks, so people don't see the need to split. They end up burning wet wood because those long pieces can't release their moisture until split.

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Old 10/16/06, 05:31 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edayna
Another kind of wood was stringy - you'd split it and all these pieces just stuck together, making it twice as hard to separate. DH said that was the cottonwood, but we had cottonwood at our old house and it wasn't nearly that hard to split.
I've never tried to split cottonwood, so I don't know about that. I do know that live oak will behave just as you describe when you try to split it. It doesn't really split, it just tears apart. Black gum is even worse to split than live oak, but I don't think it grows that far north.
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Old 10/16/06, 07:59 AM
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I’ll limit my response to standing dead oak trees; this is the kind of wood we burn most often. The limbs on a dead standing oak tree are often times dry enough to burn…especially if the bark has fallen off. The trucks of standing dead oak trees are never “ready to burn.” Trees will continue to absorb water through the root system well after they are dead. Much of this water collects in the trunk. If the dead oak isn’t cut soon enough, the trunk will rot or fill with carpenter ants because of all the moist wood within the trunk. Too make a long story short, no matter what kind of wood you burn, seasoned wood will be cracked on the ends and when you hit two pieces together it will make a clear crisp “crack” sound. If the two pieces hit together make a dull “thud” sound it is still too wet. With experience, you’ll be able to tell whan a chunk of firewood is dry enough just by hefting it….a wet piece will feel too heavy and a seasoned piece will feel relatively light.

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  #10  
Old 10/16/06, 09:29 AM
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seasoned wood

I burn wood, and asked the state forester this summer about getting seasoned wood. Here in NE Penna. buying "seasoned" wood is almost impossible although the sellers call it such.
The forester said that to season wood it needs to be split and stacked, hopefully so the prevailing winds can go through it. It needs to be covered on top, AND the most seasoning goes on in the warm months, July and August. During the rest of the season drying is minimal in this area. I try to let my wood sit, split and stacked for two years, since my stove/chimney is very prone to creosote build-up, due to two 90 turns in the pipe, and also because most of the pipe is outside. Seasoned wood is therefore very important to me...Ann

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Old 10/16/06, 10:04 AM
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Here is an informative site:

http://www.woodheat.org/

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Old 10/16/06, 10:09 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
Others will give a better answer, I am sure.

I can tell you we have oak that sat for 18 months. It was only a 6 foot log, but it was 30 to 36 iches wide. I cut off 2, 12 inch disks, and split them by hand.

I tried to build a fire with brittle kindling, but the oak would not burn.

It would not even burn when doused with flamables that I cannot recommend on a family web-site.

Also, you can judge by how easily the splinters pull off of the split pieces of firewood.

Rick
It has been my experience that it's nearly impossible to burn oak UNLESS YOU HAVE A BIG BED OF HOT COALS GOING. I usually start with (plentiful) poplar (or as they call it here, "popple"). I call it "goffer wood". It burns hot and fast. Once I get a good bed of coals going from that I put in the oak. I like those big knotty pieces because they last all night in my not-so-airtight Franklin.
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Old 10/16/06, 10:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anniew
....AND the most seasoning goes on in the warm months, July and August. During the rest of the season drying is minimal in this area.....
Around here, the best drying is during the winter months of January and February when temps are often below zero. At those temps, outdoor humidity is almost non-existent.
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Old 10/16/06, 04:05 PM
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I'm not sure where they got their information but according to the owner's manual of the stove we were looking at, standing deadwood can be considered 2/3 seasoned. Dead wood on the ground should be considered wet.

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Old 10/16/06, 06:46 PM
 
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Seasoned wood is that which has been split and stacked for a year, two is better, three is best.

Any wood will burn if it is put on a hot enough fire but there is an enormous difference in the amount of heat produced from wet vs. dry wood.

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Old 10/16/06, 08:41 PM
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I guess I'm just VERY paranoid about creosote buildup and chimney fires. We opted not to get a steel liner when we put in our insert and just used the existing masonry chimney. The cleaner/inspector said the 2nd liner from the top was slightly cracked, and I know we should replace it very soon. Since it's been cleaned we've only had maybe a dozen fires. I don't know how much creosote is normal, but it looks like a lot is depositing inside the stove, and I worry that's an indication of what's going on above that.

I also worry about getting a crooked chimney sweep/inspector -- "Oh yeah, you're in bad shape...but I'll fix 'er up for only $300, whaddaya say?"

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Old 10/16/06, 10:16 PM
 
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Without getting too technical water can be trapped in wood in different ways. Sometimes a log that has been cut for a year or two just needs to be split and left near the stove for a day or two and it will be fine. Sometimes it needs to be fully seasoned like green wood. I have cut up red oak that has been on a logging header for two years and it seems to be wet like a freshly cut tree, but split it up and get it near some heat and you can burn it. However burning wood with any excessive moisture is inefficient, it takes extra btus to burn off all that water. I guess it all has to do with how much you are paying for your wood. In my area so called seasoned wood is going for as much as $350 a cord.
I burn mostly ash and cherry out of my own woods and let it season for a summer if I can, but it will burn nicely with minimal seasoning.

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Old 10/16/06, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suitcase_sally
It has been my experience that it's nearly impossible to burn oak UNLESS YOU HAVE A BIG BED OF HOT COALS GOING. I usually start with (plentiful) poplar (or as they call it here, "popple"). I call it "goffer wood". It burns hot and fast. Once I get a good bed of coals going from that I put in the oak. I like those big knotty pieces because they last all night in my not-so-airtight Franklin.

Hi Sally

You are so right- we have been using the popple wood to get the oak going.

Incredible coals, as you promised.

How far are you from West Virginia. I'd say our 72 acrs might be as high as 15 or 20 per-cent poplars.

Rick
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Old 10/17/06, 01:03 AM
 
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We store all of our split wood under a shed and it burns great.

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Old 10/30/06, 01:00 PM
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I find myself right now in the middle of the "standing dead" vs "seasoned" controversy. Personally, I'm very persnickity about the wood I put in our stove- no softwoods and all logs have sat outside off the ground, stacked in a north-south line and covered on top with some extra steel siding for a summer. I then move virtually my entire winter supply into the garage in the late summer to cook off a bit more (it gets HOT in there!) and there it sits until I need it.

However... I have oodles of standing dead trees, mostly red oak and the ubiquitous dead elm that I would like to turn into cash now, not a year from now. I've advertised "pre-seasoned" "standing dead" firewood for sale, but now think I made a mistake. As far as I'm concerned, I do believe it is "pre-seasoned", but not "fully seasoned" in that it'll be fine for fireplace use if you stack it in your garage for a couple weeks, but I probably wouldn't burn the majority of it in a woodstove for heating purposes. I think this shading of meaning confuses people, and I'm not going to advertise this way again. I'm going to cut up a bunch this winter, treat it just the way I treat my own wood and sell it as "fully seasoned" next fall.

That being said, when pricing my wood by the cord, do I believe that my competitors' wood is really seasoned as well as mine, or do I price myself higher knowing I probably have a superior product? I dunno... I've also heard people poo-poo elm but it doesn't have that bad a BTU number and a lot of them seem to croak at a convenient diameter...

A few last comments on standing dead red oak... In the limited experience I've had, the upper part of the trunk and branches does seem to be pretty darn dry, but the wood gets increasing damp (and rotten) the closer you get to the ground. Sometimes, however, a natural or insect-caused cavity will literally be sopping wet when the wood nearby is not. I haven't yet tried to fully season this kind of wood, but I'm betting that just a couple weeks under the right conditions would go 80% of the way. There's kind of an ugly stage when the sapwood is rotting off, but it frequently leaves good solid heartwood standing for years thereafter. I'm afraid some folks would be turned off from buying firewood without pretty bark on it, but I think this stuff is virtually as good as live-cut wood.

Anyway, I'm kind of rambling over my lunch hour, but I guess my point is that "fully seasoned" means fully seasoned, and anything else doesn't really belong in my (or anyone else's) stove.

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