Choosing the Proper Wood

Axe1. Cut the wood to length.  The wood you have purchased or cut yourself should be the right length for your stove, fireplace or furnace. This is usually about three inches shorter than the firebox width or length, depending on how you load the wood.  2.  Split the wood to the proper size for your burner. For most efficient wood stoves, this is usually no more than six inches measured at the largest cross sectional dimension. A range of piece sizes is best so that when kindling a fire or reloading on a coal bed you have some smallish pieces that will help you achieve the desirable instant ignition. A selection of sizes from three to six inches in diameter for wood stoves will probably serve you well. Keep in mind that firewood only begins to dry seriously once it is cut and split to the right size because in log form the moisture is held in by the bark. So, when buying wood, ask when the wood was cut, split and properly stacked to get an idea of how ready it is for burning. For this reason, experienced woodburners like to get their wood in the early spring so they can manage the drying process themselves. 3. Pile in a single row exposed to the sun and wind. If wood is to be below 20% moisture content when you burn it in the winter, it must have the moisture removed. The only practical way homeowners can do this is to allow the sun and wind to dry the wood for them. With this in mind, the wood should be piled in a place where the sun can warm it and the wind can blow through it. As the sun heats and evaporates the water from the wood pile the wind whisks it away. 4. Let the wood dry all summer.  Most folks who split their wood and stack it in well-spaced rows find that they can dry their wood in four or five months. We recommend wood that is dried for 1-2 years.