Seasoned Wood

Any wood you burn must be properly seasoned, or dried out (wet wood smokes a lot, won’t burn at a hot temperature, hisses and pops and may be dangerous, and puts a lot of crud into your vent system). To season wood, split logs as soon as possible into the size that will fit into your stove and stack them in a dry spot for 6 to 18 months. Pile the wood so that air can cir­culate. Hardwoods take longer to dry than softwoods do. Humidity and tem­perature also affect drying times.

Green wood is freshly cut from a live tree. It will smoke like crazy and stink and probably won’t burn very thoroughly. Plus, a lot of water will steam out of it, resulting in sparks when you open the door to the burn chamber. How can you tell whether wood is green? See whether it’s brittle — if so, it’s not green.

Although you shouldn’t burn green wood, you can buy green wood in late spring, when prices are very low because demand is down. It will dry over the hot summer months and you’ll save money. In fact, if you can, buy a whole gob of green firewood at the same time and you’ll get a great discount.

What you should never burn

Although burning hardwood is better than burning softwood, the latter isn’t out of the question. Some things, on the other hand, should never be burned in a wood stove:

✓ Garbage, plastic, foil, or any kind of chemically treated or painted wood: They all produce noxious fumes, which are dangerous and pollut­ing. If you have a catalytic stove, the residue from burning plastics may clog the catalytic combustor.

✓ Trash (paper or plastic): Paper wastes tend to make a very hot fire for a short period of time, encouraging the ignition of any creosote deposits in your stovepipe. And synthetic wastes, such as plastic wrappers, pro­duce acids when they burn. Acids make for a very short stove lifetime.

✓ Manufactured logs (like Duraflame): This is extremely dangerous. They burn too hot and can cause a fire when you open the door.