Browsing Month September, 2013

A Cord Of Wood: Stacking Firewood

By at September 30, 2013 | 12:00 am | 0 Comment

Firewood Stacking

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What is a Cord of Wood?

A cord of wood should occupy a volume of 128 cubic feet.  This corresponds to a stacked woodpile measuring 4 feet high by 8 feet long by 4 feet deep.  Your pile can also be any other arrangement that yields the same volume.  The firewood should be straight stacked (as seen below) in order to get the most accurate measurement.

cord of wood

Your wood has been delivered- now what?

Typically, firewood is delivered by truck load and dumped in a predetermined location on your property.  Obviously, it’s smart to have it dumped close to where you plan to stack it.  Yes, sorry, firewood does need to be stacked.  In fact, stacking is so important that you do it ASAP.  If your wood is left in a large heap it will absorb ground moisture, attract insects, and start to rot.  Stacking firewood helps accelerate the drying process which is essential for efficient wood burning.

Plan ahead of time where you want to stack your firewood.   You want the location to be convenient but not too close to your house because rodents and bugs like to take up residence in and around the stacks.  Always store your wood outdoors- having large quantities of wood in your house, garage, or basement is bad news.  Heat will trigger insects and fungi activity.  For convenience purposes you can have a smaller pile in/near your house; which is periodically replenished from your main woodpile.

firewood

 Seasoned Wood

You should always ask your wood suppliers if their firewood is seasoned.  Once cut; wood can take anywhere from six months to a year to properly season (seasoned wood has a moisture content less than 20%). However, you don’t have to purchase seasoned wood if you get it early enough in the year.  If you’re purchasing firewood in the spring then this means your stacked wood will still have another 6-8 months to season/dry.  This green wood is typically less expensive than seasoned wood. However, if you’re a little late to the game make sure you only buy seasoned firewood!

Who is going to Stack my wood?

You have a few choices- Pay someone, do it yourself, or ask your kids to stack your firewood (good luck with the last).  Be wary of firewood dealers that offer free stacking.  This is often a way for them to rip you off by using a stacking pattern that leaves large amounts of airspace and less actual firewood in your stack.  If it comes to this you could insist that they only use a straight stacking method (shown in the photo below).

Firewood Stacking

Preventing Ground Moisture/Wood Rot

Elevate your woodpile on some kind of sturdy base.  I use a base of wood pallets to elevate our cords of wood.  You can look for any local business that receives merchandise shipments on pallets and ask if they are giving away or selling pallets at reasonable price. We got ours from a local garden and animal feed store for $2.00 apiece.  You can also make your own base with lumber or cinder blocks.  Just make sure you use a base that is a few inches off the ground and that can support the weight of a cord of wood.

Pallet

Sun and Airflow

Stack your firewood outside and if possible choose a sunny location.  Both air and sun help to season your firewood. The more surface area that is exposed to air, the more rapid the drying process will be.  The stacking pattern you choose can also increase the amount of ventilation your woodpile is exposed to.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that the space between each log should be “large enough for a mouse to run through, but tight enough to prevent a cat from chasing it.”  You can also position your woodpile in a way that the cut ends face the direction of prevailing wind/air movement.  I took this photograph of my father’s stacking – on pallets and in the sun.

Stacked Firewood

Protection

Cover the top of your woodpile with a tarp, plastic, or some other protective material if you live in a damp/humid climate (like here in New England).  Since the tarp can trap moisture it is best to keep it from directly touching the firewood.  Rocks, bricks, or anything sturdy can be used to prop the protective material up off the wood.  Ventilation holes can also be made to promote evaporation. Also make sure the protective top is secured so it doesn’t fly away in high winds.  If you are trying to accelerate the drying/seasoning process I recommend that you remove the protective cover on sunny days.  Once your firewood is seasoned feel free to cover the entire woodpile- we do this to prevent snow from accumulating on our firewood.

Covered Firewood

Crisscross Pattern

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There are different ways to stack your firewood.  However I am going to talk about my preferred method- in a crisscross pattern. Similar to a log cabin, each row is perpendicular to the row beneath it.  It is important to find similarly sized pieces to ensure stability and may have to play around with some of the wood to find the best fit.  You will get better at stacking with practice- like putting together the pieces of a puzzle.

Firewood Stacking

You can crisscross the entire stack of just crisscross the ends of the woodpile with straight stacking in the middle. Either way will ensure that your ends are sturdy and strong.  There’s nothing worse than a stack that continues to fall down.  At my house, we prefer to use the crisscross pattern throughout our entire stack for extra airflow and stability. We split our own wood so are not as concerned with measuring the actual cords delivered.

Below are a couple photos of how our stacked wood ends up looking.  The crisscross method can be used in free-standing form or reinforced with posts that have been driven into the ground at the ends of the pile. Both work great and we have both in our yard.  It really depends on how much extra lumber we have laying around that year.

Firewood Stacking

firewood stacking

Framed Woodpile

My father, Carl, built his own firewood rack/shed which has its own wooden roof and sides.  This keeps the elements off the firewood and also creates a sturdy framework.  The firewood inside this frame can simply be straight stacked without worry of toppling over.   He has his woodpiles within 10 feet of his garage for easy access on cold winter days.

firewood

 Other Wood stacking tips

It is recommended that split logs are stacked with their bark side up in order to help shed any rain that gets on the woodpile; mimicking what happens in nature.

Don’t stack your piles too wide but also don’t stack them too narrow.  A narrow pile will have less stability while a pile too wide with have less air circulation.

We like to stick with the traditional cord measurement and have our woodpiles stacked at 4 feet in height.  This makes it easier to measure cord dimensions (4x8x4) and you will have good stability at this height.  Anything higher may fall over due to uneven stacking and high winds.

firewood

Happy Stacking!  Woof! Woof!

 

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Heating With Wood

By at September 21, 2013 | 3:27 pm | 0 Comment

Farmers Market

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There are many benefits to heating your home with wood.

1.  Buying wood from local sources strengthens your local economy.  

Wood that is cut and used locally means money does not leave the community. This is extremely beneficial to rural and small town economies where wood heating is most prevalent.  This puts money into the local economy while keeping it out of the pockets of multinational corporations.  There is no million dollar wood fuel utility or multinational corporation involved in the wood heating business.  It is small local businesses that benefit from heating with wood!  This includes your local stove and fireplace shop, local chimney sweeper or the farmers, landscapers, and truckers who process and sell firewood.

Farmers Market

2.  Heating your home with wood provides you with a sense of security and independence.

Wood heating is as much of a lifestyle choice as it is a heating fuel option.  Burning wood require participation and effort but in exchange offers commensurate rewards.  It provides security during power failures.  Conventional heating systems are useless when a storm interrupts your electrical supply but a wood stove or fireplace keeps you warm, cozy, and safe.  Wood burning takes effort- similar to tending a garden, cooking a home meal, or performing your own home renovations- But you are always rewarded.  Just think about having the ability to provide for your family directly instead of depending on large energy utility suppliers!

fire cooking

3.  The act of building and sustaining fire is embedded in our ancient roots.

For all of human history we have built fire for survival: for warmth, food preparation, and companionship.  Burning wood brings you closer to nature and the environment.  A real wood fire is a focal point and gathering place for family, friends, and conversation.  The radiant heat from a wood burning fire heats you like the rays of the sun.  It is one of life’s small pleasures, especially on a cold winter’s night!  A real wood fire satisfies like no imitation can.

Ancient Fire Cooking

4.  Burning wood can save you money.

Wood fuel is cheaper than heating with oil, coal, or electricity. Despite all the hype you may hear about other heating options, it turns out that burning wood in a stove or fireplace is good for the local economy and good to your wallet.   A household paying $200 for a cord of seasoned hardwood with a modern, energy efficient stove can get more than 2x the equivalent oil heating value at $4.00 per gallon.  Buy your wood unseasoned a year ahead of winter and you can save 3x.

 

Money

While gas and heating oil prices have risen substantially in recent years, the price of wood has remained steady. Households can reduce their annual bills by a third by installing a stove. In the past, most buyers were those replacing an open fire with a much more fuel-efficient wood burner. The most efficient models achieve 80% efficiency – compared to an open fire at 32%, and a room open gas effect fire at 20% to 55% efficiency.

5.  Wood can be a renewable and abundant energy resource.

Sound woodlot management yields firewood that is a byproduct of thinning out non-lumber grade trees.  Sustainable woodlot management includes planting a new tree for every tree that is cut down. Renewable means that you don’t deplete the earth’s natural resources.  Here in New England we have an abundance of trees!  This makes firewood accessible, affordable, and a renewable energy resource.

tree ax

6.  Wood burning yields a zero-net carbon contribution.

Wood is created from energy produced by the sun and this energy is stored within the tree as it grows.  When you burn wood you are actually releasing this stored energy. Trees go through a natural cycle of growth and decay.  Whether they are burned or are slowly oxidized as they rot on the forest floor, there is a balance between the carbon stored in the tree as it grows and what is released once they die.

Wood burning, unlike fossil fuels (oil, coal), is a zero-net carbon contributor.  In other words, using wood as a fuel source does NOT contribute to the Greenhouse Effect.  Wood recycles carbon dioxide found in our atmosphere through the cyclical process of absorption, release, and re-absorption.  Oil and coal, are fossil fuels that reintroduce long buried carbon into the atmosphere- This is a one way trip.  Wood burning releases only a small amount of acid-causing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

New advanced technology wood stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces are certified low emission by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  They can burn with no visible smoke and create 90%  less pollution than those used 30 years ago.

CarbonNeutral

Tell us what you think!  Comment below on benefits important to you, and important stuff I  may have missed.

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