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American Elm?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by SoDaCoDa, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. SoDaCoDa

    SoDaCoDa New Member

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    Jan 24, 2013
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    Strandburg, SD
    Just hit upon this site today and joined so am going to ask all the stupid questions I have stored up. I scored a LARGE American Elm that had been dead for about three years but was still standing and not rotting at all. The wood is dry and light compared to ash and seems to burn well, puts out good heat, just doesn't last all that long. What is the generally accepted opinion of elm as firewood?
    Backwoods Savage likes this.

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  2. Paulywalnut

    Paulywalnut Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forum. I can only comment on my experience.
    Its brutal to split by hand. Its pretty stringy, but if it burns ok
    for you good. Its all about BTU output. I have burnt some but
    never felt it was worth the work to split it. I think I got 20 or 30 pieces in a delivery
    and it was dry and wasn't too bad. Good luck!
  3. tigeroak

    tigeroak Burning Hunk

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    Loc:
    kansas illinois
    I burn a lot and it burns good. It will be good for days and nights that are not that cold, 25 and up. Right now I am burning soft maple and the house is 74 in the back rooms. 90 + in where the stove is .
  4. Locust Post

    Locust Post Minister of Fire

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    I never used to mess with Am. Elm but after I finally bought hydraulics I have some around now. Not bad in my opinion...about like cherry.
  5. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    I burn a little every year.1 or 2 standing dead when I find them.Lots of small-medium sized ones still growing around here,not very many large mature ones left though.Most all of them died off from early 70's to mid '90's.

    Not bad heat for temps 30 to 45 or so.Glad very few I get now are big enough to need splitting,had plenty of that years ago.
  6. SoDaCoDa

    SoDaCoDa New Member

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    Loc:
    Strandburg, SD
    Thanks for the replies. You are right about the stringy-ness, had to have a hatchet handy while using the hydraulic splitter. At least nobody said 'Oh god, don't burn that stuff.' The guy that sold me this house with the three fireplaces told me elm would create more creosote in the chimneys but then he also told me how he closed down the air intake to make all of the wood last longer and looked at me funny when I said hotter was better for that issue. It does burn fast so it makes sense to use it when temps are not like they are here today. Was -10 this morning again.
  7. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    I like elm . . . but then again I have a hydraulic splitter.
  8. Danno77

    Danno77 Minister of Fire

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    Hamilton, IL
    Most here will burn just about any wood. There are some that can be picky because they have enough stacked out back to last them darn near a decade.

    Best wood for burning is the free kind. Was it free?
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  9. qwee

    qwee New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5
    If you can be choosy and have lots of hardwood around elm will get passed by, not because it isn't a good firewood but because it takes more work to process.
    I was naive about wood. I thought a tree was a tree. I gathered up quite a bit of free hardwood. I didn't know what it was. There were limbs and small and medium rounds. And, there were some really big rounds that someone with a big chainsaw had just left. I somehow rolled them into a low trailer. I got them home and forgot about them. My old wood burning neighbor ran out of wood and asked me for what I had gathered. I figured I could get some more. I sold him what I had (I didn't have a place to burn it, yet). I was just collecting wood for the future. $150 for 4 chords, or so.

    I have a small gas powered wood splitter. But these big rounds had to be reduced. I banged a couple of wedges into one of the big rounds - the wedges were in but the wood was still holding together - huh? My neighbor gave me 6 more wedges. The same thing happened - now there were 8 wedges in the big round and it was still holding together! It was dry but knotty. So I said to my old neighbor who had been burning wood most of his life, "...what kind of wood is this exactly? Is it cottonwood?" And he says, "No, I don't think it is cottonwood. It is ELM." I dumped the round off at the neighbors and said I am through with it. Somehow this crafty old guy, Fred, was able to get the wedges out and split this round.

    Also, I ran the small and medium rounds through the small splitter. Most of it split, but the "Y" like pieces were trouble. Being naive I tried to split some of these. And the result was some bending of metal on the splitter - the wood beat the metal! Elm is one tough wood. But once it is into burnable pieces it is fine - it is just getting it there that is a pain in the a**!
  10. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    I like it - Burns good, burns hot and burns completely for me. Don't like processing it. Even with hydros I find I have to bottom out every split and then manually manipulate plenty of them. Any elm I get is split large and/or left in the round up to 6 or 8" and just given more time to season for this reason. It is not oak or beach but it is up there with quality heat just tough to process. I take it if it is easy access.

    The upside is that you can find it standing dead without any bark so the tops are typically very dry and can be burned off the saw if you are not ahead and need wood right now. I have burned both ash and elm tops from saw to stove with out any moisture issues. The lower in the tree you go and the larger the rounds become this will be an issue. Rule of thumb for me is if there is no bark and the tops are splitting out with a nice baseball bat sound when bonked together they can burn. Not the best but but a way better option than buying wet wood that the seller calls seasoned.
  11. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    What I look for in either American/White or Slippery/Red Elm in standing snags is:

    Little or no bark left

    Long deep vertical cracks in the wood

    Silver grey or dark brown color from age.

    Same features in long dead Red/Black,White & Bur Oaks.Though with them they last quite a bit longer than the Elms,so you can leave them be until you get caught up.Elms I found most have to be grabbed within 3-5 yrs after dying (good chance you'll see some Morel mushrooms late April-mid May as the tree is starting to die & up to 3 yrs afterwards ;)) otherwise its too far gone.

    Where as the Oaks can still have sound heartwood,though with some bug holes/ant colonies etc even 10-15 yrs later.That's no big deal.By then the stuff burns with intense heat on the coldest days/nights.
  12. longboarder2

    longboarder2 Member

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    southern NJ
    if its elm, run it through the chipper.
  13. Paulywalnut

    Paulywalnut Minister of Fire

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    And then burn it?;)
    Ralphie Boy likes this.
  14. TimJ

    TimJ Minister of Fire

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    if you use wood as fuel to heat your house, get wood and lots of it......but be prepared to work for it
    Ralphie Boy likes this.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forum SoDaCoDa.

    I've posted many times that we have burned a lot of elm through the years. I can think of 2 years in particular that we burned 100% with elm and the wood stove is our only heat. We have found that if we leave the dead elm standing until all or most of the bark is off, then maybe even wait another year before cutting, it is good and it also will split nicely. At least most of it splits nicely. You will get the occasional log that splits hard. Hey, we just burned 2 fairly good sized rounds of elm yesterday.

    We prefer ash or oak for night burning so tend to burn the elm during the daytime. But I would not hesitate to heat 100% with elms again if need be. We like it.

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