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Firewood dilemma

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by gyrfalcon, Sep 1, 2009.

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  1. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Half my winter wood supply is nice dry seasoned wood, the other half is not so dry. Am I better off mixing the dry and not-so-dry from the get-go, or using up the dry first and then starting in mid-winter on the greener stuff, expecting it to be a whole lot dryer by then?

    I'm in northern New England, where winter air is dry, dry, dry, and my stacks sit out in full sun and wind, with plenty of room in between. My wood dries pretty rapidly out there, I'd swear faster than it does in summer, but I haven't done serious measuring with my moisture meter to confirm that absolutely.

    I have a very small Hearthstone Tribute stove, and only used about two cords total last winter. I have about a cord left over from last year, but serious unexpected financial setbacks meant I couldn't get the additional cord I need for winter until just recently. I have no wood lot, so have to buy my wood c/s/d from local guys.

    What would you do? Mix the really dry with the not dry from the get-go this winter, or use up most of the dry until it's gone to give the other stuff as much time as possible to season? I haven't seen the new stuff yet, but the supplier tells me it's been sitting in sun and air in unsplit six-foot lengths since last winter. He calls it "seasoned," but I know better. At least it hasn't been lying in the woods. He is going to split it down well for me, and I will split it further before stacking it to speed seasoning.

    My instinct is to mix it with the dry stuff from the beginning, but I'd welcome thoughts from more experienced folks here.

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  2. branchburner

    branchburner Minister of Fire

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    Before you take delivery, have you shopped around for some truly seasoned wood?
    Also, maybe try to find some guys who cut wood but aren't in the "firewood business". They might be able to locate some standing dead or seasoned lumber slab that could be cut now and would dry up nice in the fall.
    Hardwood pallets.
    Lumber scrap.
    Dry pine branches.
    The neighbor's barn.
    I would beg, borrow and scrounge for dryness.
  3. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Thanks, and good thought, but nobody here whereI live in far rural VT is "in the firewod business." They're just neighbors who have wood lots and cut a little extra to sell to those without. Most of these folks have ancient long-pre-EPE monster stoves that will pretty much burn dirt. and the concept of "'seasoned" wood as we know it here is just totally alien. Folks I know locally tend to go out and cut down a tree mid-winter when they run out of firewood and toss it right in. IOW, there is no such thing as actually "seasoned" wood to be had, period. This guy, at least, trucks his wood out of the woods to an open field to "season."

    No pine around here, just mixed hardwood. I can get old pallets, but have neither the tools nor the strength to cut them up in enough quantity to make a real difference. I'm very well aware this is far from the ideal situation, but I'm really quite stuck with it.

    So my question is truly just how to squeeze the best out of what I've got.
  4. fespo

    fespo Feeling the Heat

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    I would bring some of the not so dry into the room where the stove is for at least a week during winter to help dry it a little before i mix it with the dry stuff. Fespo
  5. Ratman

    Ratman Feeling the Heat

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    Restack / sort your entire pile(s) into 3 piles.
    Save the $ on the moisture meter and wood knock 2 pieces from the same batch together. If you hear a hollow sound it's dry and ready for pile 1 below.
    If not you will need to determine if it's a candidate for pile 2 or 3.
    I used wet wood before. It burned lousy and I had to clean my chimney several times that year.


    Pile 1. Obvious dry into the first pile. This will be burned first.

    Pile 2. Almost dry requiring another split to assist in drying into the second pile. This will be burned after the dry pile is consumed.

    Pile 3. Next years pile because it is wet and should not be burned in your wood stove.

    Then try and find any wood to suppliment Pile 1 and 2.
    Pallets and lumber scraps can be added to pile 1.
  6. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I think the mix/no mix issue comes down to doing whatever required to keep the stove/flue burning hot/clean.

    I find that partially seasoned wood (in my case ash) brought in in the winter will improve a lot in 10-14 days. So, I would set up an indoor storage area (doesn't need to be near the stove, just well ventilated) that can hold a week or two of your normal consumption. Your dry wood obviously goes right from outside to the stove, the wetter wood gets to hang out indoors for a while, on a rotation basis, before it goes in.

    As discussed often on this board, this kind of indoor drying is a PITA, and not practical for a 24/7 burner running through 3-5 cords. A two week supply would be way too much indoors and over-humidify, etc. A lot of us, however, have found such indoor drying useful when desperate. Improving 0.5-1 cords this way in a season, however, is pretty feasible if you have the space and don't mind a couple spiders.
  7. Oldmainer

    Oldmainer Member

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    Hello gyrfalcon...if you have a basement stack your wood there and run a de-humidifier. I do this with whatever wood I have cut off my wood lot and it is ready to burn real nice in about three weeks. Because of time restraints I cut my winters wood over the whole spring and summer...when I have time... so some is partly dry and some wet. I clean my chimney at least twice during the heating season...I have a ranch style house. I live in southern Maine and go through 5 cords of mixed wood...give or take... during the burn season. My setup is a mid-moe Allnighter set up in my basement where it's been doing good service for the last 12 years. In the next year or so I plan to insulate my basement and go with a new modern stove.
  8. CarbonNeutral

    CarbonNeutral Minister of Fire

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    Post a message on craigslist and freecycle if you have a chapter in your area asking for split wood that people are not using - I've got at least half a cord doing this - people who no longer no longer burn, have switched to pellets, etc.

    Always bone dry as well.

    Good luck
  9. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Not the ideal wood supply to be sure . . . but I think in your case what you have suggested would work the best for you . . . i.e. mixing the drier stuff with the less dry. My reasoning would be that the drier stuff would get the temp up enough to drive the remaining moisture out of the less seasoned wood. As you no doubt know, this means less heat as some of the BTUs will be used to drive out the moisture instead of heating the home and this could translate into more wood usage. In addition, you will want to check and clean your chimney more frequently.

    If you were able to get some pallets (as mentioned) you could also use that wood to help bring the temps up enough to drive out the moisture.

    The one good thing is that at least this wood supply was cut last winter . . . I've seen local firewood suppliers get tree-length wood delivered to them just in the past week or two . . . and I am pretty sure this wood will be cut, split and delivered for sale this year to folks who expect to burn it this year. Granted your wood supply was not cut and split last winter . . . but it has to be better than what some of the folks around my neck of the woods will be buying this year.

    As mentioned, getting this wood split smaller and stacked loose will also help speed the seasoning process. Finally, hopefully, the bulk of this wood you're getting delivered is a "low moisture" wood like ash or cherry . . . this would help you a lot . . . in fact, you might ask the guy if he has ash.
  10. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    Some great replies and ideas. I would also use a little dry with wet wood knowing the chimney would need additional cleaning. I would also save some dry wood just for those cold mid winter days when the extra BTUs will be needed and wet wood just won't cut it. Be safe.
    Ed
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Personally I would burn the good dry wood first and let the newer wood wait until is is needed. You never know how much you are going to burn for the season and it is a shame to not get maximum advantage from the dry stuff by crippling it with new wood mixed in. I would burn the dry wood first and let the newer stuff do a few more months drying out. If you burned two cords last year then the good one you have should last until January or February so that is five or six months for the other stuff to get ready.

    If you had the stuff stacked for the magic "one year" half of that would have been in winter.
  12. wahoowad

    wahoowad Minister of Fire

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    Split the new stuff as small as you can go

    Stack it criss-cross like this out in the sun/wind and cover just the very top
    [​IMG]

    Burn the seasoned stuff first, then this when you get to it

    Start looking for additional wood. You need to do this for next year anyway so you won't be in the same situation.
  13. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    I'm with BB on this one. Hold off burning the new wood as long as possible. I'd also stack as much of the new wood as close (but at a safe distance) to the stove as possible... the hot dry air will season moist wood very quickly.
  14. CTburning

    CTburning New Member

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    I agree with the others that say burn the dry stuff first. Being leftovers from last year it should be well seasoned. Did you ask your supplier what kind of wood he will be delivering. The dry cold of Vermont will dry the wood pretty quickly. Try to stay away from any oak and you should be fine. I dried out some type of maple last year for 6 months and it burned great. I measured it, down to around 20% mc. Don't decrease the output from your good wood by mixing in the green stuff. I have also brought in a couple days worth of wood and left it on towels a couple feet from the stove. It made a difference and the wood started to check deeply in as little as a week. good luck
  15. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Oldmainer, do you suppose the dehumidifier trick would work in an insulated but unheated storeroom, as well? I truly dread the thought of trying to schlep firewood up and down the very steep stairs to my small old cellar. The storeroom does get down to and sometimes below freezing in the coldest weather, and I'm unclear on how those temperatures affect a dehumidifier. And if it's that cold, wouldn't I be better off leaving the wood outside in sun and dry wind anyway?
  16. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Good thought on the criss-cross stacking. Thanks. (Trust me, I'm well aware of the need to get the wood sooner than this, and I wouldn't be in this situation if I had any choice! Barring another string of unexpected major expenses like I had this winter and spring, I certainly do intend to get another couple cords in over the next few months for next year.)
  17. PunKid8888

    PunKid8888 New Member

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    Dehumitifiers only work effeicently down to about 55F, after that the more expensive models have de icing capabilities but in reallity the amount of mositure it can take out of the air is very little at those low temps. with that being said the amount of mositure in the air during the dead of winter is very low (usually below 30%). I agree with you in thinking that most wood actually dries better during the winter months, although I have no proof.

    I would burn through the dry, while the unseasoned wood stays outside to hopefully dry as much as possible. Like others has said pallets and lumber scraps might get you an additional month or so if the other wood has still not seasoned enough
  18. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Mostly beech, rock maple and red oak. Figure I'll split the oak down real good and leave it for last. I do have room to stack about a week's worth just outside the hearth, and a good bit more 6 or 8 feet further away. Don't care much about the cosmetics, and the odd spider doesn't bother me. And you're very right about the dry cold. When I first started burning and didn't know nothin', I bought some supposedly "seasoned" rock maple in late fall that was literally unburnable. It spent the winter stacked against the north (ie shady) side of my barn, and darned if it didn't burn pretty well when I tried it in early spring that same year.

    The one thing I worry about with using the dry wood first is that I'm likely to run out and be onto the not so dry just in the coldest part of winter when I'll need to squeeze every bit of heat I can out of the stove. I guess I'll save some out for that, rotate the newer stuff in and out of that good spot near the stove when I start burning seriously, and hope for the best.
  19. gyrfalcon

    gyrfalcon Minister of Fire

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    Ah, that's exactlywhat I was wondering. Thanks Punkid and Pooo...ook.
  20. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I would mix in a bit of the mediocre wood to stretch it out rather than burn all the dry stuff first. I'd just adjust the ratio as time progresses. There is nothing worse that having burned up all the dry stuff and be left with mediocre wood when you need it the most.
  21. branchburner

    branchburner Minister of Fire

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    Don't even think about using the oak. Stash it away and forget it exists and burn the neighbor's barn like I suggested. Burning green oak is like borrowing money at 30%. (Oh, yeah, some of us are already doing that, too...)
  22. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I'm not paying out interest at no 30% but I still would not empty out my bank account to pay off my mortgage and then find myself unemployed with no access to any credit.

    That said, I don't advise burning any green wood but I do mix in a bit of mediocre wood with the really dry stuff. If it's green, it can wait. I would sooner run the gas furnace than suffer through green wood.
  23. branchburner

    branchburner Minister of Fire

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    Yup, my thought exactly. Especially if you're paying for the wood. (Borrowing from yourself at 30% ain't so bad.)
  24. BigV

    BigV Member

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    I had the same dilemma a few years back before I got my stockpile built up. Since the wood had been down since last winter and cut into 6' lengths, some drying has occurred. The ends more so than the center sections.
    I mixed my not so dry wood with dry stuff at about a 3 to 1 ratio. That's 3 pieces of dry for every 1 unseasoned. It did a fairly good job at keeping the temp on my stove up thus minimizing creosote build-up. I usually put a few more green splits on at night and it seemed to last longer (but not burn as hot) and then in the morning I would get a good hot fire going with just the dry stuff for the first couple of hours. Make sure you have a good bed of coals before mixing in the green stuff.
    Good luck!
  25. FWWARDEN

    FWWARDEN Member

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    You need to get as much of the unseasoned stuff inside once you start burning. Don't touch it for a few weeks and it will get good and dry while you heat the joint with the first half of your seasoned stuff. Then move on to the big pile you have in your house. Repeat the process one more time, and you have made it til spring. For those of us that burn four + cords this would be a complete Sh(# show, but a half a cord at a time in the house is managable.
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