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How Many Cords Do I Buy?!?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Cross Cut Saw, May 28, 2012.

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  1. Cross Cut Saw

    Cross Cut Saw Feeling the Heat

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    The City of Ships, Bath, Maine
    We moved from Colorado to Maine one year ago in April and couldn't believe how much it cost to heat our drafty new (150 year old) home!
    So this year we've purchased a brand new Woodstock Progress Hybrid which we are having installed this week.
    Now the question is how much wood do I need to buy to heat my home and only use the propane when we're out of town. Here are the factors I think are important:
    • Our house is about 1500 sf.
    • Our house is poorly insulated and drafty.
    • Our house is 2 stories.
    • The ceilings on the lower level are 9 1/2' feet (seemed like such a nice feature until we stated to heat that empty space).
    • My wife and children are home all day.
    • This past winter we kept the house at 62 degrees during the day, 56 degrees at night. We "got used to it" but were far from comfortable and it still cost a fortune to heat.
    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated...
    chuckie5fingers likes this.

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  2. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

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    So Cent ALASKA
    1st,
    Welcome
    You came to a good place to get information from many long time wood burners, that have taught me tons of good useful tips, for fire wood preparation.
    2nd:
    How much wood do you have now?
    You'll need about 4 to 5 cords stacked & seasoning. (not oak, as it takes longer to season)
    Get it ASAP, get it soon.
    Get it stacked off the ground (I use scrounged pallets to stack it on) in an area where the wind/breeze (& sun if possible) will start drying it.
    Stacked in single rows or a foot between the rows for good air circulation.
    Most wood needs at least a year to dry so it'll burn in the new efficient stoves.

    That's a guess of course, since there are many variables. But it should be close.

    You've entered the "muchly" discussed area & the important part is to have dry wood (20% or less moisture content).
    Wood sellers say "seasoned wood" but that usually means it's seasoned for about a week & most wood takes a full year to dry & burn well. (Oak takes 2 or 3 years.)

    As you'll read here in several posts, many of us are trying to get 2 years ahead & are processing wood now for 2013/14 winter.
    The wood I'll burn this year was CSS (Cut Split & Stacked) 2 years ago. I have 5-1/2 cords for 2013/14, split , stacked & seasoning and am now working on my 2014/15 wood supply.

    You are in the same spot I was in , got stove & not enough dry wood for the winter. (& later learned the importance of dry wood)
    Basically you burn what you got. Which means you have to clean the chimney frequently because burning not well seasoned wood is the cause of creosote build up.

    Others will chime in with wood types in your area that will dry faster.

    Get your wood soon. Look for a reputable wood seller, they may have some cut last year & it should be ready to burn this winter.

    Again welcome & good luck.
    Senatormofo, PA Fire Bug and ScotO like this.
  3. Woody Stover

    Woody Stover Minister of Fire

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    Not sure how much wood you're going to need but I would guess probably three or four cords at least. Try to seal up some of the air leaks and improve the insulation if possible; This will pay big dividends by reducing the amount of wood needed to maintain temperature in the home. There will be some folks along shortly that are more familiar with your climate and stove that can give you better estimates on how much wood you might burn in a typical season. The most important thing is going to be to get some wood that has already been split and stacked for a while and has a head start toward being dry enough to burn efficiently and easily. Not many wood sellers preseason their wood; Most cut and split it when they get an order. Experienced local burners may be of help in finding good dealers with dry wood. Hopefully you can find a good source, or at least buy wood that will dry relatively quickly if it is split and stacked now single-row in the wind...sun doesn't hurt either. No Oak unless you are getting it for 2013, to make sure it has enough time to dry. If you can find wood that's already split, an experienced burner can tell if it's getting pretty dry by the heft of the wood (although different woods have different dry weights,) or weather the wood makes a sharp sound when splits are knocked together. A dull thud and heavy wood usually means the wood isn't dry yet (heft is a more reliable indicator than sound, which may depend on the shape of the split.) Another option would be to pick up a cheap moisture meter to test the wood before you buy. The wood will need to be re-split to expose a fresh inner surface to test. I can't over-emphasize how important it is to have dry wood! Good luck...and welcome to the forums! :)
    glennm likes this.
  4. ailanthus

    ailanthus Feeling the Heat

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    Shen Valley, VA
    +1 on the air sealing & insulation. I have an old farmhouse & the heating oil was getting ridiculous. I didn't even have my stove installed until I addressed the insulation because I knew I would have no chance of keeping all of the house comfortable until doing so. I had a blower-door test (an air leak test) done & ended up with a two-page list of mostly cheap, but time consuming projects to tackle. Those took most of this past fall & winter to complete in my spare time. Mild winter, I know, but I was very pleased with how little wood I used & even the colder rooms of the house tend to be warmer now than when we were using central heat. Haven't even messed with fans for moving the warm air, etc.

    I ended up buying 2 cord of ($$) oak that I knew would be ready to burn for my 1st year (only heating for 1/2 the winter). Then 4 more more cord (less $$) which included 1 of 'seasoned oak' that I didn't trust, 1 of green cherry & 2 of green locust, all of which I thought would cover me for '12/'13. However, I then fell into a scrounge of ~2 cord of black locust that had been sitting in a neighbors shed for about 20 years==c . All that gets me at least 2 years ahead, so that now I'll have time to season green oak for '14/'15, which is the most common wood around here.

    Good luck - We were in a very similar situation - wife & kids home all day with barely tolerable temperatures-winter was not fun. I predict you will LOVE not having a 62 degree house anymore, especially since your family will benefit from it all day, too!
  5. JP11

    JP11 Minister of Fire

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    I'm with the other guys. Buy some wood Cut and split.. get it stacked soon. You need to focus ALL your efforts on insulation. It will pay your more dividends.

    I'm up the road near Auburn. You work at the shipyard?

    JP
  6. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    +1 on the insulation and air sealing. We have done extensive work in thst area and reduced our energy - gas and wood - use almost a third. Look for subsidized insulation programs and go nuts with caulk and spray foam. Also weatherstip all windows and doors. I always give a reccomendation for vinyl v-seal weatherstrip, made by 3m or ice-o-tac, it works wonders on old windows.
  7. Cross Cut Saw

    Cross Cut Saw Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks for the input, last winter I spent a lot of time eliminating drafts, insulating the perimeter of the basement, weather stripping everything, replaced the remaining 6 wood windows in the house and blowing in a good amount in the attic which was pathetically low. I wasn't done until the end of January and until that point we were still keeping it around 66 degrees in the house all day long before we decided to turn it down permanently. Our front door is the biggest problem at this point, it's ancient and I'm sure a big waster.
    In March I found a small amount (1/2 cord) of two year seasoned mix of hardwood and I will be having 1 "seasoned" and two green cords delivered on June 1st.
    I'm thinking that for this year I might just have to bite the bullet and get a couple more that are kiln dried to get started and let the green sit. The biggest problem is we live in town and I'm not sure where I'd put all that wood...
    Since we were paying about $650/month to heat (barely, we kept it 62 degrees during the day) using propane and electricity last year even if we spent $$$ this year on kiln dried, I doubt it would cost even half of what it did this last winter (~$3500) and it wasn't even really that cold out...
    We're not looking for it to be hot, and I think the stove will be nicely situated to heat up the house pretty good.

    Hey JP, I live in Bath but I'm a coffee roaster in Brunswick...
  8. buggyspapa

    buggyspapa Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Scarborough, Maine
    BMB,

    Even in a mild winter here, figure on at least 4 cord. You have a bunch of wood suppliers in your neighborhood. I've seen several of operations up there in searching for saws. You are going to have to go do some "interviewing" and see if you can get some wood left over from last year. Most of the guys I have spoken to are pretty laid back if you show up at their doorstep and ask some questions. Prices here are ranging from $175-250. Bookmark the cord calculator: http://www.maine.gov/ag/firewood.html and don't be afraid to ask for the measurements of the trucks that suppliers use.

    If money is no object (hah) buy for two years and get it stacked, sort the oak for next year. Or, if you have room on the property, order up a log load (7-8 cord), cut it yourself. I see these offers on CL periodically.

    Also, watch CL for giveaways, and if you have a truck and saw, you could get your own supply started. Watch CL for people selling their wood before moving. I've seen several of those ads up your way this spring.

    Keep in mind that burning wood is only going to be slightly less costly for the first couple of years as you gear up and learn the ropes. Investing in insulation is going to be key in keeping the house comfortable, no matter what the heat source.

    Isn't heating with gas supposed to be as cheap as it gets these days, with the oversupply in the market?
  9. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    None. Start scrounging. >>

    Seriously, though... I learned the hard way that you can't really have too much wood. Start shopping now, and load up on 2,3,4,5 cords. After the first year you'll know the answer better. If you end up with more wood than you need you know you'll have primo-seasoned wood for next year.

    Good investments include:
    Splitting maul- about $20- not necessarily for splitting lots of wood but good for turning big splits into small splits quickly.
    Moisture meter- about $25- tells you if wood is "ready." Keeps you from putting improperly-seasoned wood in your expensive stove.
    Wood rack(s)- can be done lots of ways, but getting your wood accessible and off the ground is important.
    Pallet Pete likes this.
  10. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

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    Cool, I roasted on a Diedrich 12k for a number of years before I sold my shop.

    If you don't have a lot of room for storage, you might want to look at staying away from unseasoned oak/hickory, which can take
    two or more years to season before burning without issues. Also, google holz hausen for efficient ways to store firewood in small places.
  11. Pallet Pete

    Pallet Pete Guest

    Around here I figure 5 cord to be on the safe side although we used barely any last winter. Try to get a few years ahead if you can ! You can get it off the ground by using long poles or pallets and stacking on them they do not even need to be treated. I have a small amount of property however I use pallet bins such as these to fill with wood and use a small amount of space. You can use 4*4 pallets for this. I can fit between 1 and 1.5 cord to a bin depending on the split sizes. Most Home depot or lowes even just a factory will have pallets for free that you can take if you ask for them. I get them from work and sell them because we pay to have them removed. It can't hurt to ask around for them. Even a well built shed could go a long way. My red wood shed holds 2.5 cord and it is only 4 ft deep. There are tons of wood shed pics here that you can get ideas from and best of all they look nice without a huge footprint That is if your not ogyDave ;lol. To be fair daves look amazing but they are definitely big thats a good thing :).

    Good luck
    Pete

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    raybonz likes this.
  12. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    Great pics Pete and love the pallet wood shelter! Great way to build on the cheap!

    Ray
  13. My Oslo heats my home

    My Oslo heats my home Minister of Fire

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    what he said... start scrounging if thats something you will enjoy doing (It's not for everyone) and especially put some thought into this winter since you don't have anything on hand just yet. Collect at least 5 cords of DRY splits to get you through the upcoming season and continue to think of ways to always have a dry supply and be ahead with your upcoming years supply.
  14. ailanthus

    ailanthus Feeling the Heat

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    $3500 - OUCH!! If it's costing that much & you've addressed air sealing, I wonder if your wall cavity insulation must be poor/nonexistant. In my area, it's not all that uncommon for very old houses to lack wall insulation, but I would think as far north as you are, people would know better. There are ways to retrofit with cellulose or expanding foam, so those might be worth looking in to.

    Again, I think the blower door test with infrared imaging would be INVALUABLE - Even as a major cheapskate who's very hesitant to hire anyone to do anything with my house, as soon as I had it done, I wished I had done it years ago - best $400 investment ever. It will show how effective the wall insulation is to some extent & I found out about some (major) air leaks I wouldn't have found in a million years on my own. Also, if you use forced air, take a look at any ductwork that's in unconditioned space. My tester estimated that I was losing ~40% of my forced air oil btu's from unsealed, uninsulated ductwork in the attic & crawlspace.

    It's an on-going process with these old houses, but it pays major dividends IMO.
  15. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

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    I would say you'll need about 4 cords, Id start looking in craigslist to see if you can find some seasoned wood cheap, maybe someone that switched to pellets and has a couple of cords left over, Ive got a few cords that way the last 2-3 years, you have to transport it yourself but worth the savings and you get dry wood.
  16. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    I answered the question about wood in the hearth room but will add that you never count drying time until after the wood has been split and stacked. Wood sellers split the wood just before delivery.
    Nixon likes this.
  17. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    Judging by the reports I see on this forum I'd say four to five cords per winter is about right for a full-time burner. That means you should buy ten cords to be a year ahead, and buy four or five more every spring. That will allow you to burn wood that has been seasoned 18 months. If you can buy 15 cords now you'll be burning wood that is 2 1/2 years seasoned. I think you will find that Maine hardwood in Maine humidity seasons a lot more slowly than Colorado softwood in Colorado humidity.
  18. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    I'd suggest getting a 6-8 cord grapple load about 2 months ago :). Even if you are buying split today I'd still suggest getting six cords. If you buy now some of it will not be ready to burn this winter, and firewood/propane/heating oil doesn't go bad in one extra year. If you don't burn it this year, you will next. However, if you are looking for reasonably priced dry wood in March because you ran out ... you'll need a lot of luck to find it.
  19. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    I would get a pallet or 2 or 3 of bio-bricks for this year( cost is going to be about the same as buying split cords) 1 pallet is roughly equal to one cord. That solves the problem of dry wood and you can mix a bit of the almost dry splits in with it. Storage is easy basement, garage ect no bug problems. Gives ya some leeway on the wood pile.
    Bster13 likes this.
  20. My Oslo heats my home

    My Oslo heats my home Minister of Fire

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    I agree with Karl, only downside is that alot of grapple loads will have alot of oak in this area, which will limit the amount of ready to use wood in the fall.
  21. raybonz

    raybonz Minister of Fire

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    I agree Oz! I asked my woodguy to bring hard maple and and any ash which he did but also received red oak which is very common around here too..

    Ray
  22. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    Could have sworn I posted an answer here yesterday . . . I think I must be losing my mind.

    4-6 cords . . . and personally I would go with at least 6 cords. If you have left over wood in April or May you'll be that much further ahead next year . . . vs. not ordering enough and then scrambling around in February or March with wood that is far from being seasoned.

    Incidentally . . . at this point . . . I would recommend paying the extra premium for kiln dried wood if you can get it. A lot of firewood sellers may advertise "seasoned wood" for sale, but their definition of seasoned wood and our definition of seasoned wood often is quite different.

    Ideally, it would be great to get a truck load of tree length wood to process as that is where the real savings is . . . but realistically depending on where you are in downtown Bath you may not have the room, equipment, time or desire to process your own wood . . . and that is understandable.
  23. Cross Cut Saw

    Cross Cut Saw Feeling the Heat

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    I'm constrained by several things:
    • I don't have a truck or any way to scrounge and pick up my own wood. I was able to get 1/2 cord that's been seasoned already for 18 months for only $60. I was able to do some trading of burlap coffee bags and coffee to have it delivered but my Subaru station wagon can fit more than it can actually drive with so I have to have wood delivered.
    • I don't have a huge yard and I do have 2 kids who actually want some grass to play on, I built them a massive sandbox, what more do they want from me?!?! I can store about 5 cords max before I start to encroach on my wife's raspberry patch (get your mind out of the gutter):eek: .
    • I can only afford to get 3 cords at them moment, 1 seasoned and 2 green but my wood supplier who currently has kiln dried available swears they will have it available in the fall so I think I'll get 2 more kiln dried late summer/early fall.
    I talked to the folks at Woodstock about the compressed blocks and they said that the compressed wood blocks they tested didn't give off all that much heat so they weren't able to heat up the two layers of soapstone in the PH. He also said they created a lot of carbon and really blackened the stove and pipes and based on the brands they tested I'd be better off burning wood with a higher moisture content or mixing the higher content wood with dryer stuff...

    So thanks to everyone who put in their two cents, I'm planning on having 6 cords available and start stocking up much earlier next year so I can get a little ahead and maybe in a couple of years I'll be a whole year ahead :cool:

    But don't worry, I'll be on here showing off my new Progress Hybrid which is being installed today and I'm sure you'll all be as sick of me blabbing about my stove/hearth/firewood as my coworkers already are in no time at all :p...
  24. Cross Cut Saw

    Cross Cut Saw Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks Pete,
    I do have access to lots of pallets and would like to be able to stack higher, will the wood dry as quickly stacked like this?
    -Joe
  25. bluedogz

    bluedogz Minister of Fire

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    Trailer hitch?
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