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How not to get ripped off buying wood

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by CowboyAndy, Oct 23, 2008.

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  1. CowboyAndy

    CowboyAndy New Member

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    Okay, so I have mentioned before that I am growing more and more concerned that we wont have enough wood for the winter, partly because the stuff we are using isn't 100% seasoned. I just talked to a guy that was advertising on craigslist about buying from him. I am going to stop by his place tomorrow to check out his operation. Any signs I should be looking for to tell if this guy is a fly by night or a tride and true wood firewood seller? He quoted me $200 for a cord of oak with some birch that the oak still needs "a few weeks" of seasoning, or $100 for a load of birch and popple that is "bone dry". Short of using a moisture meter, what should I be looking for to tell if it really is seasoned?

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  2. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Bang pieces together and listen to the noise they make.

    Use your best Stewie Griffin voice and tell him "For every piece of wood that's missing from the cord, I will kill you"
  3. Shipper50

    Shipper50 Minister of Fire

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    My suggestion would be to look at it, if it looks old and grey and dried then its OK. Also try the famous clunk method. Hit 2 pieces together and if they don't thunk :roll: then its seasoned enough.

    Shipper
  4. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    ha!!

    If that doesn't work, you could get a moisture meter and check a few pieces. Or bring an axe and split a few of the bigger
    pieces to examine the inside. Also just hefting a few pieces should give you an idea of approximate density.

    FYI, Something to consider:
    White Oak, 27 million BTU's per cord, rated excellent firewood
    Black Oak, 24 million BTU's per cord, rated excellent firewood
    White Birch, 20 million BTU's per cord, rated good firewood
    Black Birch, 27 million BTU's per cord, rated excellent firewood
    Grey Birch, 30 million BTU's per cord, rated good firewood
    Yellow Birch, 23 million BTU's per cord, rated excellent firewood
    Poplar (Popple), 15 million BTU's per cord, rated poor firewood

    (Source: Cornell Cooperative Extension for Greene County, NY )
  5. boostnut

    boostnut Member

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    Maybe its just me, but if a seller told me it "needs a few weeks" I'd be looking elsewhere. Most important thing to do is find out when it was SPLIT, not when it was cut. I made a mistake my first year out, bought a cord of "seasoned" hardwood that was cut "over 5 years ago". It was wet and worthless. It sizzled and smoldered, made very little heat. Seasoned wood should look, well, seasoned (gray in color with cracks on each end). If the ends are gray but the rest of the piece isn't odds are that it was cut some time ago but not split. Not seasoned wood to me.
  6. Dill

    Dill Feeling the Heat

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    See if he has a lot of wood kicking around. Or only what's on the pickup.
    And let your gut tell you, like any other craigslist deal. You can usually tell if someone is legit pretty quick.
  7. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    I have seen your pics. of wood relax cut some more dead wood you will be good to go! (you sould be able to burn brick in that furance of yours)lol
  8. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    You can burn (shudder) wet wood. I might get my @$$ kicked for saying it- I dunno. You'll just have some less heat, more smoke and creosote. You do what you have to.

    Is the remaining wood soaking, or marginal? If it's "marginal"- then just burn it and stop worrying so much. If it's really wet, then it's more trouble than it's worth.

    That "needs a few weeks" to dry sounds like crap to me. a few weeks doesn't mean anything, unless you believe that oak dries in a few months. LOL
  9. homebrewz

    homebrewz Minister of Fire

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    If its marginal, split it small and store it near the stove for a few days to a week before burning. It will help to dry it out some.
  10. CowboyAndy

    CowboyAndy New Member

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    the pics are of NEXT years wood, only cut within the last month.

    The stuff we are burning is marginal. its not soaked, the ends are starting to crack, but it still hisses when put in the fire.

    the reason I am getting concerned is that this is our first year and i dont know how much we are going to need. but based upon how much we have, and how much we have used so far... i am worried.
  11. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    7 cords should be close but 10 would do it for sure and if its not season all the way you will be ok just keep cutting and before you know it you will have enough for this year and next. I have 20 plus cords right now and i was in your boat last year. It is better to invest that 200.00(cord) in more equment sounds like you have alot of trees out were your at any dead standing?
  12. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    I'm not familar with your specific area, but I do know the general area pretty well. I've got woods in Potsdam, Lorraine, and Indian Lake. There ought to be wood available all over the place - unless noboby is cutting and selling anymore.

    In regard to the oak needing a few weeks? Well, we might not have a few weeks left of good drying weather this year - you never know. Often, red oak takes two summers to dry properly unless the weather is unusually nice. White oak can dry a little faster. One close look ought to tell the story. If it's got good radial cracks all though it, it's dry or almost dry. If not, it won't happen this year.

    As to the birch and popple? You couldn't give that load away here. Birch is fine, white dries fast if stacked right, and yellow has great heat content. The "popple" (bigtooth or quaking aspen) is usually considered a waste of time in this part of New York. I've never heard of anyone trying to sell it. I've seen many ads with people trying to give it away - and it still sits.

    Finding good dry wood late season, from wood sellers is always a problem. It might behoove you to pick some wood, if possible, that can dry faster - e.g. soft (red) maple, white birch, black cherry, white ash, or beech. And yes, as already stated, you can burn wet wood - but it makes little sense unless you have to do it. It doesn't yield the same heat when wet, so you're just throwing money away if you paid for it.
  13. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Oak "might need a couple more weeks" sounds lie he stores logs and cuts them into firewood as needed.
    The grey ends might be fairly dry, but the middle rounds won't be.
    If he stacks rounds like me, I don't even start counting oak seasoning time until rounds are split.
    Or he might have a huge mountain of splits and he's goten to the center that hasn't seen the light of day for a while.
    His "weeks" may not be defined as 7 days.

    I don't know what kind of white birch grows here, but it is worthless.Even cut up it's either green or rotten. The only pieces I've been able to actually burn were trunks that were large enough to split. That seemed to stop the rotting. I usually just push the trees over out of my way in the woods. They can be almost completely gone in a year. I have to be careful to carefully check out that I'm leaning against a live one becasue a dead one can collapse on itself and knock ya good in the noggin.
  14. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Another statement like that is gonna cost you your secret decoder ring and xray glasses mister. Consider this a warning. >:-(
  15. Marty

    Marty Feeling the Heat

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    If I were you, I'd get some 'bone dry' stuff and mix it with your 'isn't 100% seasoned' as needed. Also maybe get some pallet wood to help burning the 'unripened' wood as the year goes on. The availability of seasoned firewood is on the cusp of uncertainty as we speak, and there is a tendency in the winter to burn whatever is at hand.
  16. Dill

    Dill Feeling the Heat

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    Cut a bunch of ash trees, mix them into you not quite perfect wood. You just can't beat a nice piece of ash.
  17. jdemaris

    jdemaris New Member

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    I've found birch to be a really good wood, paper birch, yellow birch, or black birch (all three common around here). Paper birch, however, does exactly as you desribed unless stacked and covered carefully. Otherwise it rots before it ever dries - in fact it rots incredibly fast. It's not something I ever had to think about until recently since white paper birch is usually sold to city people at a high price. Mostly for ornamental purposes sitting by their unused fireplaces.
    I have some property in the Adirondack mountains where I've been building a cabin - for four years now. The woods is a little unusual because it is loaded with huge paper birch trees - just about as big as they get. And, half of them all started to die at once. I guess they are a pioneer trees, and are now giving up the land to the maples, hemlocks, white pines, and balsam firs. After two trees came down and one just creasing the new roof of my unfinished cabin - I had to spend two weeks dropping trees. All huge and most had to be roped down. Just my bad luck that many were leaning towards the cabin. Got down and had a huge amout of wood. And, legally. it is ILLEGAL for me to truck it home 120 miles away. Not that I wanted to, but I hated to see it go to waste. So, I've been cutting and stacking it, and covering. I did take a few loads home before I realized it's now illegal to cross the county lines with firewood - and stuff burns great. Under good conditions, it dries just as fast - as it gets wet and rots in poor conditions.

    Yelloy birch has the same heat value as hard maple (21 million BTUs per cord), and the paper birch is a little less at 18 million BTUs. That's pretty good when you compare it to poplar (aspen) at 12 million BTUs.


    30-35 years ago when I was young, broke, had a bunch of little kids and was working two jobs - I never got my wood cut early. Found myself at times, mid-winter, cutting and burning the same day and heating the house with a home-made barrel stove. On the plus side I was a John Deere mechanic and had free access to dozers and log skidders. So, I could go out in 2-3 feet of snow and still get logs out. Ash was the only wood that I could cut in the morning and burn in the afternoon. Funny thing is, at the time it didn't seem bad at all. Seems worse now sitting here thinking about it.
  18. Dill

    Dill Feeling the Heat

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    Ash is great stump to stove. We keep a nice stand of them by my parent's farm for just that reason. Up until a couple of years ago, my father never got enough wood in during the spring so it never failed that come feb, we'd be knee deep in snow cutting ash trees. In fact there are 2 big ash trees over my garden now, that I have as emergency backup in case I run low on wood.
  19. jpl1nh

    jpl1nh Minister of Fire

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    HEY! I never got a secret decoder ring and x-ray glasses. What's going on?
  20. Girl

    Girl New Member

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    I would be extremely weary of that oak, might be fine for next year.
    I would split a couple pieces of what ever type of wood he has right there feel it, sniff it, moister meter it, whatever.
    Personally at this stage in the game, I would maybe go for some bone dry to use as a start up for your marginally dry stuff if you feel there are no other options.
    I would re split the marginally dry stuff & put it around the stove when you have the stove really going, make sure not to leave it unattended.
    Last year was tough, my wood got soaked, I mean SOAKED my pile was stacked too tight by the BF (he no longer stacks he splits the big stuff, which he is awesome at). I did so much splitting, maneuvering stuff to dry by the stove & and fan blowing on mini piles in the house. I even stooped to buying 6 of those bundled in plastic wood bundles so I was sure to have some dry stuff to get things going & bought inner core cedar shingles as I had no kindling left.
    Last year sucked!
    All said & done, amazingly the chimney was not bad & I was told it looked really good!
    I did stop burning early April as I was not going to take chances and only had to deal with one month of turning the heat on just to take the chill off, in May I did have a couple of small hot fires.
    It can be done & you work with what you got sometimes.
    You will manage, try not to stress too much, easier said then done, I know. I think we have all been there at least once or twice.
  21. johnsopi

    johnsopi Minister of Fire

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    The seller says the oak not ready. That honest. I'd get some of the dry stuff.
  22. Shipper50

    Shipper50 Minister of Fire

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    Were you grinning when you wrote this? Or was I the only one thinking what I was thinking? ;-)

    Shipper
  23. Dill

    Dill Feeling the Heat

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    I was grinning. Its a saying from one of my old neighbors who's a firewood dealer.
    He'll always throw a couple of pieces of ash into a load so he can break it out for a laugh.
  24. akhilljack

    akhilljack New Member

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    if the seller says it needs a few more weeks and you are dead set on burning absolutly dry wood than next year it may be better.
  25. downeast

    downeast Guest

    Oh yes Msr. Dill : "You just can’t beat a nice piece of ash".

    Good reminder : if you're seriously doing the wood heat dance and don't want to buy CSD, make it a year-round sport. Scrounge, ask, "work for wood", see if you can 'help' loggers or contractors.
    In our work days, we'd have a run and cut day---workout, then share the dropping, humping, unloading. Amazing what a few can do in a tough day. Why pay for Curves ? Why pay for a "gym' ? And those of you complaining about the cost of firewood, or that you're getting cheated, or it isn't seasoned ( what's with this moisture meter craze ? ) just do it yourself. Sweat is fine.
    Get to know the highway dept ( here, his name is Mark, he's a lobsterman in his spare time) , arborists, developers...ask for unwanted trees. Those trunk or SUV loads over a year add up. Maybe a land owner or farmer needs to have some trees ( away from buildings ) dropped.
    Hey, it is kind of late to be getting your fuel in. Yes, ash is good.
    JMNSHO
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