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My first post and a "seasoned" wood comment and question

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by NJmark, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. NJmark

    NJmark New Member

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    Hi all,

    I've been lurking for a while at the site and just joined yesterday. Yesterday I also replied to someone else's post, but this is my first actual "posting".

    I in New Jersey, and I'm new to heating with wood. I installed my fireplace insert this past November (was supposed to be done in October, but Hurricane Sandy threw a monkey wrench into that plan), and have been enjoying it despite the huge learning curve for me, and the difficulty in finding proper fuel at this time of year. Thanks to everyone for their helpful posts on this forum, there's so much to absorb and learn here.

    Now a little more background, and then on to my seasoned wood comment and question. Until reading about it here, I really didn't understand what true seasoned wood was. I knew you couldn't properly burn wet wood, but that was the extent of my understanding on the subject. I had hoped that I could tell seasoned from unseasoned when looking at it and handling it, but soon found out how wrong I was.

    I purchased my first cord of firewood shortly after installing my insert, in mid-November. I found the guy on craigslist. Got kind of lucky in that the wood (mostly White Ash) burned really well despite the fact that it didn't appear to be completely dry (no drying cracks on the ends of the splits). However, the seller insisted it was fully seasoned and had been stored in a barn for 2 years. He explained that the lack of cracking was due to it being stored in the barn, and not exposed to repeated wet and dry cycles outside. Apparently he also heats his rather large house exclusively with wood, with a very big, very old wood stove that he claims weighs 700 pounds.

    Got a 2nd load from him later, again that had been "seasoned" 2 years, stored in a barn. The ash burned just fine. The oak (and other hardwoods that I'm not familiar with) did not. When I split some of the non-Ash hardwood splits into smaller pieces (he tends toward very large splits), I found that I could see and feel the interior moisture of the wood, even though the outside was dry. When I attempted to burn these smaller splits, I could see a wet spot forming at the ends through the glass of my fireplace insert. And I would see some occasional foaming/bubbling at the ends as well. I asked the seller about it and he apologized but repeated again that it was seasoned 2 years, he thought it was dry, and he had no problems burning it.

    Now I recently got load #3. Due to my concerns with some of the wood from the last load, this time he brought stuff that was all 3 years old and older. And it is incredibly dry on the outside. Once again, the ash pieces burn great. But once again, the oak and other hardwoods, not so well, though better than the last load. So I split a few more pieces and, to my surprise, still found the insides to feel a little moist (though less so than the last load). Three years old and still wet inside?

    So I don't know what to think. It may be that for his big old wood stove, this wood is sufficiently seasoned, and he believes it to be properly seasoned. Am I being too picky? My EPA insert just won't burn all of this wood properly, and it does seem (to me) to be not truly, fully seasoned wood.

    Your input and thoughts on this is greatly appreciated!

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  2. Fod01

    Fod01 Feeling the Heat

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    Hi and welcome to the forums.

    You nailed it. The new EPA stoves like 20%mc and under. We could put almost anything in my dad's old Jotul 118.

    Yes, oak holds on to that moisture for 2+ years. He stored the wood in a barn, but there is no access to sun/ wind. You also don't know if the wood was cut/ split/ stacked, kept in log form until needed, or kept in a big pile.

    Go buy a moisture meter. They're not too expensive. Re-split a log and check the split sides.
    If that oak isn't too bad, you could re-split it, stack it, and use it later in the season.

    Gabe
  3. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    Firstly, he may of course be lying to you! The general experience of others here is that truly seasoned wood is almost impossible to buy. Secondly, keeping wood inside a barn is not a good way to dry that wood, outside in the wind and and sun is the best way.
    Lastly, he probably is telling the truth about having no problems burning that same wood in a non-EPA stove or boiler, however he will only be getting a fraction of the potential heat from it, he's burning through it a much faster rate, and probably generates more creosote than necessary.

    For comparison, during the power outage from that October snowstorm in 2011, I was happily burning oak in my old pre-EPA slammer that was split only 8 months previously. Now I have a new EPA insert, and that same oak wouldn't burn well in the power outage from Sandy, and is just about ready to burn now.

    TE
  4. northwinds

    northwinds Minister of Fire

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    Another factor is that big splits season more slowly than smaller/thinner splits. Wood stored in single rows (and exposed to sun and wind) seasons faster
    than wood stored in a big pile or stack (in a barn).

    A lot of wood sellers start the clock running when the tree dies or is felled or is cut into rounds. The clock starts running when the wood is split. Few sellers have the
    space to keep split wood around for over one year. That's money to pay the bills, and many of their buyers don't care if the wood is older than one year. That's seasoned enough. :)
    AJS56 likes this.
  5. etiger2007

    etiger2007 Minister of Fire

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    What kind of insert do you have?
  6. NJmark

    NJmark New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. That definitely makes sense. I just split another piece of this "3-year-seasoned" oak and it is outright WET on the inside.Although the outside of it is bone-dry. They are all pretty large pieces

    As for the moisture meter, do you think one of the $10 specials on Amazon will do the job?
  7. NJmark

    NJmark New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. It does seem like he is literally trying to season it in the barn, rather than through sun and wind exposure. It certainly does not look freshly cut, it's just very dry on the outside and yet somewhat damp inside. I guess I do need a moisture meter.
  8. NJmark

    NJmark New Member

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    Hi,
    The insert is a Napoleon 1402p.
  9. swagler85

    swagler85 Minister of Fire

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    yes those work great
  10. TradEddie

    TradEddie Minister of Fire

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    Separate that oak and stack it outside now, off the ground, covered on top, and you'll have great wood for 2014/2015, maybe by next winter, but doubtful.
    Moisture meters can be useful, but if the wood is wet to feel, its too early to need one yet. Is there way you can get him to only deliver ash?

    TE
    Backwoods Savage and AJS56 like this.
  11. AJS56

    AJS56 Member

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    I seec
    Welcome to Hearth.com and the world of wood heating, Mark. You'll find this a very useful and informative place and generally a good bunch of folks.

    I tend to trust people until they prove otherwise, and never had problems buying seasoned wood back when I use to buy it occasionally. As someone suggested non-EPA stoves are much more forgiving and will burn less than ideal wood, even though it is less effiecient to do so. If your provider has that experience he likely sees this wood as sufficiently seasond.

    You might ask him if he can send you moslty or all ash as it is working better for you. I also second the idea of using the ash and saving the oak for future years if you have the budget and room to store it. Both are fine woods to be burning, but oak does take a longer time to season. My experience is that ash can be ready a year after splitting if it is stacked and allowed to season/dry out properly. But oak takes a couple of years, some folks prefer three. And all this assumes it is getting some air movement while stacked.

    Good luck and happy burning!
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  12. Paulywalnut

    Paulywalnut Minister of Fire

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    First year is always tough to start with seasoned wood.
    Stick with it and try burning the "other" wood you have instead of the oak.
    Maybe another supplier. No supplier has all seasoned wood. Somebody has to get the just cut or just split wood.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  13. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forum Mark.

    First off, your story is very familiar to us here on hearth.com. Most new wood burners make the same mistake; that is, put in the stove then go looking for the fuel. It should be the reverse. In addition, your story about the wood seller is also very common. He probably just does not know the difference. You'll even find that most of the older wood burners think you need wood that is almost green to burn right. Many will also clean their chimney's multiple times every winter because of creosote build up. If your wood is right you should not get creosote at all.

    As others have stated, wood generally does not begin to dry until it has been split. Then it needs to be stacked off the ground and out in the wind (not inside a building). Different types of wood need different amounts of time to dry properly. Many can be ready to burn a year after splitting. Oak is indeed one of the very best woods for burning. It's drawback is that it needs a lot more time to dry. We give it 3 years here before attempting to burn it.

    With this in mind, you will have some struggles this year and perhaps even next year. But learn from it. This means that you need to get next year's wood on hand as soon as you possibly can. If you buy it, many will give discounts if bought in late winter or early spring. You might also consider buying a small saw and scrounge some wood or even get a grapple load. If so, get it all cut and split as fast as you can. Stack it out where wind will hit it and stack it so the wind hits the sides of the piles and not the ends.

    As for the Moisture Meter, buy one if you want but I've never owned one nor seen a need for one but we also have plenty of wood cut, split and stacked; for sure enough to go to the year 2020 or beyond. On the MM, it is not enough to get one but you also have to learn how to use it. Use it wrong and it is a worthless tool, which is one reason I have no use for them. Too many times people will report how dry their wood is yet have trouble getting wood to burn or having it hissing, etc. To use it right, the wood needs to be re-split and then check the new split right away. If you leave it, the surface moisture will dry and you'll get an inaccurate reading. You also must be careful to have the prongs in the same grain. Good luck.
    AJS56 and BobUrban like this.
  14. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    It is just tough to get properly seasoned wood by purchasing it and if you could find true, CSS'd properly firewood in season it would and should cost a fortune as compared to stuff that has been sitting in a giant pile and loaded with a front end loader.

    Truth is probably 70+%(maybe higher) of wood burners are burning less than optimal wood. Optimal by definition meaning 20% or less moisture.

    I am just grateful I found hearth when I got into this whole obsession 3yrs ago. This is the only place on the web that strongly obsesses quality wood and getting ahead. As far ahead as you can afford and store. I am 3yrs now and working on 4/5/6+ this winter. I would not get off any of my wood pile except to close friends or family at almost any price!! I cut, hauled, split and stacked every split and get a smile just looking at it. If I were to sell fire wood at the competitive going prices it would be green stuff and left in a pile at best before I sold it. Just too much work otherwise.

    Can't blame the sellers - it is the nature of the wood burning world and "most" don't care. I would offer more lettuce for a load of ash only and explain that your stove just burns it better or get another complete load with the request of as much ash as possible and stack the oak for future burning. Oak seems to be the coup de' gras of firewood for the most part. yes there is better but regarding availability and quality it seems to be the go-to wood for many. Downside is the seasoning time is 2+yrs and most here say 3+ is better, 4+ best. Any oak I get is stacked all alone, separate from my other wood(ash, cherry, maple, elm, etc) and will be there for 3+ yrs.

    point I am trying to make is that if you follow the leaders here you will be in the minority of wood burners but also the safer, warmer minority.

    These guys/gals know what they are talking about and I have joined the hearth army of wood scavanging hrrders!!

    ***ha - Dennis and I must have been typing simutaniously!! I knew he would be along here soon enough so you can disregard my message and I will say, x2 to Dennis' message. He is certainly an online mentor to myself and I imagine many newbs here. Thanks D
  15. red oak

    red oak Minister of Fire

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    Hi and welcome!

    As others have stated, oak takes longer to dry. Many do not know this, or know it but don't care. If you have a place to store it, getting several years ahead is the key. Then it won't matter what kind of wood you burn. Until then, ash burns really good after a year, as does maple and cherry, just to name a few. Oak takes multiple years. If you have to buy wood, buy wood well in advance of when you need it, then you can dry it yourself.
  16. NJmark

    NJmark New Member

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    Thanks for the reply...yes I am trying to get all ash for next time, hopefully in a couple weeks that's what I'll get. I won't be accepting anything that isn't 100% ash at this point because too much of the other species just aren't seasoned enough.
  17. NJmark

    NJmark New Member

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    Hi Dennis,
    Thank you for your reply and advice, I appreciate it.
    Backwoods Savage likes this.

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