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Should I burn this wood?

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by Leumas, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Leumas

    Leumas New Member

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    Hello, new to this great forum and I have a question.

    I have been lurking around here for a while trying to soak up as much as I can. I recently bought a house with a new woodstove and found this place looking for information. The stove is a Pacific Energy Super 27 and I live on Vancouver Island.

    I recently purchased a couple cords of "seasoned" Douglas fir with the odd chunk of maple. The guy selling it claimed it has been seasoned for 3 years. I've heard that it is impossible to by true seasoned wood. Checking it with the moisture meter on a fresh split it is anywhere from 34 - 40%. I kind of expected this but now I'm concerned if this wood is too wet?

    I think my father in law and others think I'm nuts when I quote that the wood should be below 20% to burn. They usually cut wood in the spring or summer and burn it that same winter.

    Does this look like it's seasoned enough? It feels heavy when you pick it up. Seems to take a lot longer to char up before I can turn the stove down too. It even smells like fresh cut wood.


    I know I'm new to burning wood but whenever I speak about it with anyone, they seem to think I'm crazy!

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    ScotO, Thistle and albert1029 like this.

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  2. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    Looks pretty fresh to me. 'Seasoned' means different things to different people. He may have had the logs sitting around for three years, then cut and split it so he could deliver it to you. Trouble is, wood doesn't really start to dry until it is split.

    The good news is, it's later in the season. You can try to get by with it, or just save it for next year. Either way, get some more for next winter.

    Welcome. You're already a step ahead of many.
    ScotO likes this.
  3. Mr A

    Mr A Minister of Fire

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    30-40% MC is not seasoned . More moisture=more creosote. I have a friend with 50 acres in the mountains, and plenty of wood to burn. He has no problem burning wood he cut down the same day. He tells me just clean the flue more. Whatever,. some people can not be convinced. That guy lied straight to your face. Probably just cut the tree last week
  4. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    Live and learn - Not the end of the world and giving benefit of doubt I would guess the wood was cut for as many as 3yrs but left in log form. I have said it before and will probably again but sellers of wood are doing the best they can and are selling to the "many" not the "few". Members here are of the great minority in the grand scheme of solid fuel wood fire heat. The majority have no clue about the reality of MC and the time it takes to reach it. Most would think his 3yr wood was gold because they are comfortable burning cut this fall or Cut this "WEEK" wood.

    If someone were to sell true, 3yr, CSS'd wood it would cost so much it would be cheaper to burn propane IMO. I am not sure how they make money selling green wood. Gathering firewood in bulk is some tough work that takes passion and dedication to keep after. I cannot even consider the math in a hourly wage to sell my prized splits but it would be below poverty level for sure at the going prices.

    To answer the question is it burnable: Yes. You can burn wood you pull out of a river but it is very inefficient and unsafe if the chimney/flu is not monitored and cleaned regularly. May help considerably if you can get a hold of some dimentional lumber scraps and possibly some bio bricks to add with your current fule to get through the season. With the season winding down I imagine with some safe monitoring practices you can get through to the end on this wood and get started now for next year and beyond.

    Most burn wet wood - just not many here :) But almost everyone(even here) had a tough first season.
  5. Shane N

    Shane N Feeling the Heat

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    Seeing that one split with a dark end, I'm guessing they were in log form for a time before being split right before you purchased them.
    ScotO and Woody Stover like this.
  6. weatherguy

    weatherguy Minister of Fire

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    I dont think the guy lied, I know plenty of wood sellers that are convinced that wood starts to season the second you cut it down, try and convince them otherwise is an exercise in futility.
    ScotO, n3pro and PapaDave like this.
  7. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yeah no way wood peddlers can store wood long enough for it to be dry. You just have to realize that and buy ahead and dry it yourself.
    PapaDave likes this.
  8. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    +1 on it looks like it may have been lying around or log stacked for a couple years and just recently cut to length and split.
    I bet it still smells fresh split, too.
    Pick the pieces with the grey weathered ends out and see if they burn a little better than the ones that are fresh cut on both ends ?

    You might get not so well seasoned wood to burn but you'll certainly get more out of better seasoned wood.


    Hope the seasoning accelerates for you where it is stacked.
  9. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    To answer your most pressing question, no I would not burn that. I am having enough of an issue with 24% MC red oak that 30% to 40% pine would not even be worth it.
    Woody Stover likes this.
  10. ArsenalDon

    ArsenalDon Minister of Fire

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    One thing I have learned here...not that many pine burners....Pine dries out so much faster than hardwood. We get pine fresh cut by road crews, split it right away, and then 7 months later it is 20% or less MC. The doug fir may be ok...if you mix the burn with a good 11% cedar it will go well...the other noteworthy question is if you have a pre-EPA or post EPA stove...my neighbor and I cut wood together, we burn the same wood...he is pre-EPA I am post EPA....he drips creosote, I have just a light fluffy ash...Now...this is not to say that your wet doug fir is good....but sometimes we have no choice to stay warm and not give the fuel company all of our money.
  11. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, but then the question becomes whether it is still cost advantageous to buy green wood and burn it right away versus using some other type of heating fuel. If he was getting the wood for free, I would say it is a no brainer. Thing is, he is paying for this wood. Since he lives on Vancouver Island, I would guess that he either has heating oil or LP as his other heat source, but could be wrong.

    So, what do the rest of you think? I really have no idea how much it costs to heat a house with green pine versus other heating fuels.
  12. ArsenalDon

    ArsenalDon Minister of Fire

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    Our propane bill was $600 per month before wood...my best buddy was $900 per month...we both were on propane....that buys a whole lot of wood..heating oil is generally cheaper, but only by about 1/3 in our area.....so, you are right in that I hate to see him burn up wood that will not give him all that it can in terms of heat, but it may be all he has.
  13. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    It sounds like wood is all he has and if it is cheaper to burn green wood than it is to use propane or heating oil, then I too would be burning green wood.
  14. blacktail

    blacktail Minister of Fire

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    It probably sat as logs for 3 years. Like someone suggested, try to pick out the end pieces if you need to burn. Check a bunch of it. You might get lucky and find that some of it was more exposed and dried more. The rest should be fine by next winter.
    Oh, and what's all this talk about pine!?
  15. HDRock

    HDRock Minister of Fire

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    I recently bought half a cord, what I had to do was re split ,check moisture content,sort and re stack, 3/4 of it was 20% or under.
    , but the only way for me to know was to do what I did
    If I do buy wood ! usually I only buy a face cord, if it turns out good , then I can get more from that seller.

    Next time , I will split 2 or 3 and check it, if it's not dry ,I won't buy it, if seller is not ok with me checking it, then I won't buy it anyway.
    I have split 3" X 3" oak that was 17% MC on the outside and was 35 on the inside :rolleyes:
  16. blades

    blades Minister of Fire

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    If you can get hold of some old used pallets bust them up and mix them in with the green stuff that will help a lot. You could also use some of those compressed wood logs in the same manner ( just that you can get the pallets for free from some of the big box stores and the like)
    Thistle likes this.
  17. Jon1270

    Jon1270 Minister of Fire

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    I've gone through a lot of damp, sub-par wood this season because this is my first year with a stove too. My general impression is that it's not worth burning the stuff if you're only trying to produce a little bit of heat because it's not that cold outside. If you nurse the stove temperatures up to the point that the secondaries kick in to help burn off the smoke then you can produce a fair bit of heat, albeit at the price of going more wood than you otherwise would and having to clean your chimney more frequently. But trying to use damp wood for a small fire to take the chill off on a mild day... forget it.
  18. Leumas

    Leumas New Member

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    Hello again everyone,

    Thank you all for taking the time to respond. This has turned out to be a touchy situation for me. It was my father in law who turned me on to this guy selling the wood. He knows the guy and asked him to give me a special deal and make sure he gave me some good wood.

    When it was dropped off I made a comment to my wife that it didn't look like it had been seasoned for 3 years and that the guy probably lied to me. Well that comment found its way to my father in law and I guess it ruffled some feathers. He came by yesterday to look and swears up and down that the wood is fine. Ironically the few pieces that he actually picked up to inspect had been outside in a rain storm the previous night and were soaking wet.

    I mentioned the moisture meter readings and he shrugged it off as hogwash. He is a very intelligent guy who has worked in forestry his whole life. I respect his opinion a great deal but I know he's wrong on this one.

    Regardless, I actually tried to start a fire with this wood this morning and it wouldn't go until I added some other dry stuff. I don't have much dry wood left so I'll have to track some down for when the father in law visits.
  19. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, my dad was the same way at first. Think he has come around though. Thing is, my dad isn't in the forestry industry. It used to be that he always thought he was right, but I think he has figured out now that I do a ton of research on the internet about this stuff. In the couple years that he and I have been seriously cutting and burning wood to heat the house, I think he has been impressed with all the tools and methods that I have come up with, mostly from this chatboard.

    Only advice I can even give you is to let your FIL read this board, but then he might come across what you just wrote. Another tact might be to have him try starting a fire in your stove with the wood you got, then the following day have him start one with some dry wood you have sitting around just for the occasion.

    Dealing with in-laws is always tough. Dealing with stubborn dads is even tougher because they are usually around a lot more. Love my dad to death though. I'm hoping I have an open mind when my kids are 30 years old, but I doubt it.
  20. HDRock

    HDRock Minister of Fire

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    If the meter says it's 34 - 40% that's what it is, and that's not dry, simple as that.

    I have a little trouble burning wood at 25%
    You do keep your wood covered from rain n snow don't you ??? ;?
    Like I said , if U go through it, re split n check ,some of it may be dryer, and the smaller it is split the easier it will burn
  21. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    Can lead a horse to water...

    I sold quite a bit of wood this year and I'd say that 95% of the customers were buying wood that summer/fall to burn this winter.

    The first year I had my stove I bought 3 cords of seasoned wood. The guy buys a truck load or two every year, cuts/splits/stacks everything and then lets it be for a year plus before selling it.

    I sold wood this summer and I found that there was no advantage to having it seasoned. Actually I had the most trouble selling a few cords that had been seasoned a few years.

    I've found for open fireplaces or campfires that burning greenish wood is actually better in a way. I made the mistake of bringing firewood to a weekend campout, we burned darn near 1/2 a cord in 3 days. :eek:
    Jon1270 likes this.
  22. Jon1270

    Jon1270 Minister of Fire

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    Well, it's not quite so simple as that. Electronic meters, even fancy ones, are incapable of accurately measuring moisture contents above the mid-to-upper 20's percent range. If you stick the pins in two pieces of wood and one says 30% and the other says 34%, all you really know is that the second one is wetter than the first. It's pretty safe to say that the OP's wood is wetter than it should be for use in a modern stove, but up in that range the only way to know the actual MC is to weigh and oven-dry some samples.

    I think Nate makes very interesting observations. We know that dry wood is best in a modern stove, but I think we sometimes go off the rails when we use that as excuse to look down on other people, be they burners or firewood sellers. Not everyone who burns wood has an efficient EPA stove, or has a stove at all, or cares about heat output, and their different priorities don't make them stupid. Firewood dealers have to serve the market that exists near them, at prices that market will bear, on profit margins that must be razor thin since (remembering Econ 101) there are few barriers to entry, and that doesn't make them dishonest (though clearly some are). Frustrations like the OP's are inevitable for most of us, and are the consequences of changing technology and market forces that no one person has much influence over. It sounds to me like the OP's FIL might not care about the wood so much as he cares about the respect that he and his friend deserve for being decent human beings honestly doing what they've learned to do through long experience.

    Woo, I can get on a tear when that first cup of coffee kicks in. Mornin' everyone.
  23. Thistle

    Thistle Minister of Fire

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    That's too wet now but will be great in 12-18 months.
  24. BobUrban

    BobUrban Minister of Fire

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    I would not be at all surprised if you tried to sell some 3yr old, perfectly seasoned hardwood in cord form and got some push back from buyers wanting "fresher Wood"!! I don't want this old, grey, weather checked, light weight wood when you have that heavy dense fresh white stuff over there. Sell me a load of that - it is all we burn.

    Can't know what you don't know and many are not willing to learn.
  25. HDRock

    HDRock Minister of Fire

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    I'm just saying if the meter says it's 34 - 40% , that is accurate enough for you to know its to wet, it is that simple
    If I check some wood and the MM says 25% , it doesn't burn so good, If it is 16% it burns great.
    I don't have an EPA stove, and wood that is not dry doesn't burn well

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