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Home & Garden | September 26, 2018

How Wood Moisture Affects Your Stove or Fireplace

We’ve all seen a perfectly stacked cord of wood. Impressive, right? When done well, these 4x4x8 feet of architectural achievement are more than inspiring structures, they’re designed to help eliminate moisture from the wood. Why does that matter? We talked with a few experts from the Coastal Hearth and Home Department for some straight answers.

Start with the Wood

Both soft and hard woods burn different. Softer woods are great for starting a fire. These include poplar and pine. Longer burning fires require a harder wood such as maple, fir, or oak. Whatever wood you choose, be sure you season it before burning it.

Coastal tip: buying local firewood from a local source can help decrease the risk of introducing an invasive pest to your property.  

Split, Stack, and Cover

The art of seasoning your wood starts with splitting it into quarter chunks, stacking it into cords that are up off the ground, and covering it all with a tarp. Those outdoor stacks will encourage water evaporation, which makes your wood easier to burn and a more efficient source of heat. This takes anywhere from six to 18 months, depending on the wood, weather, and overall humidity in your region.

Coastal tip: You’ll find a wide range of tarps and tarp clips at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal.

Burn Smarter

If you have an EPA-certified wood-burning stove or fireplace, you’re already one step toward an efficient, warm-burning fire. If not, it could be time to upgrade and get the most from your heat source.

Coastal tip: try to have your stove or fireplace inspected each year by either a National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified professional or by a qualified chimney sweep. 

Why Moisture Matters

When a live tree is cut, the moisture in that wood is often more than 50%. That’s way too wet to burn properly. If you were able to get it lit, chances are it would not heat your home. Worse yet, wet wood makes a lot of smoke and could build up residue in your chimney.

To reduce creosote and enjoy a better-burning fire, the moisture content in your wood should be between 15 and 20 percent. A wood moisture meter is an easy way to test a few pieces of your stack and determine if your wood is ready to burn.

To use a wood moisture meter, test the inside of a few pieces of wood with the probes running parallel with the grain. If possible, test your wood when the outdoor temperature is between 50 – 90º.

Coastal tip: a properly burning fire will produce a white, wispy smoke. Darker smoke means you have too much moisture in your wood. 

What About Pellets?

If you have a pellet stove, store your bags of pellets in the garage, outbuilding, or barn. If you must store them outside, be sure to cover them completely with a tarp and try to keep out as much moisture, and critters as possible.

Visit the Coastal Home & Hearth Department

There you’ll find pros who know a thing or two about updating and improving your home’s most important heat source. Be sure to ask about financing options for pellet, gas, and wood stoves at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal.

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