Get the Most Out of Your Firewood

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| 2 min | from MDNR |

The crackle and pop of burning logs in a fireplace are comforting winter sounds, but hauling and splitting firewood are no easy tasks. Maximizing this fuel is important. Careful firewood selection and storage can increase efficiency and yield cleaner, longer burning fires.

Seasonal permits to collect downed fuelwood from state forest lands are available from April through December and are valid for 90 days from the date received. Fees were eliminated in the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Learn about harvest locations and collection rules at Michigan.gov/Fuelwood. It’s also a good idea to buy and collect wood close to where you live to help stop the spread of invasive insects and diseases.

“Whether you purchase fuelwood or harvest your own, it is best practice to dry – or season – the wood before use,” said Doug Heym, DNR fuelwood program manager. “Hardwoods may take a year to dry, while softwoods can be ready to burn after about six months.”

How do you know when firewood is ready to burn? Use your senses! Seasoned wood:

  • Sounds hollow when you tap two pieces together.
  • Feels lighter than fresh wood.
  • Has ends that look cracked or split.
  • Does not have a strong odor. Wet wood can smell strongly of sap.

Moisture meters are useful tools for measuring complete seasoning. Firewood should clock in at below 20% moisture for best results.

To help ensure complete combustion, split wedges of firewood should be no larger than 6 inches across. Incomplete combustion from thick or wet wood can make smoky fires that create creosote, a tarry buildup that, left unchecked, can cause chimney fires.

Airflow is key to keeping fuelwood dry. To stop seasoned firewood from sucking up moisture, don’t let it rest directly on the ground. Place it on a raised surface like recycled pallets or a concrete pad. Cover wood with a tarp or roof to ward off rain and snow, but leave the sides open for air circulation. It’s also important to store wood away from your living space in a woodshed or against a detached garage.

“If a store of dry fuel is stacked on a porch or next to a home and is ignited by a grass fire, it can quickly overwhelm the structure with flames,” said Paul Rogers, DNR fire prevention specialist.

Get more information about safe, efficient wood burning on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Burn Wise webpage.

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