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Tips for Buying Firewood

Whether you’re looking for wood to burn in a fireplace, wood stove or backyard fire pit, here’s what to keep in mind before you buy.

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How much space do I have to store the wood?littlenySTOCK/Shutterstock

How much space do I have to store the wood?

You may be tempted into buying firewood in bulk to get a better deal and to have enough to last forever, but be realistic about how much space you have for storage. In addition to making sure you have room to store the wood, remember that it’s best to store it with plenty of space between the logs to allow drying and prevent rotting. And don't position the firewood right next to your house or garage (think mice, insects and fire danger).

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A cord is a cordoksana2010/Shutterstock

A cord is a cord

Firewood is sold by the cord. Buying firewood by the stack of wood is 8 ft. long x 4 ft. deep x 4 ft. high. Which is roughly 128 cubic ft., and equals a full cord. A face cord (aka a fireplace cord or rick) is one-third of a full cord, so it’s a single stack that measures 4 ft. high by 4 ft. long. And here is how to buy rough sawn lumber.

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Determine what kind of wood is best for your firesFamily Handyman

Determine what kind of wood is best for your fires

If you’re going to burn the wood in an outdoor fire pit, it doesn’t matter much what type of wood it is. However, for an indoor fireplace or wood stove, you should be buying firewood that is dense like oak and maple. And softer wood, such as poplar, burns faster and doesn’t make long-lasting coals. Ash, though not as dense as oak and maple, also burns well. Maple and fruitwoods are great for cooking fires because they infuse the food with a pleasant flavor. Also, stay away from resinous wood such as pine and spruce for indoor fires. When burned, they create creosote that can coat a chimney and cause a chimney fire. Other woods to avoid: pressure-treated, painted, stained and manufactured wood, such as plywood and particleboard. These woods can release toxic gases.

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Only burn seasoned woodAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Only burn seasoned wood

Recently harvested (green) wood is very heavy due to its high moisture content. If you are buying firewood that is green, plan to let it season (dry out) for approximately nine months. And this depends on the humidity in your area before you burn it. Also seasoned wood is dry to the touch, has cracks in the ends and loose bark. Before you burn learn these crucial fire safety tips.

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Ask questionsgranata68/Shutterstock

Ask questions

Find out from the firewood seller if the wood comes as split logs. If it doesn't, ask how much more it costs to have it split or you'll have to split the logs yourself (which you probably don't want to do). Ask the approximate size of the logs so you can make sure they'll fit your fireplace or stove. Most firewood is about 16 in. long, but it's worth asking to make sure the logs will work for you without additional chopping.
  • Is delivery available? If so, is there an extra charge?
  • Will they stack the wood where you want to store it or will they leave it in a pile on your driveway?
  • If you're picking it up, will they help you load up the wood? (A typical 8 ft. truck bed will hold about one-third of a cord if the wood is piled loosely or two-thirds of a cord if it's tightly stacked.)
  • And, of course, ask the price and negotiate. Ask around first and find out what the going rate is for firewood in your area. Find out the price and then you can haggle over delivery charges, etc. You don't like to haggle? That's okay, too.

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Finders keepers

Finders keepers

Once you find a good, trustworthy firewood source, build a relationship with them. Shady firewood dealers are out there, so know what you want, ask the right questions. And if you follow this guide you can develop a reliable firewood source that keeps your fires burning for years to come.