There are a handful of wood species that are commonly used as firewood in the NC High Country. The species of the wood isn’t as important as the moisture content of the wood. For the most part, all species have about the same energy content per pound. The difference is that species vary in density. Oak, Yellow Locust, Hickory & Maple firewood, which are common to this area, are very dense woods and produce long lasting coals to keep your stove toasty warm all through the night. Softer species such as Poplar or Pine can be burnt easily, but they are not as dense and will burn faster and will not leave the long lasting coals like a dense wood will.
As we said above, moisture content is very important when it comes to getting the most energy out of your firewood. When a tree is first cut its moisture content will be about 50%. The optimal range is for the wood to be in the 15% – 20% moisture content range. There are firewood moisture content meters, but with a little bit of practice you should be able to tell if firewood is seasoned or not just by looking at and doing a few quick tests on the wood. Here are a few quick ways you can tell if the wood is ready for burning yet.
- The wood will tend to turn to a grey or a yellow color depending on species once it is seasoned.
- You can split a piece of wood and see if the inside of it feels damp. If it is damp, then it is not ready to burn yet.
- Check for cracks and checks in the end grain. More often than not, dry wood will be cracked on the ends. This method isn’t 100% full proof, but it does serve as a good starting point.
- Take two pieces of wood and bang them together. Dry pieces of wood will make a hollow sound, while wet pieces of wood hit together will make a solid dull sound.
- If you are able to compare to wood you know is not dry yet, dry wood weighs much less than wet wood due to all of the moisture being gone from the piece.
- If you are still in doubt, you can always try and burn a piece. If it is dry, the wood will ignite and burn easily, otherwise it will be hard to start, smoke a lot and hiss if it does actually catch fire.