October 21, 2021

Types of firewood you can burn this Winter

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When it comes to making a fire, there are a few key elements that you can consider to ensure that it is as lively as possible. The first thing you want to do is consider the location of the fire pit itself. If you make the fire in an area where it can easily be affected by the elements, you are going to have a hard time initially lighting the fire and having it grow. This is why you see many people build a stone wall around the fire. Not only does it help contain the fire to the pit, but it also helps to reduce some of the incoming wind.

The next thing you want to consider is how bright and hot that you want the fire. While you might think that every wood burns the exact same way, you are completely wrong. In fact, there are many different kinds of wood that you can burn, each producing a different heat level along with a different time to burn. If you are creating a fire in the winter, you will want to decide what you want for your fire and how you should go about building it. Here are some of the firewoods that you can burn in the winter.

Hardwood Vs. Softwood

Before we go into specific woods, it is important to understand that there are two main classifications of wood. The wood that you are choosing can either be softwood or hardwood. Understanding what you have is key to making the most out of your fire and having it shine as bright as possible.

Hardwood

Generally speaking, if you are making a fire in the winter, you are going to want to be using hardwood. These logs will burn hotter and also have a much longer burn time. They also have a low amount of sap on them making them easier to handle. The one downside to hardwood however is that it is more expensive to purchase than softwoods. The price difference is definitely worth it, however, especially in the winter as you want your fire to be as hot as possible. Here is a breakdown of some of the logs that you can expect with a hardwood fire.

Birch

Birch is one of the most common trees out there, so it makes sense as to why you would be using it for a fire. Birch is great to burn because it is cheaper than other hardwood logs to obtain and does light very easily. There is one thing to watch out for with birch trees however and that is the outer layer on it. This outer layer typically holds onto moisture and can make drying your birch rather difficult. If you are taking birch from the forest yourself, you might want to consider removing the bark and this outer layer and then giving the log time to dry. If you don’t, you might find the fire burning unevenly or smoking a little too much. 

If you are looking to buy birch, you generally won’t have to worry about this as much, as stores will typically remove these layers for you. If you are buying kiln dried birch firewood logs you can feel confident in the logs that you are getting as these have been stuck into an oven and given adequate time for burning. As per burning time and heat levels, white birch ranks in the moderate level of heat energy. This means that it is the equivalent of about 150 to 200 gallons of fuel per cord of firewood. 

There is no problem with this heat output, especially in the winter. As mentioned above, the only thing you have to worry about with the birch is the moisture levels in it as that can pose a problem, especially in the winter season. You can never go wrong with creating fire out of white birch logs.

Beech

Beech is one of the best logs that you can find for burning with it outputting about 200-250 gallons of fuel oil. This makes it a perfect choice for the winter as you can ensure that you are getting the heat that you need. If you are planning on making a fire pit outside, you should be using beech or high-level hardwood in the winter as that extra heat might make a difference. Just be careful about huddling too close around it, as you will definitely be feeling the heat with this log. 

An important tip to remember, especially with longer burning logs like beech is that you should never leave a fire unattended at night, especially if you are going to be going to bed. Once you are finished with the fire, grab a bucket of water or sand and dump it onto the pit. Make sure you have completely submerged the fire and that there are no sparks remaining. You would be surprised at how easily a fire can relight if there are a few pieces of hot ash left over. Beech is definitely one of the top choices when it comes to burning firewood this winter.

Softwood

While softwood is not ideal for burning over a fire, you can definitely get away with it. What makes them so alluring is that they are the cheapest wood to obtain, therefore making it a great budget option if you are looking to build a fire. That being said, softwood has the shortest burn time out of any logs, so while you are saving money on the logs, you are going to have to use much more to keep the fire going. Not only that, but softwood generally has a lower heat output as well, making it a wood that might not be able to keep you warm in the winter months. 

The final downside to softwood is the mess that it can create. As they are filled with sap they are much messier to handle and will make your hands quite sticky. Finally, once softwood has burned, it normally leaves much finer ash that is more difficult to clean in your fire pit or chimney. Softwoods also tend to have creosote buildup in your chimney during the burning process. If you do not clean this up, you are at an increased risk of chimney fires. 

With all this being said, why would you ever consider lighting a fire using softwood? Softwood ignites much faster than hardwood because they are much less dense. Therefore, softwood is great for using as kindling while you are getting a fire started. Once the fire is up and burning, your goal is to get some hardwood burning to keep it lasting for a long time. If you are looking to burn softwoods, here are a few that you might want to consider.

Pine

Pine is a great softwood to use for burning because it is everywhere in nature. Whether you are at the store looking for logs to buy or rummaging around the forest for your own, you are going to be able to get your hands on some pine. As mentioned above, pine is great for kindling, therefore you should be looking to break it down into smaller pieces that can catch fire quickly and burn. Using it to help a birch log or a beech log catch on fire will ensure that you are creating a fire that starts quickly, and then burns for a long period of time.

Spruce

Spruce is another softwood that is easy to come by depending on where you are in the world. The one issue with spruce is that it is difficult to come across a good piece of it for burning. If you are in the store, finding spruce logs might not be too difficult, but if you are scavenging around, the only spruce you are going to see is small branches covered in needles. Once you have found some though, just like pine, use it as kindling to help start a roaring fire.

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Logs to Avoid

You might be tempted to throw just about anything you can find on the fire to help it burn for a long period of time. Using salvaged wood helps to save money, but it can provide some health hazards if you aren’t careful about what you are burning. Why is this the case? Some woods, especially if they have been used for other projects can have chemicals or substances on them that could produce toxic smoke if it is burned indoors. Not only that, but the emissions from the chimney would also pose an environmental risk. Here are some of the woods that you should definitely look to avoid putting in your fire.

Woods With Any Paint or Finish

As mentioned above, if the wood has been used for a project where a finish has been applied to it or paint, you should not be using it to burn. While the wood itself is completely fine, when the chemicals that were sprayed onto the wood burn, they will begin to release harmful chemicals into the air. These can be poisonous if inhaled and can also cause environmental damage, While it might be tempting to use wood from an old project, you are only going to cause a problem by burning it.

Cardboard and Processed Paper Products

Just like wood with paints, these products are often doctored and many more things are added to them. If you have ever burned cardboard, you will notice that it does not look right when it is burning. It quickly shrivels up and a dark smoke emits from the fire. It burns this way because of all of the other chemicals that have been added to it and the dark smoke is a sign that it is not clean smoke.

Driftwood

If you are out on a lake you will never really encounter driftwood, but if you are on a beach that is on the ocean, you will most definitely run into this wood. Driftwood is wood that has been floating around in the ocean for an extended period of time and then has washed ashore to rest. Whenever you burn wood, a toxin known as dioxin is created. It is a carcinogenic toxin that builds up in your tissues and lungs as you inhale it. 

When salt is added to wood, it generally releases much more dioxin into the air, making it much more harmful for you to breathe in. Not only that but if you are cooking using driftwood, you are definitely going to be contaminating your food. While you might want to add wood to the fire you found on the beach, you might end up making a decision you are going to regret.

Build a Safe Fire

Finally, when you are looking to start a fire this winter, whether it be indoors or outdoors, ensure that you are following all the regulations that are put in by your city or state. There are plenty of fire laws out there, so make sure you understand them and are following them. The next thing is to have common sense when you are creating the fire. At no point should the fire be burning out of control or should it have the risk of catching other things on fire? 

If you are burning outside, constructing a pit will help to keep the fire contained. If you add too many logs or kindling to the fire, you are going to get a bonfire that is going to greatly increase in size. Monitor how you are building the fire and only use enough wood to keep it burning nicely. The last thing you want is to make a huge mistake that ends up either costing you your house or a lot of the property around you.

This is everything you need to know about firewoods that you can burn in the winter. Never leave your fire unattended and be sure that you are following proper safety protocols when it comes to putting it out. If you follow all of these rules, you will be completely fine and have a nice hot fire to keep you warm. What type of wood do you plan on burning.

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Comments

  1. Chris Johnson says

    Living in Cayman we do not need fires for winter. This article is totally irrelevant. Can we have some news that is applicable to Cayman.

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