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The trouble with buying SEASONED firewood

… that the firewood supplier is likely to tell you it's well-seasoned when it really isn't. But you're standing there shivering in the snow, eye to eye with that load of wood, and you know better. "Why that's been standing dead for two years!" he might exclaim. Or, "I felled those trees two years ago, and just cut them up and split them for you this morning. They're plenty seasoned, little lady." (no offense men)


The truth of the matter is that standing-dead, storm-downed, and felled trees don't season at the same rate as wood that's been split and stacked or piled where the sun and air get to it.

With a bit of practice you can learn to recognize seasoned wood when you see it:

One telltale sign is that the bark has loosened its hold, or has already been knocked off with handling.

Also, the log ends have darkened, dried out, and started to "check" (crack), not to be confused with the deeper split marks from an ax.

A well-seasoned fire log will be lighter in weight than a partially-seasoned or "green" piece of the same size and species.

When it really is well seasoned, expect to pay more. Cutting trees down, transporting handing, and working up wood is a risky, labor-intensive pursuit; any do-it-yourself wood-burner will testify to that. The more times a supplier has to handle it and the longer he ties up space storing it, the more he'll charge. And rightly so.

Seasoned wood is easy to recognize: The ends have darkened and started to crack, the bark has loosened or fallen away. It's lighter in weight than an unseasoned piece of the same species. You can still make out the raised mark of the chainsaw on the cut ends of "green" firewood.

Get to know some of your local sellers. See what type of operation they run, then order your firewood in the spring or summer, at least a year ahead of when you intend to burn it.

Most often fire wood is sold by the truckload rather than by the cord. If the seller describes it as "a face cord" (as much as a well-loaded 3/4-ton pick-up truck can carry), it should measure 4 feet high, 18 inches (or firewood length) deep and 8 feet long, tightly stacked.

A full cord measures 4x4x8 feet, or 128 cubic feet.

You'll find a variety of prices with any serious professional cord wood supplier, depending on type (softwoods, hard-woods, in-betweens), quantity ordered, time of year, split or unsplit, dumped or stacked... and combinations thereof. Prices will vary tremendously from area to area.

You say you're in a bind now, and it's winter?Seek out the species that require less seasoning, such as Hickory, Osage, Orange, Douglas Fir, and most Ash. And better planning next time!!

Top 4 Rules

Check the Color

Seasoned wood will look weathered, it won't be bright in appearance. If the wood is white or close to its original color, it is probably still green. Once wood is dry it will become more grayish in appearance.

Check your Checks

Checking refers to the cracks that are present on pieces of wood that occur during drying. The presence of checks does not necessarily mean that the wood is fully seasoned, but it does at least mean that the wood is in the process of drying.


Green wood is largely composed of water, sometimes up to 50%. Once the wood is seasoned, it will be significantly lighter. This is very evident in a less dense species like pine or poplar. However, keep in mind that a dense species like oak is still pretty heavy when seasoned. Don't pass judgment on this factor unless you actually know how heavy the wood is when freshly cut.

Burn It

If you still aren't sure, try burning the wood. If it doesn't light well and you notice water coming out of the wood, it's still too wet!

Wood should crackle not sizzle.



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