CLEMSON — Firewood will be a hot commodity as winter bears down and you den up. If your fireplace or wood stove is safe to operate, a crackling warm fire can chase away the chill and perhaps save you a little on the heating bill.

Winter is coming. Buying firewood takes a bit know-how in what to look for.

Winter is coming. Buying firewood takes a bit of know-how in what to look for.
Image Credit: Clemson/PKent

“There are a few things to remember when you buy firewood,” says tree-specialist Mark Arena, an Extension agent in Anderson. Arena offers these reminders:

  • Seasoned, dry wood is what you want. Green wood, which feels “fresh” or slightly moist generally does not burn well. When the wood has splits or cracks on the outer edges it is usually seasoned and ready for use.
  • Hardwood is better than softwood since it burns longer and slightly hotter. Oak and hickory are the top choices. You can burn softwoods, such as pine, to get the fire started, but add hardwoods after that.
  • Have a mix of split and whole logs in varying thickness. Thinner, split pieces light faster, while thicker, whole ones burn longer.
  • Know the size you need. Firewood is cut between 12 inches and 24 inches.
  • Fire-starting-size kindling improves success. Clemson does not recommend using either charcoal grill lighter fluid or other flammable liquids.
  • Buy local firewood. Out-of-state firewood can be infested with invasive insects, such as the emerald ash borer that is currently causing issues in Upstate South Carolina ash trees.

“It’s a seller’s market right now, especially for seasoned hardwood,” Arena said. “If you know someone who can recommend a dealer, that’s a good way to have more confidence in the quality of the wood.”

Also, know how much you are buying. Wood loads in come in odd sizes — ricks, racks, face cords, bush cords and other strange names. The standard is a cord of wood, which measures four feet high by four feet deep by eight feet long. A pickup truckload is about a half a cord, which is plenty for people who want weekend and evening fires. Check with the dealer, if the wood will be stacked or dumped in pile.

“Don’t forget to open the flue and make sure your fireplace or woodstove is a wood-burning one,” Arena said. “A lot of gas-burning units look like wood burners.”