Let’s face it…when it comes to creating great memories, a full sensory experience, and sharing comfort time with friends and family, sitting around a wood-burning fire is a hard act to beat.
The sight, sounds, and smells associated with a crackling fire, watching the coals glow, and smelling the intoxicating aroma of burning wood, touches the deepest parts of our collective history.
We feel safe, secure, and relaxed.
For many of us, a wood fire triggers some of our fondest childhood memories, taking us back to our favorite places, people, and experiences.
However, we don't always consider how the kind of wood that we're burning affects that experience, or how creating the best wood fire experiences relies on using the best firewood available.
And yes, though all wood for your fire may seem the same, there are significant differences in the species, care, and quality of firewood, differences that can help turn a good experience into an unforgettable one.
Kiln-Dried versus Seasoned versus Green
While experience is unquestionably important, it’s equally important to remember that burning low-quality or improperly prepared wood can have unpleasant, and even hazardous, side effects.
Often the determining factor of this experience rests largely in the moisture content and preparation of the wood.
What is “Green” Wood?
Wood that has been freshly cut from a live tree is considered “green.”
Green wood, because it hasn’t had time to age or dry, still contains most or all of its sap (which, in turn, is 95-99% water), and produces very poor results for any type of fire.
This excess moisture in the wood makes it very difficult to light or to keep lit.
It also significantly reduces how much heat your fire can produce, as most of the fire’s energy is being dissipated in the process of converting all of that moisture into steam, as opposed to using it to radiate warmth.
Burning green wood (when you can get it to burn) produces a noxious, bitter smoke from the moisture and other impurities. This dank smoke leads to the build-up of creosote, a dangerous and highly flammable sludge that collects on the insides of chimneys and stovepipes. The accidental igniting of creosote is one of the leading causes of chimney, roof, and house fires, which cost billions of dollars in damages in the US every year.
For any type of wood burning experience, green wood is not the best firewood.
What is Seasoned Wood?
Wood that has been split, stacked, and allowed to age for a minimum of 18 months is considered “seasoned firewood.” Given enough time to age in a dry environment, the majority of the original water content in the wood evaporates, reducing the moisture levels to 20% or lower, in ideal conditions.
However, the conditions that most firewood is aged in are not, typically, ideal.
Because it’s much drier, seasoned wood is also much more combustible than green wood, and stays lit far better, but seasoned wood has its issues, as well.
The months required for seasoning (air drying) wood allow time for a serious amount of decomposition to set in, and decomposed wood is essentially dirt. This slow process of drying also encourages the infestation of wood-boring insects, as well as the growth of molds, mildew, and fungus.
From an environmental standpoint most seasoned wood, because it still contains a significant portion of its original moisture, doesn’t burn hot enough to “cook off” the toxic compounds that it releases into the air, as drier wood will.
This makes its smoke less environmentally friendly, and potentially dangerous to those with compromised respiratory systems, the elderly, or the very young.
What is Kiln Dried Wood?
The best firewood option for a clean, hot, and safe woodfire is to use professionally kiln dried firewood.
Kiln drying firewood is a quick and efficient process that reduces much more of the wood’s excess moisture than seasoning, while also destroying any molds, fungus, or insects, leaving you with a pure, dry product for burning.
Kiln dried is also ideal in that it’s fresh enough that it hasn’t begun to decompose or collect contaminates, but also has the lowest possible moisture content to encourage clean, evenly hot combustion and an extended burn time. Because it’s still “fresh” the full aroma of the wood is released for your enjoyment.
Seasoned and Kiln Dried Firewood
Is wood that has been seasoned and Kiln Dried good? Most firewood companies that offer “kiln dried firewood” season their firewood before they dry it. This at first glance may seem acceptable, but this firewood will have most of the issues of seasoned firewood. If stored inside, it will be bug-free (this is a big if), but it will still not have a pleasant aroma as there will still be mold, mildew, fungus, and rot. Also, the wood will not burn as hot and the flame will not be as pretty and lively since the decomposition process has started and the wood has started the process of turning into dirt.
Best Species of Firewood
For the best all-around wood fire experience, be it in front of the fireplace, or gathered around your fire circle out back, hickory, oak firewood, or cherry firewood all create a beautiful blaze with a wonderfully light campfire aroma.
Here are a few species of hardwood that are ideal for firewood, and have been used for generations to produce countless wonderful fireside experiences:
- Hickory - Hickory makes ideal firewood. Quick lighting and producing a hot, long-lasting burn, it's a great choice for hearths, wood stoves, firepits, or anywhere you need a cozy dependable fire. Hickory, because of its superior heat output, is a favorite choice for home warming and users enjoy the classic campfire aroma and cheerful crackling song of kiln dried hickory wood.
- Oak Firewood - Oak is another firewood choice that's popular all around the world, especially in the United States where it grows abundantly. There are more than 600 species of oak (50+ in the US), making it an easily replenishable firewood resource. Oak is a very dense wood that produces a long, bright, slow burn with plenty of heat and, when kiln dried, has an extremely clean, steady burn with minimal smoke or sparks and an easily recognizable and lovely aroma.
Cherry Firewood - Kiln dried cherry firewood emits a delightful aroma and doesn't burn as long or as hot as other hardwoods, making it ideal for a cozy morning or afternoon fire.
In addition to its cheerful glow and cozy atmosphere, cherry adds an aromatic sweetness to a room without becoming cloying or overpowering. It’s a great choice for many indoor wood-burning environments.
Cherry produces very little smoke while burning, minimizing the risk of creosote build-up. In addition, properly dried, is nearly spark-free.
Pros of Kiln Dried Firewood
Kiln drying is the fastest, cleanest, and most thorough process for drying wood.
Wood is placed in a kiln (drying oven) and dried in fairly high heat (175F-250F) for hours.
The fast-drying method not only reduces the moisture content to as low as 5-10%, but it also has the additional benefit of killing any insects, molds, or fungus within the wood that could affect burn quality and aroma.
Kiln drying produces the most superior result and the best firewood available anywhere.
Kiln-dried wood is easier to light
Again, one of the biggest problems with other drying methods is that they still leave the finished product with unacceptably high moisture content. Because kiln drying removes so much more moisture than other methods, the finished product is amazingly easy to light and keep lit.
Once lit, kiln dried wood will burn brighter, burn longer, and produce less smoke, as well.
Kiln-dried wood is safer, both for you and for the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency states that “breathing in too much smoke can irritate and inflame your lungs and negatively impact your immune system. It can also trigger asthma attacks and other health issues.”
Many of the toxins and contaminants that the EPA refers to here are burned off if the fire is hot enough.
Kiln dried wood produces a hotter fire, causing it to emit fewer waste particulates into the atmosphere, and maintaining better air quality for those around the fire.
Kiln dried wood is cleaner
Once a tree is cut down, it dies, and like anything dead, it quickly begins to decompose.
Much like the act of composting, over the course of the many months required to “season” firewood, advanced decomposition will begin to set in. This process essentially turns the cellulose (the insoluble portion of tree or plant fibers) in the wood into dirt.
This decomposition also attracts insects, invertebrates, and growths like molds and fungi that feed on the rotting cellulose (and, in the case of grubs and insects, leave their waste behind in the wood).
Burning these substances tends to create a “burning garbage” aroma that’s unpleasant to be around.
Because kiln drying is such a fast process, and occurs soon after the wood has been cut, very little decomposition occurs to attract these nasties and crawlies.
This means the end product, kiln dried firewood, is the cleanest possible wood available.
Kiln Dried Wood Burns Hotter and Longer
Moisture reduces both the amount of heat that a fire produces and how likely it is to continue burning without going out.
Let’s face it, water is what we use to put OUT a fire, not keep it going, right?
The best firewood doesn’t have to fight this constant battle between fire and water (moisture), which is why it burns up to 45% hotter, and twice as long (up to an hour) as “seasoned” or air-dried woods.
This means more time to relax and enjoy your fire, and less time spent trying to keep it burning!
If you’re looking to create the best possible wood fire experience, nothing is going to match the results you get from kiln dried wood.
At Cutting Edge Firewood, each piece of firewood is kiln dried, inspected, and hand-selected by our team to ensure that only premium cuts of wood are being offered to our customers, with a level of consistency that exceeds any other provider in the industry.
We also make it easier than ever to order and receive your firewood, with our complimentary white glove firewood delivery service, our delivery artisan network will happily deliver your order to any room in your home.
We also ship our firewood throughout the continental USA.
When it comes to making your memories with fire, whether you’re out in the woods, on the beach, or in front of the fireplace in your favorite easy chair, choose to use the best firewood there is.
Choose Cutting Edge Firewood.