It’s a cool night and you have everyone gathered around the fire. You strike the first match, anticipating the glorious blaze that will soon ignite everyone’s imagination.
But instead, nothing but thick smoke billows from your carefully built pile of wood. Folks are coughing and rubbing their eyes as they step away from the fire to breathe fresh air, kids are demanding to know when they can make s’mores, and you’re left scratching your head and trying to figure out why this fire is so smokey.
Ultimately, the quality of your fire will come down to the quality of your wood. Like many things in life, it’s simple - great firewood creates great fires, and bad firewood creates bad fires.
Why you don’t want a smokey fire
Every fire will create some smoke, but some fires can create a lot more smoke than others. Dark smoke is unpleasant for many reasons: it makes your eyes burn, it can make it hard to breathe, it will make you smell bad, and it can completely ruin a fun fire experience.
Fires are meant to be beautiful, but when those flickering flames get replaced by nasty smoke it, well… it ruins the mystique.
People will sit further away to avoid the smoke (or they’ll leave) and miss out on the cozy warmth the fire provides. Speaking of warmth, a smokey fire produces less heat than one with dancing flames.
If you’re trying to cook over a fire, whether it’s s’mores, hot dogs, or a full gourmet meal, greasy dark smoke does not add good flavor. Clear, light blue smoke, on the other hand, can infuse your ingredients with an incredible wood-smoked flavor.
Dark smoke also makes it tough for the cook to get close enough to the fire as well.
For these reasons and more, you don’t want a smokey fire.
Why your fire might be so smokey
So, what causes some fires to be smokier than others?
Well, there are several reasons why your fire might be so smokey.
Let’s explore the 5 most common causes:
1) You’re using wet wood
Wet wood will always create smokier fires. There are a couple of reasons for this:
First, as the moisture in the wood heats up, it will burn off and turn into steam. This steam mixes with the smoke of the burning wood and makes the smoke much thicker than the smoke from dry wood.
Second, wet wood is problematic because it prevents the wood from burning as hot. Smoke will start at lower temperatures than flame, so if your wood is smoldering it will create a lot of smoke. When a fire is hotter, it creates more flame and less smoke. Wet wood makes this difficult.
In order to prevent this, make sure you burn only firewood for sale that is dry and dense. Cutting Edge Firewood, for instance, has a moisture content that is less than 10%. Green firewood (freshly cut or fallen from a tree) will have a moisture content of 50%, and even seasoned firewood will contain 20-30% moisture.
Kiln-dried wood offers a significant reduction in moisture content and, therefore, will create a significantly less smokey fire.
2) You’re burning wood with mold or fungus
If you use seasoned firewood or wood that has sat outside for too long, it could grow mold or fungus. When you burn this wood, it will burn off the mold and fungus and these things create a lot of smoke.
Not only that, but they aren’t exactly the kind of thing you want being released into the air around your friends or family.
Inspect your firewood for fungus or mold and don’t burn it if it isn’t clean. Once again, choosing to burn kiln-dried firewood will prevent this from being a problem. The kiln drying process kills all mold, fungus, and bugs and creates a safer, cleaner burn.
3) You’re burning yard debris
It can be tempting to start a fire with leaves, pine straw, or pinecones.
They can sometimes create a quick flame, but they can also create a lot of smoke (and ash).
Oftentimes, yard debris is still quite wet (either because it has freshly fallen or because of the weather). This moisture will contribute to the smoke.
Yard debris also reduces oxygen flow, which makes it harder for the fire to heat up and burn well, and can also contain dirt or sap, which will also add to the smokiness of your fire.
Instead, we recommend using all-natural fire starters and quality kindling. You’ll get a clean burn that will heat up quickly and makes lighting your larger logs much easier. Each of our boxes of firewood contains a small sampling of fire starters and kindling, but we also sell a complete fire starter package with enough starters and kindling for 15-25 fires.
4) You aren’t letting your fire breathe
A good fire needs three things: heat, a fuel source, and oxygen.
If you stack your logs too tightly together, it reduces the available oxygen and can make it hard to get a fire going. This can snuff out flames (sometimes before they even start) and cause the wood to smolder instead of burn.
When the wood smolders, it creates more smoke.The trick is to stack your firewood logs so that they are close enough to share heat, but far enough away that they can still breathe. If you want to learn how to stack, start, and maintain a fire then be sure you watch this video:
5) You’re burning trash:
Burning trash is always a bad idea.
While you probably aren’t out there trying to burn an entire week’s worth of garbage, it can be tempting, while sitting by the fire, to toss in some food wrappers or solo cups when you’re done using them
Don’t do it!
Any kind of trash will add to the smoke and could release toxic fumes into the air that will be bad for everyone.
Keep your fire clean from trash and everyone will have a better experience.
6) You’re using softwoods like pine
It’s easy to find softwoods lying on the ground in many parts of America. Pine trees drop limbs like it’s their job, and the wood can light up pretty easily once dry.
The only problem is, pine trees contain a resin-like substance that burns and creates dark smoke. Softwoods also are not great for your fire pit or fireplace because they burn so quickly.
It’s okay to use a small piece of heartpine as a fire starter – it will light easily and burn quickly to help get your kindling lit. Because the piece is small, it won’t produce too much smoke and it creates a lovely aroma.
Otherwise, it’s important to always choose hardwoods over softwoods for building a fire. Evergreen trees are typically softwoods, whereas trees that are deciduous and create leaves are hardwoods.
Good hardwoods for burning include cherry firewood, oak firewood, and hickory firewood.
Where to get firewood that is less smokey
If you wanted to summarize all the causes of a smokey fire into a single thing, it is ultimately about the quality of your firewood.
If you burn good wood, you’ll have a good fire.
The only problem is, it can be really hard to source firewood that is of consistently good quality. You might grab a bundle of firewood from the grocery store that works well, but your next bundle could be a total disaster. You might get a delivery in your driveway one year that burns okay, but the next load could be wet and moldy.
Cutting Edge Firewood was founded for this very reason – we were tired of the consistently poor quality of wood in the firewood industry. So, we worked with suppliers to develop the most rigorous and consistent drying process in the world.
All of our firewood gets cut while fresh and placed into a kiln for 48 hours at 250 degrees – this is 12 times more rigorous than the USDA requirements for kiln-dried firewood. This means our wood is consistently dry, dense, and clean. It provides a great burning experience every time you use it. Then we hand select every piece to insure that it is unmatched.
The other challenge with obtaining good firewood is knowing where to go. Fortunately, with Cutting Edge Firewood, you don’t have to go anywhere! We bring the firewood directly to you!
We offer a complimentary delivery artisan service to a growing network of places including Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and more.
If you’re not in our delivery artisan network then no worries – we also ship our firewood nationwide.
It’s never been easier to obtain quality firewood, so place an order with Cutting Edge Firewood today. We’re confident you will love the firewood and have a great experience!