Hi I am Melissa from NorthlineExpress and today I want to cover some tips to help you in preparing your firewood for the winter wood burning season. Now throughout the years I have burned with wood and it has saved me hundreds of dollars each year. I am really glad that I do burn wood but let me tell you it is really hard work. Burning with wood does require some additional work but if you have it in you and you enjoy doing it, it is definitely worth doing.
So today I am going to cover things from efficient splitting methods to creating a work environment for your splitting area, stacking firewood and tips for stacking smart, along with ash removal and different uses for the ashes that you have accumulated.
Helpful Tips for Splitting Firewood
I am going to start today with talking about splitting your firewood. When it comes to burning wood having good firewood is going to be the number one key to an efficient home fire. This is something that I have learned the hard way. I grew up with my dad burning would but he had an outside wood boiler so we didn’t have to do a lot of splitting. It was always that we just cut the firewood into 24’’ lengths and toss them in as needed.
Now I have a little different situation, I have a small indoor wood stove so I have to really pay attention to the size of the logs that I have. Not only do I have to pay attention to the length of the firewood but also to the diameter of the logs. I am fully capable of using a splitting maul and on some days it is even sort of therapeutic because if I am having a bad day I can take that frustration out on the logs instead of someone else. However it can be back breaking work and it is time consuming. If I was to try splitting my entire winter supply of firewood that way I would most likely give up as it is a lot of work. So using a log splitter is going to save time and be more efficient.
The Best Way to Check the Moisture Level of Firewood
When you split your firewood, whether it is wet or dry, is completely up to you. But the sooner that you split your firewood the better because splitting the firewood will allow it to dry or season faster. The one tool that I really enjoy to have on hand in addition to my Mingo Firewood Meter, electric log splitter, log rack and my firewood tote, is my moisture meter.
There is the old fashion method of banging two pieces of firewood together to check the moisture content. When hit together they should sounds like wooden baseball bats being hit together. But who wants to go through their entire winter firewood supply checking the moisture that way? Again there is a more efficient method with using a moisture meter.
The moisture meter is a very easy tool to use. You will simply stick the two end prongs of the unit into the grain of the wood. It will then give you a reading of the moisture level as a percentage.
One thing that I learned with the moisture meter is that you do not want to test the firewood in an area that is covered in bark or on the split edges. The best place to test the moisture level is going to be in the cut end of the log.
You want to make sure that you are getting an accurate reading as it will tell you if your firewood has reached a level that will burn efficiently in your wood stove keeping your warm during the cold winter. I am sure you have all heard firewood that sizzles when it is burning. That is from there being too much moisture in the wood.
When burning wood like that is going to just release of that evaporated moisture into your flue. The moisture will then cool the flue temperature which is going to cause the moisture to combine with the soot particles and condense to the sides of the flue opening creating a dangerous layer of creosote.
Follow these Helpful Tips for Stacking Firewood
When it comes to firewood splitting and stacking are two of the most important things for keeping wood dry and properly seasoned. When you keep your firewood neatly stacked in a firewood rack it is going to keep firewood organized and accessible when needed.
I like to have a firewood rack away from the home that contains the bulk of my winter supply of wood. This is to help keep the insects down near the home and it also give the firewood plenty of room for air flow to get to it keeping it well seasoned. I do however keep a smaller log rack up close to the door. I use the 4 ft log rack from Rustic Naturals and it works great. It fits with the look of my home and I do not have to worry about rust, mildew, or it rotting. Storing wood on a firewood rack will keep the wood raised up off the ground. This helps to prevent the wood from rotting and also keeps insect infestations down.
One thing to keep in mind and this is another lesson I came across by experience, is don’t stack the log rack with the larger logs on the bottom and smaller logs at the top or vice versa. Make sure that you are mixing up the variety of sizes as you will want a good mixture of log sizes when you carry wood into the home. The smaller pieces of firewood are great for when you are trying to get the fire started and then the larger logs are great for when you are loading the wood stove for the night.
What to do with all those Wood Ashes
If you burn your wood stove frequently you are going to end up with an abundance of ashes. So the questions is… How do I safely store all of these ashes and then what do I do with them? First things first I keep a ash bucket or coal hod inside next to my wood stove for when I clean out the ashes. This makes it convenient and easy to have it right there.
The best way that I have found for storing the ashes is in a metal galvanized garbage can outside. Now I did say garbage can but I really want to stress that you want a metal garbage can because if you were to use a plastic one and there are some hot coals left in the ash it will just burn through the plastic. If the coals are hot enough it could cause a fire catching any surrounding materials on fire as well. Not a good idea.
When you are transferring the ashes from the ash bucket to the metal garbage can you will want to pour slowly. The ash is going to make a plume of dust when being poured so if you pour it too fast you will most likely end up with ash in your face.
Now to address the question of what do I do with all of the accumulated ash? Ashes are a great addition for your compost pile. You just simply add them and mix it in as you do anything else. Do you have a slippery driveway during the winter? Ashes are great for this as well. Sprinkling the wood ashes on the driveway will give the packed down slippery snow or ice a porous surface for tires to grab onto. Also ashes make a wonderful soil conditioner. I know this one first hand because when we moved into our home there was barely any grass and as the years go by with me sprinkling the ashes on the bare spots I am starting to grow grass. And the grass keeps coming back each year in those spots.
I know dealing with the ash is a pain but it is inevitable. Burning wood is going to produce ash and you are going to have to dispose of it somehow so why not dispose of it in a way that is going to be beneficial for you?
I hope you found these tips helpful.